Sunday, May 08, 2011

Sierra Knolls Bear River Wine Tasting

“The Gateway Tasting Room and Experience to the Nevada County Wine Industry”

By John M. Olney
based on a visit to the winery on May 7, 2011
Web site:

(You can click on the pictures for enlargement)

The under construction new tasting room, a second but separately located facility from the original Sierra Knolls vineyard and winery, (web site: ) is going to change the whole feel of wine tasting in Nevada County!

You’ll find it at 10024 Linnet Lane, Auburn, CA, just a mile plus south of the Nevada County border and about 13 miles or so southwest of the actual vineyard and winery location.

The new site, located along side a very easily viewed road adjacent to Hwy 49 is probably going to change the Sierra Knolls business plan beyond the initial most wild expectations of its owners. John Chase, one of the four principal owners in the Sierra Knolls vineyard and winery is also the primary winemaker. He told me that a number of people within the wine industry, as well as those who are just wine consumers, have tried to explain to him and his partners in a most favorable way, the potential impact that sudden and mass exposure can cause as a consequence of a simple but potent move that one makes such as their new tasting room. Personally, after talking with two of the principals I don’t think they realize what they are creating and where it is going to force them to go,

Sierra Knolls, and the 15 other wineries located in and about the Grass Valley-Nevada City area are about to experience market exposure and thus consumer visitation and retail sales growth that is reminiscent of what happened in the late 1960s in the Napa Valley when Robert Mondavi had the audacity but also the foresight to build a winery and tasting room along the Hwy 29 corridor in Oakville near the Oakville Grade and Oakville Cross Road centered in a beautiful and famous vineyard that attracted the consumer like a moth drawn to a light bulb.

John Chase reminded me when the consumer drives along the main Hwy’s of 20, 49, 80 and 174 without seeing a vineyard or even a winery per say. Coufos is the closest the wine consumer will come if that driver happens to transverse the Rough and Ready Road. On the contrary, down in the “flatlands” that’s all you see if you are driving along say Hwy 12, 29, 101,121 and 128 in the Napa and Sonoma County winery areas. He added that their plan is to plant a vineyard around the wine tasting room thereby cementing what this new structure is in the minds of the travelers going by.

Back in 1967, Robert Mondavi had both his mother and brother arguing with him over marketing plans and the substantial costs Robert wanted to incur for marketing the Charles Krug wine and property in St. Helena, CA. He was unceremoniously discharged from the family and its money. However with help of a few close friends he survived and found financing from Rainier Brewing to allow him to build the facility we all recognize as we exit Yountville and head into Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena - the womb of the birth of the finest Napa Valley wines. This site quickly became the gateway winery to the Napa Valley Wine Industry. Consumers flocked to it and consequently soon realized that there were many great wine experiences to be undertaken within about a 30 minute drive of Oakville in all directions.

I am predicting that this undertaking of a new tasting room location separate from their winery and vineyards, and adjoining Hwy 29 at the point where travelers and existing wine consumers enter Nevada County at its southern most border, will be a very well visited site. At first this will be almost by accident: “Hey, did you see that, Maggie? We just passed a winery? I never knew Nevada County had such. Let’s go back and see what it’s all about.”

Then folks from close-by communities such as Loomis, Rocklin, Roseville and Sacramento will become aware of the winery tasting room so close to the highway and convenient for sample wine tasting. Recreation bound hikers, bike riders, campers, boaters, gold mine tourists and other travelers coming from as far away as the Bay Area and Peninsula will quickly follow suit. In a short amount of time, wine consumers will no longer be saying “I didn’t even know that Nevada County had wineries let alone 17 of them!”

This Sierra Knolls vineyard and wine tasting facility will rapidly become the tourist’s first source of information about not just wine but also what other wonderful activities are offered within Nevada County. The Sierra Knolls Bear River Wine Tasting staff will soon become the verbal guide for travelers seeking things to see and do in Nevada County. I would think that county/city offices responsible for tourism and the Chambers of Commerce will see what develops and quickly seek to get co-located with the Sierra Knolls project.

When I spoke with John Chase I tried to explain to him why Robert Mondavi, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and other wineries were sold for so much money and it has to do with sales of what is called a “second label.” Second labels were the Woodbridge line for the Mondavi’s and Hawk Crest for Warren Winiarski of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. These second labels provided the cash flow and bottom line financial statement that the “premium label” of both gentlemen could never attain. I suspect the four principals of Sierra Knolls will be “forced to expand” production to meet demand just because of the construction and opening the “second tasting room” concept at this particular location, Development of a quality second label using grapes from other sources will be the probable route they will end up taking while maintaining their currrent “premium and estate wines” produced from their own vineyard grapes.

