Yolo County - Photo: Robert Couse-Baker (CC)
You can’t know what you’re missing if you don’t pull off the highway, and for DogTrekkers speeding through Yolo County on Interstate 80, there are myriad reasons to put on the brakes and clip on the leash. Youthful Davis and historic downtown Winters have been undergoing a renaissance of late, with dog-friendly patio dining and winery tasting rooms providing new excuses to explore and linger with your four-legged friend. Dog-friendly Woodland is all about history and fun.
Meanwhile, the Clarksburg wine-growing region along the Sacramento River has sprouted several new wineries, while the more distant but scenically stunning Capay Valley is coming into its own as an off-the-beaten-track visitor destination.
In Winters, duck into the Turkovich Family Wines tasting room for a sample of their award-winning tempranillo, then mosey around the corner for more tasting at Main Street Cellars and the new Berryessa Gap tasting bar. Growling stomachs will find satisfaction in tasty fare such as Santa Fe Mexican corn pie and Yik Yak salad at the dog-friendly Putah Creek Cafe. Ficelle, Buckhorn Steakhouse and Steady Eddy’s are among restaurants that won’t mind you pulling up to a sidewalk table with a dog at your side. A busy Art Walk is staged on the first Saturday of each month, adding even more activity to the scene.
From Winters, head north on Interstate 505 then west on Highway 16 to reach the long and narrow Capay Valley, best known to city folks as home to Cache Creek Casino Resort—and to foodies as a breadbasket region of small family farms providing organic produce to big-name restaurants. Farm tours, festivals, river rafting, hiking and wine tasting are spurring a nascent tourism industry here, and you’ll feel like an explorer as you wander the back roads. Capay Valley Vineyards, producers of tempranillo, viognier and other varietals, welcomes dogs on a patio with scenic views, while just down the road, Seka Hills in October will open a tasting room showcasing wines, olive oils, honeys and other farm products produced on land owned by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. Don’t leave the region without stocking up on edible goodies. Cache Creek Lavender Farm and Full Belly Farm both have produce shops open year-round.
If the Sacramento area is on your weekend agenda, block out an afternoon and head south on Highway 160, the “River Road” hugging the Sacramento River and leading to the up-and-coming Clarksburg wine-growing region. Scribner Bend, on the east (Sacramento County) side of the river, sets up an outside tasting bar and dog-friendly seating area on warm-weather weekends, while Miner’s Leap, on the Yolo County side, features a beautifully landscaped, dog-friendly outdoor seating area beside a picturesque old barn where wines are stored and poured.
A few miles down the road, in Clarksburg proper, is the imposing Old Sugar Mill, a re-purposed beet-processing factory housing 10 winery tasting rooms and a custom-crush facility. It’s also a popular wedding and special-events venue that hosts several festivals each year. There’s no restaurant, but a caterer is often present on weekends. You and Bella are welcome to wander from tasting room to tasting room, perhaps taking a break to sit with a glass and dog-watch in the open-air courtyard.
Where to start? From San Francisco, it’s a 65-mile drive to Winters, where you’ll encounter five vibrant Main Street blocks lined with restaurants, tasting rooms and quirky boutiques and galleries. In warm weather, umbrella tables dot the sidewalks, welcoming visitors and their furry companions.