Old Sugar Mill offers a variety of local wineries

Old Sugar Mill at Clarksburg 20 minutes from Sacramento

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a new location to do some wine tasting. It had been right under my nose and I didn’t even smell it! Or to be more precise, taste it! My “new” discovery is about 20 minutes south of downtown Sacramento at the Old Sugar Mill in the town of Clarksburg . Even though I had heard people mention the Old Sugar Mill, I was never enticed to take a visit. It is local and small and figured they would offer only a small sampling of wine.

As my friend and I took the drive down to the Old Sugar Mill, we discovered a scenic drive along the Sacramento River and encountered other wineries along the way. Once we got to the Old Sugar Mill location, we saw a huge brick building located all by itself. It felt a little like an abandoned building in a scary movie but as we got closer it was nicely decorated with just a few visitors coming out the building. The parking lot was almost empty (must have been a slow weekend, which meant more personalized attention for us at the winery) but as we entered inside the restored sugar mill, we discovered it contained 10 local wineries in just one location.

I am used to having to drive from one winery to another when I’ve done wine tasking like in Napa or Amador County but at the Old Sugar Mill it felt like a wine tasting event where different wine vendors all gather at one location just for your tasting pleasure.  It was great! We didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving from one location to another.

Aluminum and wooden barrels hold wine at Old Sugar Mill winery

I was really surprised by how much I ended up enjoying some of the wines from the vendors. I learned that some of the wineries don’t store their wines in wooden barrels but instead use aluminum-like containers to give the wines a less oaky taste. The wines didn’t have the aluminum taste either like aluminum can beers. Some wineries said they use both methods of holding them in both oak and aluminum containers. I prefer the less oaky tasting wines to the harsher after taste of oak infused. One of my favorite wines was the Dolcetto from the Due Vigne de Famiglia vineyard. It had a smooth taste with a little hint of sweetness.  The Dolcetto contains a mix of blueberries and blackberries.

The Elevation Ten was a close second to the best wineries at the mill. Their wines are very smooth  and had a great port wine for those who enjoy dessert wines. They also have some amazing olive oil to sample. The other wineries at the mill are Clarksburg Wine Company, Carvalho Family Winery, Rendez-vous Family, Three Wine Company, Heringer Estates, Todd Taylor, Merlo Family Vineyards, and Draconis.

Tasting at each winery is $5 and is usually refunded if you make a purchase. The bottles can cost anywhere from $18 to $40. So if you want to get away from the city and enjoy a little wine tasting, the Old Sugar Mill provides a great location plus other local wineries along the way.

The Old Sugar Mill hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday and is located at 35265 Willow Ave., Clarksburg. For more information, you can also visit here.

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Discover these foreign bands

Lately I’ve been discovering music not the old fashion way by listening to the radio because, let’s face it, music kind of sucks right now. If people are considering Miley Cyrus a musical genius there is definitely something wrong with the state of music. I have instead relied on my Pandora radio stations to hear artist that I would not find on the local radio stations.  I find myself lately listening and pressing the “like” button to these three bands: Empire of the Sun, The xx, and Kinky. Maybe you’ve heard of these bands since they’ve been around for some time but I can say, with certainty, that I have not heard any of these bands playing on the radio which is probably why I like them even more. If you haven’t heard of them it’s probably because they are foreign (yes, not from the US!) but their music transcends borders. So if you are tired of the current pop music, check out these bands that have gained popularity internationally.

Empire of the Sun is an Australian musical duo formed in 2008 and is mostly known outside of the US (no surprise there!). The band, known for their electronic beats, has two albums “Walking on a Dream” from 2008 and their most recent “Ice on the Dune” released in 2013. They may seem a little weird and out there by their lavish costumes but what really matters is the music they produce which is a little disco, a little electronic, a little pop and a little 80s but satisfyingly rich in unique sounds. Listen to the singles “Walking on a Dream,” “We are the People” and “Alive” to get a feel of what they have to offer and how their sound is unlike anything out right now.

The xx is also another foreign band but with a much different sound than EOTS. This English indie pop band was formed in 2005 and hit the scene with their first album “xx” which gained critical acclaim in the UK and in 2012 released their sophomore effort “Coexist.” Their beats are slow, sometimes giving a melancholy feel but there is also a sexiness to their voices as they come together without being overtly sexual. In the song “Shelter,” singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft sings “Maybe I have said/ Something that was wrong/ Can I make it better/ With the lights turned on,” you aren’t sure if she is referring to sex or something else since she isn’t over sexualizing her voice. One of their more pop songs is “Islands,” which Shakira covered, bassist Oliver Sim’s voice gives it an edgier tone since his voice is a little rougher. Their second album “Coexist” sounds similar to their first but it works and most importantly it is good!

Kinky is a band from Monterrey, Mexico and the majority of their songs are sung in Spanish but they have also recorded a few songs in English and have collaborated with American bands such as the Beastie Boys and American producers. Since forming in 2000, their sound has continued to dominate the electronic Latin music scene with their funky and techno beats. Out of their five albums, “Barracuda” has the best sound with songs “Hasta Quemarnos” (Until We Burn) mixing cumbia with electronic beats. In their album “Reina,”(Queen) their song “A donde van los muertos” (Where do the dead go) lead singer Gilberto Garza begs his muse to die together so they can swim the world together. Although the lyrics are a bit morbid, the music is upbeat making you want to get up and dance until you burn…or not. Their unique sound has made them one of Mexico’s most popular alternative bands for more than a decade, and their music has been featured in US commercials and televisions shows such as “CSI” and “Gossip Girl.”