On the map

Getting a head start on the upcoming Sierra Oro Farm Trail

It may be a month away, but I’m already getting excited about the Sierra Oro Farm Trail Passport Weekend (that’s a mouthful). The funny thing is, I’m excited about something I’ve never attended before. I’m not sure why, but it seems like every year I have grand plans to go out with a group of friends and taste the bounty of Butte County. Then something else comes up and my plans are foiled. Not this year! With the weather already threatening to cool down, it feels like the perfect time of year to gallivant through the valley to see what our local farmers and food creators have up their sleeves for us.

In preparation, I thought I’d offer my top five destinations for the weekend (Oct. 11-12). For those interested, “passports” already are on sale. For more, visit www.sierraoro.org.

1. The Lavender Ranch. I have heard only wonderful and soothing things about visits to the Lavender Ranch in Biggs. Having had to skip the region of Provence while living in France, I have to imagine that wandering the purple fields in Biggs will provide a suitable local alternative. Mmm.

2. Dog Creek Cellars. Two of my favorite things—wine and Boston terriers!—in one place? I’m sold. This newish winery in Durham (opened in 2011) is all certified organic, 100 percent solar-powered, and did I mention they have Boston terriers? I’m gonna go just to sip on a glass of pinot and play with Bosco.

3. Llano Seco Rancho. I did visit the Llano Seco property once, years ago, on a photo assignment for the CN&R. But because I was there to photograph people doing stuff, I didn’t have much of a chance to take in all the beauty of this preserved 18,000-acre parcel (which is not usually open to the public). Whenever I go to the downtown Chico farmers’ market on Saturday, I have a really hard time resisting the urge to buy up the bacon at the Llano Seco booth. So I just know they’ll have some delicious food on tap for the farm trail.

4. Calolea Olive Oil. After visiting the Berkeley Olive Grove 1913 property recently and tasting their delicious creations, I think I’m ready to try some from other local farms. Calolea has some award-winning oils, as well as balsamic vinegar and body products. Looking at photos of the property, it’s clear there will be plenty to take in besides oils and vinegars. (Plus, it’s in Bangor and I really want an excuse to go back to Hickman Family Vineyards nearby.)

5. Hickman Family Vineyards. I visited these guys a few months ago during a wine tour, then I sipped their wines at a League of Women Voters tasting event not long after. My reaction was the same both times: simply delicious, and some of the best wine in our region. Plus, considering they only sell their wines on-site, it’s extra worth the scenic drive.