Looking for romance? In March and April of each year, drive a little over an hour southeast from Sacramento and sit under an endless blue sky in a field of countless swaying daffodils. Welcome to Daffodil Hill in Volcano, California, just one of the attractions that pulls visitors to Amador County. Originally a 36-acre ranch, this spot has been owned by the McLaughlin family since 1887. In 1930’s, visitors began stopping to admire the family’s garden, planting the seed of an idea for an even grander gardening scheme.
Today, the 4-acre farm called Daffodil Hill boasts over 300 varieties of daffodils, with 6,000 additional bulbs being planted each year. The official website explains, “Daffodil Hill opens when 25 percent of the flowers are in bloom and closes when only 25 percent remain.” While this period usually falls with the mid-March to mid-April time frame, inclement weather may alter this general rule, and it is always best to call and confirm that the hill is open before making the trek there (209- 296-7048). See the website for directions, as using GPS has been known to lead drivers to the middle of a certain empty field.
If your day trip to Amador falls outside of the spring season, this area features over 40 wineries that stay open year-round. For an overview of the best of the region, try Scott Harvey Wines Tasting Room in Sutter Creek (79 Main Street). Vintner Scott Harvey apprenticed in German wineries and previously made a name for himself in Napa. Now his focus is on promoting the wines of Amador County, specializing in Zinfandel, Syrah and Barbera from the Sierras. His mantra? “Scott Harvey Wines, it’s time!”
Need some cheese to go with that wine? Be sure to stop in Sutter Creek at the Sutter Creek Cheese Shoppe (33 Main Street) and sample an impressive array of dairy goodness. From iconic local cheeses like Cypress Groves Humboldt Fog, to imported European favorites like Spanish Drunken Goat, the shop is sure to satisfy the foodie in you. Better yet, you can pick out a personalized picnic basket including specialty artisan cheeses (of course), a small cutting board and knife, a baguette of fresh bread, and nuts or dried fruit. Customize your picnic with optional add-ons like Fra’mani Salumi, crackers, chocolate covered almonds, fig cake or quince membrillo.
For history buffs and parents of adventurous kids, head to the Sutter Gold Mine Tour (13660 Highway 49). After being fitted with safety hats, your guide will seat you in a mine vehicle and drive you 500 feet underground into a real mine. Stories of old-time gold-mining will make history come alive, and after the tour there’s gold panning and a gift store where you can find your own treasure to remember your adventure.
For a different kind of treasure hunting in the self-described “Heart of the Mother Lode”, simply stroll along the quaint streets of small towns like Sutter Creek or Jackson, and you will be greeted with plethora of antique shops. From vintage wall art to antique china and furniture, from collectible books or records to children’s toys of an era past, you are sure to discover some surprising finds as you shop in this history-rich part of the golden state.
If a fine dining experience is what you seek, be sure to end your evening by heading up to Plymouth for dinner at Taste (9402 Main St), where the impressive local wine list is equally matched by the talent of the chefs. While the menu changes regularly, the Mushroom Cigar appetizer has garnered enough praise to become a menu staple, and was named Best Appetizer by Sacramento magazine. The restaurant is pricey, but for Monday night guests the Chef creates a special Prix Fixe menu with 3 courses, priced at $30 or less.
If you want more time to savor Amador County, fear not: this region is dotted with quaint bed-and-breakfast spots to suit a range of budgets. Come for a day, a weekend, or a week, but do come visit Amador. You just might fall in love.