Auburn Winery Adventures: Wine-tasting at Mt. Vernon, Lone Buffalo and more

  • The Mt. Vernon Winery is one of several tasting rooms on the Auburn wine
    trail. (Jackie Burrell/Bay Area News Group)

  • The award-winning Mt. Vernon Winery was founded in 1996 in the hills near
    Auburn. (Jackie Burrell/Bay Area News Group)

  • The gallery will resume inseconds

You could fill an entire weekend with sipping adventures on the Placer Wine Trail. More than 20 wineries dot the hills and valleys of this stretch of the Sierra Foothills AVA, offering all sorts of intriguing possibilities.

Start at Auburn’s largest winery, which pays homage to George Washington both in its name — Mt. Vernon Winery — and its motto, “wines fit for a president.” Of course, we can’t vouch for Washington’s views on cabernet, mourvedre or the zin-barbera blend dubbed Zin-Bera, but the winery earned four silver awards and a bronze at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest wine competition in the U.S.

Taste Mt. Vernon’s elegant reds, that fruit-forward Zin-Bera and two ports in the tasting room of this family-run winery, tucked inside a 1950s milk house and surrounded by rolling vineyards. Then buy a bottle to enjoy on the patio with a picnic. Mt. Vernon is open Thursday through Sunday at 10850 Mount Vernon Road, Auburn;

More wineries lie just a few miles away — offers winery maps and plenty of wine-tasting inspiration. You can go wine tasting, for example, and explore Auburn’s Gold Rush past at the same time at Bonitata Boutique Wine. The tasting room is inside the 19th-century Bernhard Winery, on the grounds of the city’s Bernhard Museum.

Prefer to kick back on the umbrella-shaded patio of a 12-acre ranch? Check out Lone Buffalo Vineyards at the north end of town. The winery’s irreverent tagline is “fine wine for cowboys and kings,” with small-lot wines such as Foothill Zin the Thunderbeast and Bison Blanc Viognier.

Go wine-tasting inside the rock-lined barrel cave at Viña Castellano Estate Vineyards and Winery, or take your glass out to the winery pond, where lounge chairs are nestled near garnacha and monastrell vines. Reserve ahead and your sips can be accompanied by a tapas sampler of Spanish meats and cheeses, tapenade and almonds.

Or double up by heading for downtown Auburn, where The Pour Choice espresso, wine and craft-beer bar offers occasional Flight Nights — the next is Oct. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. — with local winemakers pouring tastes, plus live music and more. Lone Buffalo and Viña Castellano were featured in September.

Need another reason to go? The wine trail’s annual Holidays in the Hills fest on Dec. 1-2 benefits Toys for Tots. A pass ($20 for early bird tickets, $25 after Nov. 16) waives wine-tasting fees at 17 wineries, where you can enjoy food trucks, music and holiday specials, as well as those sips. Donate a new, unwrapped toy to score discounts at each winery.

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