The Spirit of Northern California

First Stop: Somewhere Near the DMV

El Dorado AVA – Sierra Foothills

I guess part of the first step of becoming a Californian is getting your driver’s license and license plates to make it “all official.” In reality, it’s more than just getting the items. The first step of becoming a real Californian is going through the DMV experience.

I’ve heard tales. One such story talked about an “all day” experience, 8 hours or more. But that was in the San Francisco area (or “the city,”  or “the bay area,” but for god’s sake never call it San Fran. NEVER!) We tried making an appointment (you can do that here), but the soonest available was… 3 months away.

Rachel and I were all set to head to the DMV in Folsom. We dropped the girls (our pups) off at school (doggie daycare) and were ready for the line. Or at least that’s what we thought.

We arrived at the strip mall, held our breath for a second, and walked in. And then we walked out. Maybe today was a better day for recon!

The line was long and unmoving. We waited for 10 minutes and realized this place was somehow paralyzed. It had stopped in time.

We also realized we were missing a few things, like a smog inspection and our social security cards. And when Rachel was getting the smog inspection, she also got a hot tip from one of the guys and learned the secret to getting through the DMV fairly quickly: Go where people aren’t. Smart!

Head to the (Foot)Hills!

Placerville is a cool little town direct from the Gold Rush, with downtown to match. A long, narrow main street highlights the historic buildings from the mid to late 1800’s, which makes parking and getting around a total nightmare. And it’s just a stone’s throw from Apple Hill, which several Sacramentans (?) have recommended to me. “You have to go,” they said. “It’s the perfect time.”

That time is… well, now. Autumn. Even though the fall around here is far more muted around these parts than I’m used to.

We dropped off the dogs early on a Friday, headed to the Placerville DMV, and just a couple hours later we had our license plates and a couple of Minnesota IDs with holes punched through them. We were official!

To celebrate, we hopped in the SUV and took a short drive, winding around the small country roads to Apple Hill.

Apple Hill is (from what I gather) a bunch of orchards, pumpkin patches, and vineyards strung together to create some sort of apple harvest farmers market meets small town celebration of the color orange, with tents outside the larger markets featuring local artisans selling their wares like a mini art fair. Family fun, music on the weekends, and lots to do. In other words, It’s kind of a big deal. For you East Coasters… it’s like Vermont without the chill.

Boa Vista Orchard

As our car crept up the steep and narrow road, we started seeing lots of possible places to stop. We pulled off at the Boa Vista orchard at the top of the hill and found one of the last of the disappearing parking spots.

This farmers market not only featured stand-alone pumpkins, apples, and other fruits and veggies, but also included baked goods like apple pies and apple donuts, groceries, and wine. And what caught our eye was an apple wine. So we had to have some. And two donuts. And a full apple pie.

I regret nothing.

The wine was a little tart and not as sweet as I would have imagined. I was pleasantly surprised! However, after the second sip I started eating my apple donut. That was a mistake. The tastes kind of cancelled each other and it all became indistinct from each other. The pie, which we’ve had since our trip, was pretty fabulous.

Lava Cap Winery

There’s more to Apple Hill than just apples and pumpkins, of course. Placerville has quite a few vineyards and wineries tucked around the hillsides too.

Just a stone’s throw away from Boa Vista is Lava Cap Winery, a small production mountain winery. The tasting room is warm and inviting with a beautiful patio area and a pretty magnificent view of the surrounding foothills. (Sorry that there aren’t too many photos and virtually no tasting notes, as we went there before I thought of this whole blog idea. I’ll try to do better next time!)

 We bellied up to the bar for a tasting. My favorites included the Syrah (2015), which is quite special with a spicy little kick on it, and the Sangiovese (2016). We bought bottles of both. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the wines I really enjoyed.

The Nuee Ardente (2015) was a close runner up, with the Rose and Chardonnay close behind. All were very drinkable, and I look forward to returning for another tasting when we get the chance.