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It wasn’t that long ago that a wine country wedding meant schlepping the entire bridal party and guests to Napa or Sonoma, an invariably costly option that was out of reach for many Sacramento area brides and grooms. But times have changed. Today, beautiful vineyards surround us, from the Sacramento River Delta to the Sierra Nevada foothills, making such venue options for couples more accessible than ever.
Gold Hill Vineyard
Gold Hill Vineyard is, first and foremost, a winery. But if the bridal party also has a penchant for beer, take note: Gold Hill opened its own brewery more than a decade ago, featuring the award-winning 49er Red Ale and several other brews.
Still, wine is its raison d'être, and the barrel room produces 2,500 cases a year—whites, reds, even a Zinfandel port. The winery carries a Placerville address but is a good 10 miles or so from Highway 50.
The fairly secluded site includes two ponds and ample photo opportunities, says general manager Bryna Dacus, along with indoor and outdoor party options. The 2,500-square-foot banquet hall, with its views of the vineyards and American River Canyon, seats up to 150. The adjoining deck can accommodate 100 more. In late spring through early autumn, Cornelia's Meadow at the Lower Pond offers an outdoor alternative with room for 300.
Whatever spot you choose, the views are stunning, Dacus says, and the setting is a relaxing one. "It's a laid-back, pretty, down-to-earth atmosphere," she says.
5660 Vineyard Lane, Placerville (530) 626-6522 | goldhillvineyard.com
Frasinetti Winery bears the distinction of being the oldest familyowned winery in the Sacramento Valley. It got its start in 1897, when Florin was a small town in its own right nestled between Elk Grove and the Capitol. Howard Frasinetti believes that this rich heritage is a hallmark of the South Sacramento winery and restaurant, and one that makes Frasinetti an appealing choice for brides and grooms.
"The family touch is a personal touch," says Frasinetti who, with his brother, Gary, has operated the winery since the 1970s. Throughout the years, the two have added a restaurant and other amenities for events, but much of the grounds remain the same from the winery's early days.
Banquets at Frasinetti include complimentary wine tasting as well as the option to begin the celebration with appetizers and wine in the tasting room. And consider this as a memorable wedding favor: custom- labeled miniature bottles of Frasinetti wines, $3.29 apiece with a 24-bottle minimum.
7395 Frasinetti Road, Sacramento (916) 383-2444 | frasinetti.com
Bare Ranch by Michael David Winery
Stone walls, grapevines, a stream and a waterfall. They're all part of the picture-pretty backdrop at Bare Ranch, acquired by Michael David Winery for use as a wedding and event venue—and a showcase for the Lodi winery's 7 Deadly Zins (as in Zinfandel) and other award-winning varietals.
"Not a lot of venues have the option of looking over the walls to see what Lodi has become so well known for in regards to the wine industry," says Lori Phillips, event manager of Bare Ranch. "It's really unique in the fact that you are literally set in the middle of a vineyard."
Bare Ranch is a recent addition to the family business, which began five generations ago as a vegetable farm on a 160-acre homestead near Lodi. Grapes were added in the early 1900s. The ranch is available for use from May through early October, and all ceremonies and receptions take place outdoors. "It may be one large space, but you can utilize it in multiple ways," Phillips says.
19877 N. Davis Road, Lodi (209) 482-8725 | michaeldavidwinery.com
Cielo Estate is a newcomer to the growing list of El Dorado County wineries and the first one along Highway 50 as motorists head east from the Sacramento Valley into the Sierra Nevada foothills. Owner Carrie Nave Manson sums up the 18-acre property in a single word: peaceful.
An outdoor ceremony site is set off by weeping willows and grapevines plus a picturesque gazebo. The estate also has a restored Victorian home, which does double duty as a guesthouse and ceremony site.
Cielo prides itself on being an all-inclusive facility for wedding couples, providing everything from linens and china to fresh flowers and wedding cakes. As far as food goes, there are seven menus from which to choose, including Mexican, French and seafood.
"So many of our brides and grooms are between the ages of 20 and 40," says Nave Manson. "They're professionals; they don't have the time to run around and do all of this stuff. This makes it easier for them."
