Wine tasting tour collects Toys for Tots

17 local wineries join forces for a ‘Holiday in the Hills’
By: By Leah Rosasco Auburn Journal Correspondent
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This holiday season Placer county wineries are alive with the taste of wine, the smell of food and the sound of music. 

Holidays in the Hills, an annual event that benefits the Marines Toys for Tots Foundation, will take place this weekend at tasting rooms throughout Placer County. 

In exchange for donating a new, unwrapped toy, winery visitors will receive complimentary wine tasting at 17 wineries along the Placer County Wine Trail throughout the day. 

Vicky Morris, who serves as the Secretary of the Placer County Vintners Association and is the co-chair of the event, said this is a favorite among the wineries because it benefits everyone involved.

“The wineries and the visitors benefit, Toys for Tots benefits and so do the children who receive the toys,” Morris said. “It’s a great way to give back to the community and this is the time of year to do that.”

Morris, who also owns Secret Ravine Winery, said many of the wineries will provide light snacks for visitors and each will host different activities including food pairing discussions, cookie decorating, olive oil tasting, live music and gifts for sale from local and unique artisans. Several of the wineries will also offer barrel tasting and will present new vintages for the first time.

“At Secret Ravine we will be pouring some of our wines that have been held back for longer periods so we’re looking forward to seeing how they’ve matured,” Morris said. 

In addition to traditional wine tasting, Popie Wines in Loomis will serve holiday spiced wine, Pescatore Vineyard and Winery in Newcastle will provide spiced cider to designated drivers, and Vina Castellano in Auburn will serve “sangria caliente.”  

Vina Castellano owner, Teena Wilkins, said she likes to serve her sangria as an alternative to mulled wine because it does not have the strong spices that can impede wine tasting.

“I prefer the sangria so that when people move on to the next winery their mouth won’t be overpowered by cloves,” Wilkins said.  

Wilkins will also be on hand to offer advice on holiday food and wine pairings, including which Placer County wines work best with hard-to-pair foods such as green beans and Brussels sprouts. For those who are not able to track her down, Wilkins said people can pick up a list of wine pairing tips she has prepared for holiday meals that includes suggestion from each winery participating in the Holidays in the Hills event.

“People might be surprised to find that some wines typically associated with summer are on the list, but they are great for holiday meals and desserts,” Wilkins said.

In addition to learning about which wines work with different foods, Kevin Luther, Associate Winemaker and Manager at Wise Villa Winery, said the event is a great way for people to learn about the winemaking process. Vineyard, winery, and barrel tours at Wise Villa Winery will show people how wine is made from start to finish. 

“This kind of exposure to the winemaking process is rare at the large-scale wineries in other areas,” Luther said. 

By contrast, Luther said, at the smaller wineries in Placer county the winemakers and owners are much more accessible. 

“It’s not uncommon for the winemaker to be hanging around, pouring wine and talking to visitors about how the wine is made,” Luther said. “There is a very down-home approach to winemaking in this area that really brings you down to the soul of winemaking.”