Sierra Knolls Bear River Wine Tasting site, with its location near the intersection of Hwy 49 only about a mile plus from the Wolf- Combie intersection, the main street in and out of the Nevada County area known as “Lake of the Pines” is situated in the open beautiful land just north of the strip mall, after strip mall, compacted light industrial area of northern Auburn. This location could well cause a significant growth to the entire wine industry of Nevada County. It probably will not be on the scale of what a Mondavi winery created but it will be at a level that probably none of the Nevada County winery owners ever expected to see in such a short time.

All this is magnified even more when the consumer learns that all of the other wineries in the surrounding area of Grass Valley and Nevada City (15 of the 17 total wineries) can have their wines tasted in the comfort of tasting rooms in Grass Valley (six buildings housing 11 wineries) and Nevada City (four buildings housing four wineries). In each of these cities the tasting rooms are less than a couple minutes walk away from each other. The other two county wineries are Sierra Knolls, the southern most winery in proximity to Lake of the Pines, and the eastern most winery, Truckee River, near downtown Truckee. It should be noted that only four separate tastings rooms existed in Grass Valley before 2010 and two in Nevada City . So, the industry has essentially doubled its presence in the downtown cities in less that a year!

I have listed addresses and tasting hours for all 17 wineries below.

The in- and near-town “second tasting room” concept offers the consumer the absolutely best of all opportunities, They can taste the wines of the county industry without the often excruciating experience of driving 30 or more minutes on back roads that are mostly narrow, full of mountain curves at slow speeds, with steep drop offs and frequently composed of only dirt and gravel between wineries. Advocate of the “no more drunk drivers” philosophy can thank all of the winery owners for their efforts to bring their product to the consumer without increasing dangerous driving conditions. It is true that consumer parties still need a designated driver, but the concept of downtown tasting rooms certainly is an important contribution to safer driving conditions among wine tasting parties.

Oh, I must suggest that you also visit the actual site of the existing vineyards, winery and tasting room located at 19635 Kingswood Court, Grass Valley. It is actually located just a few miles northeast of the community of Lake of the Pines.

You will not only enjoy their wines but the magnificent views of the distant Sacramento Valley and hills but the outside BBQ and picnic grounds always available for your use.

Copyright, all rights reserved by Wine Country Marketing and Promotions,

1370 Trancas St., #409, Napa, CA 94558 Phone: 707-299-9548
Web site: E-mail:


Back in April, 2010 when I first visited the Nevada County wine industry, there were 17 wineries scattered mostly around Nevada City and Grass Valley with one winery located about an hour plus drive away in Truckee. Grass Valley had the only separate second tasting rooms of the local wineries. A year later, the industry has undergone a number of very interesting changes as shown below.

Truckee remains with one (1) tasting room in close proximity to its downtown area.

There were two (2) wineries with tasting rooms in Nevada City. Today there are four (4).

Back in April 2010, Grass Valley had four (4) stand alone separate tasting rooms from their sponsoring vineyard & winery, and one (1) “collective-cooperative-type” tasting room containing four wineries which totaled eight (8) wineries available to the consumer in very close proximity to each other. Today there are still four (4) stand alone separate tasting rooms but there are now two (2) “collective/cooperative-type” tasting rooms representing a different four (4) Nevada County wineries each. Combined, these six downtown locations represent 11 Nevada County wineries available to the consumer.

A new, separate stand alone tasting room is located in the Lake of the Pines/Auburn area alongside Hwy 49 that was not there a year ago.

From the consumer standpoint, the Nevada County wine industry has moved in a very positive direction to be sure that the consumer has a convenient chance to taste, enjoy and purchase their wines with a minimum of slow, country-road driving times associated to moving from one remote vineyard/winery site to the next. The advantage of this approach is that travelers passing through with different end goals in mind can now come upon a wine district they may have never even known existed, discover wonderful wines and then schedule specific tours and tasting at those of the 17 they found very interesting. I suspect the Nevada County wine industry is going to realize very favorable results from their approach to make it easier for the consumer to discovery them. Below is the distribution of wineries and their tasting hours.

The following four winery operations only offer direct pouring at their vineyard and winery location. But through special agreement, these wineries have their wines stocked and tastings conducted at a retail wine shop like lounge tasting room in downtown Grass Valley.

