Gold Country in Bloom: California's Highway 49 Has Brilliant Spring Wildflowers, Green, Green Hills, and a Burgeoning Crop of Restaurants and Wineries
Fish, Peter, Sunset
1 THIS CIDER HOUSE RULES
Indigeny Reserve brings the hard-cider renaissance to a region rich in apples. Jay Watson makes cider and Calvados-style apple brandy from his organic Granny Smiths and Arkansas Blacks; you sample them inside a cider works that fills a restored barn. Or buy a bottle to complete a picnic--Indigeny's picnic grounds, with views of orchards and a covered bridge, are so lovely, they may inspire dreams of becoming a cider maker yourself. 14679 Summers Lane, Sonora; indigenyreserve.com
2 SMALL TOWN GROWS UP
A stylish women's clothing store, winery tasting rooms--a stroll down Main Street may convince you that little Murphys, 8 miles northeast of Angels Camp via Highway 4, is becoming an outpost of the Napa Valley. The town shines brightest with food: With smoked pineapple risotto, Mineral Restaurant (pictured; $S; 419 Main St., Murphys; mineral restaurant.com) makes vegetarian glamorous. And the steak frites at V Restaurant & Bar ($$$; 402 Main; vrestaurantandbar-murphys.corn) would do credit to Napa, or Paris.
3 GARDEN GIRL
Celebrate spring by stopping by the Antique Gardener on Sutter Creek's pretty Main Street. Here, Aimee Peterson has filled a rambling old house with garden tools, pottery, and her specialty, miniature gardens--charming, small-scale vignettes planted in wooden boxes or galvanized buckets. "I had dollhouses when I was a girl," Peterson says. "I like Little things." 80 Main St., Sutter Creek; 209/267-5551.
4 BLOOM ON!
The legend of Daffodil Hill is a long one: The pioneer McLaughlin family began planting bulbs here in the 188os, and descendants have continued the tradition. The hill's 300,000 bulbs normally flower mid-March through mid-April, and they draw crowds, especially on weekends. 18310 Rams Horn Grade Rd., near Volcano; 209/296-7048 (call ahead).
5 DOUGH DUEL
As if tiny Volcano weren't appealing enough--softly worn stone buildings set alongside a clear creek--it has not one but two tasty bakeries sharing space (on different days) in a single storefront. Kneading Dough and Jug and Rose are both good for savoring a cup of coffee accompanied by a warm-from-the-oven muffin or cinnamon roll. 16154 Main St., Volcano; 209/296-7777.
6 ELEVATED TASTE
Plymouth became a dining destination when corporate-hotel refugees Mark and Tracey Berkner opened Taste, whose elegant interior contrasts with the views of Plymouth's decidedly sleepy Main Street outside. Most of Taste's food--like double-cut pork chop with farro, butternut squash, and kale--is effortlessly sublime. The menu changes seasonally, but take note: If the rich and creamy porcini mushroom soup's on hand, order it. $$$; 9402 Main St., Plymouth; restattranttaste.com
CALIFORNIA'S GOLD COUNTRY is famous for . …