For most people, Northern California calls to mind windswept beaches and towering Redwoods or perhaps the sunny slopes of the Sierra Nevadas. But between the green expanses of the Central Valley and the steep moutainsides that surround Lake Tahoe’s deep blue waters lie the rolling hills of the Sierra Foothills, a lesser-visited region but one steeped in history.
California’s Gold Country is home to an iconic family-run roadside fruit stand and pie shop and a handful of destination wineries. In Sacramento, you can drink your way around some of the region’s top breweries and in Sonora, you can get a taste of state history. With a charming main street and a number of exciting food and beverage businesses, Amador City makes a great weekend getaway for anyone interested in exploring the area. Here’s a suggested itinerary for making the most of a 24-hour Gold Country getaway.
9 a.m. Coffee at Small Town Food and Wine
14179 Main Street, Amador City
On Saturdays and Sundays, this family-owned restaurant opens early to fuel and caffeinate visitors and locals alike. It’s the work of husband-and-wife owners Matthew Carter and Ginger Budrick-Carter, whose father Jerry Budrick was on the opening staff at Chez Panisse, where he later became a partner. There’s a full selection of coffee and espresso drinks, plus a rotating selection of pastries, which you can take to-go or grab a seat on the tables out front and take in the view of Amador City’s quaint main street.
10 a.m. Brunch at Imperial Hotel and Restaurant
14202 Old Highway 49, Amador City
Next, head up to the top of Main Street for brunch at the newly renovated Imperial Hotel. The six-room historic hotel, originally built in 1879, now houses a restaurant and bar — the latter of which makes a nice option for a nightcap if you’re planning to stay the night. Brunch, served Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., includes options such as savory scallion-cheddar-bacon pancakes topped with a fried egg and toasted brioche with cheese and seasonal jam. If you’re still looking for caffeine — or to start boozing — explore the list of cocktails and espresso drinks.
12 p.m. Explore Amador City shops
Amador City calls itself “California’s Smallest Hometown,” and it’s one of the state’s geographically smallest incorporated cities at just 0.3 square miles in all. Which is to say, it shouldn’t take too long to walk the wooden sidewalks of Main Street and explore the mix of antique stores and boutiques. Made in Amador is a delight, selling everything from floral arrangements to candles, much of it locally made. The store also stocks prints from 3 Fish Studios, Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin’s art gallery that closed its Outer Sunset location in 2020 when the duo relocated to the Sierra Foothills.
2:30 p.m. Wine tasting at Turley Wine Cellars
10851 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth
It’s about a 15-minute drive from Amador City to Turley Wine Cellar’s Amador County tasting room, which has a casual indoor bar and a spacious covered outdoor patio. Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua is known for harnessing the power of some of the country's oldest vines into award-winning California zinfandels. Tastings cost $25 and reservations are required.
4 p.m. Visit Amador Flower Farm
22001 Shenandoah School Road, Plymouth
Just a couple of minutes up the road lies Amador Flower Farm, where the public can explore 14 acres of gardens including growing grounds, a potted plant area, and various landscaped demonstration gardens. More than 1,200 varieties of daylilies burst forth during the spring, and gardeners will love the gift shop, which stocks seeds and garden tools, plus windchimes and seasonal decor. Check the farm website for any special events but no matter the weekend, guests are welcome to spread out for a picnic or just wander the grounds.
6 p.m. Wine tasting at End of Nowhere
14204 Main Street, Amador City
Winemaker Chris Walsh worked in a New York City wine bar that specialized in organic, biodynamic, sustainable wines, which eventually inspired him to move back home to Amador and open one of the county’s only natural wineries. End of Nowhere’s super-chill tasting room offers a remarkably affordable $5 five-wine tasting, which might include a carbonically mascerated zinfandel or a skin-fermented blend of pinot gris and pinot grigio. If you’re in luck, they’ll be grilling burgers – a local favorite – on the back patio, where you can kick back and listen to the creek running by.
7 p.m. Beer and dinner at Breakeven Beermakers
14141 Old Route 49, Amador City
Wrap up your day on Breakeven Beermakers’s creekside beer garden. As the sun sets, order a fresh pint, likely brewed on-site in the brewery’s vintage copper Vendome boil kettle and lauter tun. Beer maker Aaron Wittman favors producing mid- to low-ABV, drier, and sessionable beers, and the ambitious Gold Country brewery focuses on local ingredients whenever possible – think, hops grown on the brewery’s own Banded Family Ranch and malt sourced from Alameda’s Admiral Maltings. The taproom’s full kitchen offers a range of snacks, sandwiches, and fuller entrees including a rotating pasta and a meatloaf dinner. The meatloaf sandwich is a fan favorite, built around a thick slice of meatloaf draped in melted cheese.