I bet California’s agricultural region of YOLO (“You Only Live Once”) has never been considered as the site for a James Bond prequel. Other than that, I knew nothing about it until my NYC sister and I drove there last week, for what turned out to be an unforgettable Girlfriend Getaway. We had no idea where Yolo even was (just over an hour’s drive from S.F.) let alone the many hidden treasures this rural area held in store for us.
Most of the 200,000+ residents live in the cities of Davis, Woodland and Winters, but the whole YOLO area has a plethora of getaway enticements, centering on agritourism (the biggies here are tomatoes, stone fruit and nuts) and a thriving wine industry. Other offerings include: brewpubs, scenic bike trails, a plethora of museums (don’t miss the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame) and galleries, farmers markets (the Davis one was voted “America’s Favorite Farmers Market”), historical walking tours, all sorts of performing arts venues (the Mondavi Center hosts world-class performers from Yo-Yo Ma to Lyle Lovett), scrumptious farm-to-fork eateries, a new Transmedia Sculpture Walk, antique shops galore, unique, fun-filled festivals, lots of sunshine and some lovingly restored inns.
Nothing against Davis- a most enjoyable college town, perfect for biking and loaded with art galleries and fun, ethnic eateries, or historic Woodland, but it’s the baby-small town of Winters, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, that gets my vote. Even the locals think their town is “cute as a button”. Stop in at the Visitor Center to pick up a map for a do-it-yourself, Historic Homes Of Winters Tour, or just wander the picturesque three-square blocks that make-up downtown. When I spied the nostalgic white gazebo perched in the center of Rotary Park, I almost took a seat to see if the 76 trombones from “The Music Man” would soon be marching in.
Our best eats were at the Buckhorn Steak and Roadhouse, located on the ground floor of the historic DeVilbiss Hotel, where I had my semi-annual meat meal, a Frisbee sized portion of Char-roasted certified angus beef sirloin, encrusted in black peppercorns. Across the street is the Putah Creek Café, which was recently featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives”. Even more rare than my chowing down on a slab of beef was the fact that Putah’s was so good that I ate there two days in a row! (My sis was in a state of disbelief-since I have a cardinal rule against repeats.) The folksy wait staff, scrumptious sammies, farm-fresh salads, Americana setting-(highlighted by a line-up of homemade pies lining the shelves) along with the aromatic, mouth-watering smoke billowing out of the wood-burning pizza oven parked outside, probably could have enticed me to make a third visit.
Best sips were at the tasteful, Turkovich Family Wines Tasting Room, where you’re offered five tastes of their quality small-lot wines (actually our server graciously gave us sips of every wine on the list) as well as a plate of scrumptious, artisan cheese samples from the Winters Cheese Company (also located in the tasting room) for FREE! Chris Turkovich is a top-notch winemaker and his brother, Daniel, is churning out some amazing cheeses, such as Caerphilly, an intense Welsh cheese.
Head around the corner (we loved walking to all our wine tastings eliminating our usual fight over whose turn it was to be the designated driver) to Rootstock, which has an assortment of specialty gifts, artisan food products and tastings of locally crafted wine. Friday nights they even throw in live music.
Please continue to Part Two for a review of the most incredible place to stay: The Inn at Park Winters.