3040 Ponderosa Road, Shingle Springs (530) 672-8575 | cieloweddings.com
Rominger West Winery
The tasting room at Rominger West Winery is geared toward small weddings and rehearsal dinners and enjoys an ambiance that reflects the Yolo County college town: cool and casual. "It's just a warm, friendly environment, and that's what people keep telling us. It's what we strive for," says the winery's events coordinator, Stephanie Towne.
The indoor venue can accommodate up to 50 people for seated meals, and double that for receptions featuring appetizers and mingling. Local artwork hangs from the walls, and the exhibits change monthly. Handsome wooden barrels stacked from floor to ceiling leave no doubt that the winery's operations—while a distance from Rominger's vineyards in the western reaches of Yolo County—are in full swing despite the urban setting.
"The barrels aren't just on display. They are the ones we are using to age our wines," Towne says. "You're seeing wine being made right there, and that's not something you would see anywhere else."
4602 Second St., Davis (530) 747-2044 | romingerwest.com
St. Jorge Winery
European touches abound at St. Jorge Winery in Acampo, from the fountains and statuettes to the stone-and-wood exteriors.
The winery, situated off Highway 99 between Galt and Lodi, prides itself on its Portuguese roots, which influence both the ambiance and the wines at St. Jorge. The winery does little advertising but has built up a robust wedding business in the past two years through Facebook and word of mouth, says co-owner Jenise Vierra. It can accommodate up to 200 guests.
Brides and grooms can choose from several venues, including the barrel room and courtyard. The property also features an outdoor grotto, which Vierra defines as a European-style worship space. A two-bedroom suite is available as dressing chambers for the bridal party.
St. Jorge's on-site chef specializes in Italian cuisine, though couples may bring in outside caterers. The Vierras enjoy pairing foods with their wines, serving a (white) Verdelho with topo cheese or pouring a (red) Tempranillo with traditional Portuguese sweet bread.
22769 N. Bender Road, Acamp o (209) 365-0202 |
Mining gave way to more dependable pursuits in the years following the Gold Rush, and farming topped the list for many settlers in Amador County's Shenandoah Valley. Young's Vineyard in Plymouth, near the junction of highways 16 and 49, continues that tradition in a serenely eye-catching setting of vineyard-topped rolling hills, comely buildings, hand-hewn stone walls, and plenty of gardens and lawn.
Young's Vineyard is an outdoor-only event venue with room for up to 500 guests, says caterer Beth Sogaard, who oversees weddings on the 30-acre property. There are several celebration spots from which to choose—ceremony space on the winery's "wildflower pavilion," for instance, followed by dinner and dancing on the main lawn. "I like to see brides and grooms really utilize the space," she says.
That includes the pond, which is home to several swans and a small boat that has served as a backdrop for wedding photos as well as a stage for wedding bands.
One of the best assets for brides and grooms at Young's Vineyard: the house caterer. Sogaard is one of the region's most creative and busiest chefs. The sample menu posted on the winery's website offers everything from deconstructed samosas and roasted beet salad to cherrylacquered duck breast with scallion sauce.
10120 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth (209) 245-3005 | youngsvineyard.com
McConnell Estates Winery
Though McConnell Estates Winery is in Sacramento County, it is part of the federally designated Lodi Appellation—the only winery north of San Joaquin County to share the geographic and viticultural distinction with a stable of well-regarded local wines.
"It is kind of a surprise to some people that we are out here," says McConnell Estates event manager Deborah Larson. "But if you ever drive out Grant Line [Road], there are thousands of acres of vines."
The McConnell Estates property at Wackman Ranch is steeped in history. It began as a sheep farm in the 1850s and added barley, wheat and corn in later years. The late Howard Wackman II, who owned the farm in the 1960s and 1970s, also was a high-ranking official with the California Farm Bureau and other agricultural efforts; his offspring run the winery today.
Most of the weddings at McConnell Estates take place outside, though the property's original farmhouse can accommodate indoor receptions of up to 65 guests. Caterers often use the inside parlor, dining room and sun porch for buffets. A recent bride, who incorporated an early 1900s theme into her wedding, hired an old-time photo booth vendor who set up shop indoors.
"We work with brides to help them create what their vision is," Larson says.
10686 W. Stockton Blvd., El k Grove (916) 690-4276 | mcconnellestates.com
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