So far off the beaten path, I had never heard of Winters, but this little agricultural town should be investigated. It helps when you enjoy an inside connection as we did, but we have the scoop on what’s hot!
Plan an overnight escape and include a Saturday evening at The Palms Playhouse. A cultural oasis for music, in their 30th year of hosting national touring bands, we were shockingly surprised to enjoy a raucous night of jazzy blues and zydeco, performed by award winning powerhouse singer and musician Carolyn Wonderland. This intimate playhouse hosted Van Morrison’s daughter and singer Shana Morrison last weekend. The venue is located upstairs in the 19th Century Opera House. Eclectic, casual and intimate, I would recommend you pay the corkage and bring your own liquid refreshments and do pre-purchase tickets for the first come seating.
Lodging is limited, another reason to make advance plans. We chose The Abbey House Inn, one of two Winters accommodations. Both Inns are charming, each with distinct advantages. The Abbey House Inn, built in 1905 is a sweet B & B a few blocks from town. A wide porch wraps around the small inn for afternoon cocktails. Five suites, my favorite is the De Winters, downstairs. I haven’t stayed in a B & B for many, many years, but this little gem was well worth the visit. Be careful if you slink into the kitchen in your sock-monkey pajamas for early coffee, as you might bump into an acquaintance! I met lovely bay area travelers; it turned out we had friends in common, truly two degrees of separation these days. Must be good all the time, and avoid jammies that don’t belong out of the bedroom!
Congenial Innkeeper Bruce Smith, knows everyone and can secure a dinner reservation, organize a farm visit and appears on site in the morning to prepare a delectable farm style breakfast. Abbey House Inn has a distinct location advantage, I loved being able to stroll to town for wine tasting, music and dinner and easily pop back for an early afternoon nap.
A few nearby restaurants offer variety and excellent food. We loved the tapas at Ficelle. Owner, Joann Martin, welcomed us and most likely due to our delightful host, she insisted we try many of her menu favorites and then refused to accept payment for our dinner. Small town hospitality with big city flavors, authentic home cooking inspired by her Spanish family meals; make a reservation in summer, as the line circles around the block!
The other local property is The Inn at Park Winters, located on ten acres of unobstructed farmland views. An 1865 Victorian mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens, an almond orchard and bubbling fountains; it is a private oasis best suited for escaping from everything! Growing in popularity as a wedding site, owners John Martin and Rafael Galiano are expanding with small cabins on property.
One of the fastest growing culinary trends, known as the farm to table movement, is bustling in this pocket of 7000 residents. Sustainable agriculture, many community farmers are building popular organic businesses in this area. We spent time exploring Ravi Tumber’s hydroponic tomato ranch in the center of his almond orchards. Separate blog to come. He can’t keep up with the demand for his greenhouse grown juicy red tomatoes.
Another local producer is Brent Wolfe in nearby Vacaville. Wolfe Ranch raises quail, no ordinary bird, he supplies birds to Chez Panisse, The French Laundry and several other bay area dining temples. He also raises pigs and cows. The pigs dine on black oak acorns, reminders of the famed pigs from Spain.
The valley has taken an undeniable shift in the last few years and the locals are enthusiastically participating at the highest level. Back to basics, growing local and limiting the impact on the environment is a passion in Winters.
Look for the postings of summer farm to table community dinners served in a field, these local purveyors supply a few events and they sell out quickly.
An escape to Winters yields many wonderful rewards and memories!
Park Winters www.ParkWinters.com
Turkovich Family Wines www.Turkovichwines.com
Ficelle Restaurant www.ficelle-restaurant.com
Preserve Public House http://preservepublichouse.com/