Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Visit To Sutter Creek

Chronica Domus
Photo: Chronica Domus


One of the things we did over the long Thanksgiving weekend, aside from the expected feasting, was to get away for a short visit to California's gold country. Hopping into the family motor on a very chilly Saturday morning, we made the two hour journey north-east. We traveled highways and byways, then through smaller winding roads lined with nut groves and fruit orchards until we reached our destination, the heart of the Sierra mountain foothills.

Sutter Creek, known as the "Jewel of the Mother Lode", is a small town that sprang up in the mid-nineteenth century from the madness that became the California Gold Rush. It is located in Amador County and aside from its storied gold mining fame, the area is known for its thriving wine-making industry. Vineyards abound in the tranquil surrounds of Sutter Creek and the other small gold mining towns which makes visiting the area a real treat.

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A view of a vineyard that I snapped from the moving car on our journey to gold country
Photo: Chronica Domus


As it was Small Business Saturday, the antithesis of the ghastly Black Friday phenomenon, and we not only enjoy but encourage supporting smaller retail establishments whenever the opportunity arises, we dutifully played our role as consumers.  Popping into the numerous antiques stores along the main drag, we found a few treasures to take home.  A little vintage glass ornament for this year's Christmas tree, a small American yellow ware bowl, and a useful and serviceable English ironstone platter for the kitchen.  All were priced very reasonably.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


One of my favorite shops in Sutter Creek is The Antique Gardener, which stocks a charming pastiche of vintage, antique, and new items for the house and garden, as well as plants, seeds, pots, and gifts.  I needed to purchase some greetings cards and stocked up from their nice selection.

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The festive offerings include a selection of Christmas cacti and some enormous
sugar pine cones
Photo: Chronica Domus


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A beautiful Silver Tip Christmas tree holds center stage in one of the rooms of
The Antique Gardener
Photo: Chronica Domus


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A collection of sturdy vintage garden tools for sale
(doesn't everyone need a pitchfork?)
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Straw shopping bags, an attractive way to bag one's purchases
Photo: Chronica Domus


Unlike San Francisco, Sutter Creek looked as though it was in the full grip of autumn's glory. Blazing color enveloped every deciduous tree in town, and alongside their evergreen companions, made for a very picturesque scene.

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What a magnificent autumnal display of color
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Photo: Chronica Domus


No doubt the leaves will all be gone within a few weeks.  We noticed that snow had already settled upon the distant peaks of the Sierras as we drove into town. Perhaps all the talk we are hearing of a wet winter will actually materialize, fingers crossed.

Everywhere one looks, one is reminded that this is an old town, at least by California's standards.

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A relic of another era, the town's water pump situated by a trough that once refreshed thirsty horses
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Even modern vehicles were not so new
Photo: Chronica Domus


Sutter Creek's visitors will enjoy viewing the varied architecture that stretches back to the very beginnings of the town's history.  Local stone, brick, and wood have held up rather well over the ensuing years.

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Brick buildings are a rarity in an area known for shakin' and quakin'
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Stone buildings are a common sight along Main Street
Photo: Chronica Domus 


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The white steeple of the town's church, standing proud since 1862
Photo: Chronica Domus


Moseying in and out of the various buildings along Main Street, we were delighted to have discovered the local distillery. Now, can you even imagine a wild west town without one to keep the local saloon bar flowing?  Once inside, we discovered an array of handsomely labeled spirits bottles, including these lovely examples:

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Photo: Chronica Domus


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I'm assuming this one's pretty fiery
Photo: Chronica Domus


With all this talk of the local sauce, we decided to investigate what in town constitutes "good eatin". We soon stumbled upon the restaurant at the historic Hotel Sutter and made a bee line for a table where we heartily tucked into a toothsome and filling early dinner.  Of course, we were in the heart of the other wine country (yes, how fortunate to have not one but two wine regions so close to home), and made a point of sampling the excellent area wines.

Chronica Domus
Photo: Chronica Domus


Our visit to Sutter Creek provided us with a splendid and relaxing little getaway, an opportunity to enjoy the crisp late-autumn air of the surrounding foothills, and allowed us to walk off some of that Thanksgiving feast we devoured a few days earlier.

If you find yourself in the environs of San Francisco, please do consider a trip further north into gold country, and especially to Sutter Creek for a little glimpse of California's famed wild west.

18 comments:

  1. Small Business Saturday even sounds better than the dreadful Black Friday, and your post proves that point rather well. And what glorious weather in which to enjoy your road trip. No little sleeping art treasures, signed or unattributed?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, agreed. Small Business Saturday is a new-ish marketed idea but so very important to support, on every Saturday if you ask me.

      No sleeping art treasures in this little sleepy town, but lots of wine (my husband so liked our couple of glasses over dinner, he ordered a case which was delivered home today, unbeknownst to me - his idea of a souvenir of the day I suppose).

