Rod Byers: Foothill Celebration |

Rod Byers: Foothill Celebration

Sierra Starr Winery just recently won "Best Winery" in the Best of Nevada County Sweepstakes and will be pouring their award-winning wines for the Foothill Celebration.
Photo by Rod Byers

The 17th annual Foothill Celebration takes place this Saturday. This sip-and-stroll wine and food event takes place in 20 different venues throughout downtown Grass Valley. Wineries, breweries, restaurants and food purveyors all come together to offer an afternoon of wine, beer and food sampling.

“It’s a favorite event of the year for many people because it’s so social and fun,” said Marni Marshall, executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association. “We are excited about the variety and our new participants this year, including ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers), two local breweries and a tap house. It’s amazing to taste so many local wines and beers in such a walkable space.”

Cream of the crop

Foothill Celebration is a collaboration between the Downtown Association and the Sierra Vintners Winery Association. Gary Smith, owner and winemaker at Smith Vineyards, has been coordinating the event for the Sierra Vintners.

“It’s a terrific showcase of what our region has to offer,” Smith said. “Foothill Celebration is a great way to follow your favorites and find some new ones.”

Speaking of favorites, Smith Vineyards recently earned two gold medals at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, for their Reserve Merlot as well as Three Brothers Red Blend.

Sierra Starr Winery, who just won “Best Winery” in the Best of Nevada County Sweepstakes will be pouring their award-winning wines as well.

Tess’s Kitchen store is one of Saturday’s venues. Owner Steve Rosenthal thinks Foothill Celebration is a great way to showcase downtown Grass Valley.

“People know us as a fully-stocked kitchen store but maybe don’t know we have a great wine shop and an in-house chef offering a unique dining experience,” Rosenthal said.

During Foothill Celebration Tess’ will be offering samples of a Frittata with garlic confit and potato casserole. They will be pouring a variety of wines from their wall.

ZAP will be pouring Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel. ZAP is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Zinfandel. ZAP, in conjunction with U.C. Davis, has gathered old-vine Zinfandel cuttings from California’s oldest vineyards in the Heritage Vineyard in Oakville in Napa Valley.

Each year a different winemaker produces Heritage Zinfandel, a blend of all the old vine clones growing in the vineyard. At Foothill, ZAP will be pouring the 2015 Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel produced by winemaker John Olney of Ridge Vineyards.

Celebrating beer

For the first time, Foothill Celebration is introducing beer to the event, including two local breweries, as well as the Thirsty Barrel Tap House. Nevada City’s Ol’ Republic Brewery, winner of the prestigious “Best Beer Award” at the California State Fair, will be participating.

Grass Valley Brewing Company will offer samples of their coming brewery. Co-owner Chad Wingo described Grass Valley Brewing Company as a craft brewery featuring classic ales and lagers, like their Brunswick Blond. Expect them to open later this spring. In the meantime, catch them at Foothill Celebration.

Susie Purdy, owner of Tofanelli’s, loves Foothill Celebration and thinks it is a real showcase for the town.

“It’s such a wonderful event, you get a taste of what the local restaurants have to offer,” Purdy said.

Tofanelli’s is offering a variety of house specialties including crab cakes, crispy raviolis, Caesar salad, garlic bread and their award-winning seafood gazpacho which took top honors as the “Best Cold Soup” in the country according to USA Today Magazine.

“There are so many great local wines,” Purdy said. “We’re thrilled to partner with Naggiar here at Tofanelli’s.”

Tickets are $50 and include a complimentary wine glass, unlimited tasting, and five food-tasting tickets. Additional food tickets are available for purchase.

Check-In is at The Gold Miner’s Inn on Bank Street starting at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. You must be 21 years old and everyone must check in individually with a picture ID. The event starts at 1 p.m.

Tickets are available through any of the participating downtown wineries, the winery association at or the Grass Valley Downtown Association at

Spring wine events in the foothills

Pioneer Day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 28.

While not technically a wine event, the 11th annual Pioneer Day (, celebrated by the twin cities of Smartsville and Timbuctoo, coincides with the opening of Nevada County’s newest winery, Meade Hill Vineyard and Winery.

Meade Hill is located at the intersection of Smartsville Road and Highway 20 next to the Cal-Fire Station. They will be offering an estate Zinfandel Rosé, locally-grown Chardonnay and Mead, a wine made from Hawaiian honey.

Pioneer Day, a few minutes away, is one of those free hidden gems you love to discover. Historical re-enactments, Blue Point Mine and Sucker Flat tours, live music, craft and food vendors all help to support restoration of the historic Smartsville Church.

North Sierra Wine Trail, from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 28 and 29.

Bangor, located in Butte County, 40 miles north-west of Grass Valley, is the geographic center of the North Sierra Wine Trail. Stretching from Oregon House at the southern end to Oroville in the north, the Wine Trail features about a dozen wineries over the bucolic 30-mile wine road.

Find information and tickets ($25) at

Sierra Vintner Wine Trail, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 19.

Closer to home, the first of the Sierra Vintner Winery Association Wine Trails takes place on Saturday, May 19. Winding through Nevada County’s back roads, this Wine Trail features nine wineries including Gray Pine, Pilot Peak, Bent Metal, Szabo, Avanguardia, Double Oak, Nevada City Winery, Lucchesi and Smith Vineyards.

Find information and tickets ($40) at

Rod Byers, CWE, is a Certified Wine Educator and wine writer as well as a California State Certified Wine Judge. You can find information about him at and he can be reached at 530-802-7172.

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