By Charlotte King

Are you looking for a great road trip that’s not too far away? A getaway with family or friends? Some good eats (and drinks)? My favorite bet is always Apple Hill. From pumpkins to Christmas trees, cider to wine, donuts to orchards this place has a little slice of everything. So grab a camera, and hop in the car for a great adventure that’s a stones throw away. Some of the listings below will help you find the best of the best when eating your way through the hill.

Photo Credit: Kelli Wheeler

Photo Credit: Kelli Wheeler

Apple Hill
5675 Mother Lode Drive
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 626-9977

This place is a winter holiday must for me and many others! From the beautifully photographic rolling hills filled with fall trees, grapevines, apple trees, and pumpkins it’s almost like a spot of New England in Northern California.

Photo Credit: Charlotte King

Jack Russell
2380 Larsen Dr
Camino, CA 95709-9749
(530) 647-9420

Of the many places one can start when mapping out an Apple Hill journey, this one is always our first stop. It’s a tradition at this point, and it seems that it’s a tradition for far more than my family. People come from Reno and San Francisco alike to imbibe their in-house brewed beers and ciders, everything from their root beer with strong spices to their seasonal beers. Enjoy their golden lagers, raspberry ales, brown beers and apple ciders. At any time there are 16 drafts on tap, and a full bottle house to buy some take-home beers as well. Outside the brewery are tri-tip vendors, BBQ pulled pork, and hand-crafts from all over the valley set up shop so you can picnic with your drafts, and enjoy a sandwich at the same time.

Photo Credit: Charlotte King

Rainbow Orchards
2569 Larsen Drive
Camino, CA 95709-9704
(530) 644-1594

For some apple picking or to enjoy a post-beer snack, stop by Rainbow Orchards. But take note: this place has gotten so popular in the last couple of years, they bus people in. It might be due to their willingness to allow pets on the premises (this is rare now at Apple Hill) or their incredible apple cider donuts that you can get fresh from their bakery, or their selection of apples and pumpkins, take your pick. The staff is always very friendly, even in the worst of tourist season, and parking is well directed. But enough about logistics, it’s all about the food. They have the most scrumptious apple cider donuts. I order these cake-style donuts covered in sanding sugar by the dozen when I’m there. They also hand-dip corn dogs, and have an array of pies and sweets. I love the donuts and corn dogs so much that I’ve mastered a three-man operation every time: one person to wait in line, one at the picnic table, and one to take pictures of their old-school donut crank. This is a wonderful experience for the family as well as for the foodie.

Photo Credit: Charlotte King

Grace Patriot Wines
2701 Carson Road
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 642-8424
Hours: Sun, Sat 11am–5pm

Great wine isn’t easy come to by in Apple Hill, it’s far and few between and mainly just a nice distraction until the next pumpkin patch — at least, this is what I thought until I went to Grace Patriot Wines. This beautiful winery on the back end of Apple Hill was the last stop on our last visit, and we couldn’t have picked a better one. Only open for less than year, but growing vines for the last 4 years, this young winery has set themselves up right with a scenic outdoor patio with a fire-pit, a view of the vines and a large professional tasting room with multiple “tasting room associates” (AKA winemakers/ family members) are there to walk you through what wines they have to offer.

Their 2009 Pinot Grigio was a bright, crisp favorite, as was their 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon that had a wonderful velvety softness that rolled off the tongue. This Cab was also used in the blending of another crowd-pleaser called 5PM Red, as in “it’s always 5 p.m. somewhere.” This blend consists of: Tempranillo, Syrah and what they call “Secret Sauce.” For only $5 you can horizontally taste the options available, and they usually throw in another blend their serving that day. All in all, it was a great tasting experience, sitting outside on the patio with a glass of wine, after a truly beautiful day.

Charlotte King is an aspiring food photographer, and freelance food & wine, and style writer in midtown Sacramento. Find out more about her adventures at