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  2. What beautiful images - that town looks like it's straight out of central casting. What a lovely way to spend a day, rather than fighting the crowds at Walmart to get $5 off something. The images that were shown here in Australia of adults snatching things off children and fist fights were quite eye opening! Sounds like you found some charming and unique items to purchase too.

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    1. Heidi, I had the same thought as you - straight out of central casting!

      The dreaded Walmart is a place I never darken the door of, and Black Friday is a zoo. Best to keep away at all costs.

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  3. Hello CD, A perfect day, discovering a delightful, old-fashioned town like this. Were there any special displays or other vestiges of the gold rush itself? I liked the little New England-style church, an unexpected surprise for that place. Also, that hand pump is one of the more complicated models that I have seen.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim,

      There is a museum in town highlighting the history of the area, and somewhere on a prior visit I saw the entrance to a mine, now boarded up, with a plaque explaining what went on there. Such an interesting area to explore and I could have spent another day, but alas, other events were awaiting us back home.

      Looking at the hand pump a little closer, you are right, it is a complicated one, what with that spigot attached to it. Fascinating stuff.

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  4. Delightful. How I wish we had visited when our Son #4 lived in Mill Valley for several years! In grade school, I loved the words "Sutter's Mill," and would mumble them occasionally like a mantra during history or math tests---something seemed to click in my memory with those magical syllables.

    What a lovely weekend, in such a sunny place---history and wine country and wonderful additions to your collections. I hoped you'd say that you stayed at the hotel---just the word "Rooms" on the sign conjures transom doors and filmy curtains and a bath down the hall with an immense copper slipper tub, to which amiable folks in white aprons bring cans of hot water.

    And didn't you want to head up into the hills for a little prospecting? Just to kick a toe through some promising dirt? I'd have been setting my boots on a path toward the nuggets, pan in hand. (I was quite disappointed years ago to find that not to be the derivation of the term "Flash in the pan," to which I attributed a disappointed sigh, when all that glittered was not gold. Sounded logical to me. Instead, I found that it was a misfire of an old-timey gun. Poo.

    Happy December

    r

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    Replies
    1. Oh, I too would be kicking myself if I'd passed up the opportunity to visit the area. By the way, Mill Valley is gorgeous too, in case you ever make it out west.

      This was a quick day trip but had I stayed at the hotel, I would have enjoyed the scenes from the balcony rooms looking over Main Street. We save several people doing just that, sipping wine seated at their little balcony tables, and watching the people saunter by.

      Thank you for explaining the "flash in the pan" meaning. I had no idea.

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  5. CD,
    I've only been through the Sutter town a couple of times, it may be time for a revisit. You selected a beautiful day to visit. I love this time of year, especially when the sky is blue, autumn color on the leaves and a relaxing day of fun.
    Karen

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    1. I too think this is a perfect time of year to visit far off towns because the weather is perfectly crisp and a nice relief from the usual heat these places experience.

      Yes, time for a revisit Karen. You'll find plenty to do and the wine is exceptional so come prepared for some tasting.

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  6. Replies
    1. Exactly! I thought the same. I should do some research to see if there have been any movies filmed in this charming town.

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  7. What a beautiful town. I love the idea of encouraging small businesses. I try to support the retailers on our little main street as I'd hate them to give way to the mall.

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    1. Hello JL,

      Yes, that is exactly what will happen if we don't rally round the neighborhood merchants. Before we left on our little day trip last Saturday, I made sure to stop by the local cobbler and have him re-heel my daughter's winter boots. I was grateful for the opportunity to support him. Not only was he local, but having pondered the matter further, not many cobblers left around these parts, thanks to the throwaway society we live in, and the quality of cheaply made shoes that are likely destined for the bin within a year or so of purchase, sigh!

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  8. Lovely fall foliage in your pictures. We don't get much of that in West Hollywood.

    Did you try any of the products of the local distillery?

    Yes, fingers crossed on a wet winter.

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    1. Hello Diogenes,

      Yes, we had a little tipple of the brandy, which was good, but we passed as we were hoping to try a gin and for some technical reason or other, they are not permitted to produce it.

      The local wine, on the other hand, was superb and a few days after our visit, I took receipt of a case that my husband had ordered directly from the wine maker. I had no idea what it was when I opened the door. The winery reuses their boxes (to be environmentally sound) and the first thing I noticed on it was the label "Box 3 of 7". I almost fell on the floor wondering what my husband was thinking by ordering seven cases of wine.

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  9. Looks like you had a wonderful autumn day for it, crisp and clear. When you mentioned how cold it was I remembered back to getting into my mother's car on frosty mornings as a child, and the way the seat was icy cold on the back of one's legs. Love the vintage gardening tools.

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    1. Hello Lord Cowell,

      It was indeed a crisp day and I'm pleased to say some of that crispness has finally descended upon us here in San Francisco. I've been admiring the pear tree in my garden for the past week as it too has finally turned a vivid yellow from the cool snap we are experiencing.

      Thanks for the childhood memories of icy mornings and cold cars (with frosty windshield glass). I remember those well myself.

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