- 10065 Roughand Ready Rd, Rough and Ready: Saturday and Sunday Noon - 5:00 PM or By Appointment Only (BAO)

Double Oak - 14510 Blind Shady Rd., Nevada City: Saturdays 11-5 February through December and also by appointment January through December

Montoliva - its actual winery site at 15629 Mount Olive Road Chicago Park and is open Saturday and ; Sunday 12 – 4 pm.

Naggiar 18125 Rosemary Lane, south of Grass Valley: Monday - Thursday BAO and Friday through Sunday: 12 pm to 5 pm

There is one winery tasting room in the vicinity of Truckee

Truckee River ( - 11467 Brockway Road, near downtown Truckee, just off Hwy 80. Open 11:00 AM TO 7:00PM everyday except Tuesday
There are four winery tasting rooms located in downtown Nevada City.

Two of these operations own do not own vineyards, thus they source their grapes from other growers. They offer tasting as follows:

Indian Springs ( - 303 Broad Street - Sunday thru Thursday - 11:30AM to 5:00PM and Friday and Saturday 1:30AM to 6:00 PM

Nevada City ( - 321 Spring Street - Open Sun-Thursday 12-5pm, Fri-Sat 12-6pm
Two wineries opened their stand alone second tasting room during the last year.

Clavey Estate Winery and its vineyards are located in Chicago Park (Tasting and tours BAO) but also opened a tasting room at 115South Pine Street in Nevada City. The latter tasting room hours are: Closed Monday, Tuesday - Friday: 3-8 pm, Saturday: 12 noon - 8 pm and Sunday: 12 noon - 6 pm

Szabo Vineyards Winery and vineyards are located at 14293 Gold Fork Road Nevada City: They offer group tastings at the winery BAO. They also recently opened a second tasting room in downtown Nevada City at 12-7316 Broad Street which is open as follows: Thursday and Sunday 12– 5 pm and Friday and Saturday 12 – 7 pm

One winery tasting room in the Lake of the Pines/Auburn area off Hwy 49

Sierra Knolls original tasting room is located at 19635 Kingswood Ct… Grass Valley, Tours and tasting at the actual winery site are BAO. Open Saturday & Sunday 12 – 5 pm. They just opened a second tasting room located on 10024 Linnet Lane, Auburn, a frontage road, along Hwy 49 and about two miles south of the Wolf Road-Combie Road intersection of the southern most Nevada County community of Lake of the Pines. They have named this location Bear River Wine Tasting Closed Tuesday and Wednesday, Open: Sunday 12 – 5 pm, Monday and; Thursday 12 – 6 pm and Friday and Saturday 12 – 7
Off Winery Site tasting rooms located in Grass Valley

Eight (8) wineries not only have their original tasting room located at their vineyard/winery site, but also maintain an off-site tasting room in downtown Grass Valley.

Stand alone Tasting Rooms

Sierra Starr First winery to open a tasting room off-premise at 124 West Main Street. Open everyday 12-5pm. Actual vineyard and winery located at 11179 Gibson Drive, Grass Valley and tours/tasting are BAO.

Avanguardia ( at 209 West Main Street. Open daily 12-5pm. Actual winery site located at 13024 Jones Bar, Nevada City: Open Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm during the months of May-October

Lucchesi (>www.lucchesivineyards.comlocated at 167 Mill Street which is the central cross street to Main. Open daily from 11:00am-6:00pm. At actual winery site: 19698 View Forever Lane Grass Valley open Monday through Friday 9 am – 5 pm. BAO for weekend hours

Smith ttp:// - located at 124 Mill Street. Open everyday, 12-5pm. Tasting/tours at actual winery site of 13719 Dog Bar Road, Grass Valley are BAO
Cooperative and Collective like Tasting rooms

Grass Valley Wine Company - located at 128 Mill Street. The first “collective tasting room” site operated for a short time during the summer of 2010 before conflicts of event scheduling with the owner of the leased facilities forced the collective to seek another location. The original group of wineries included four wineries - Bent Metal, Montoliva, Pilot Peak, and Solune. The group was reformed without Montoliva who opted to remain in the original facility location. Bent Medal, Pilot Peak and Solune moved to a new site located on Mill St. The operation hours are: Daytime: Thursday through Monday 12 - 6 pm and Evenings: Thursday through Saturday 6 - 8 pm

Tasting at the actual winery sites can be accomplished as follows

Bent Metal - McCourtney Road, Grass Valley.Open Saturday & Sunday 12 – 5 pm or by appointment

Pilot Peak vineyards and winery are located at 12888 Spenceville Road, Penn Valley. Open: Saturday and Sunday 1 – 4 pm, November through December, Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm , March through October, and “Saturday Sunsets” 6 – 10 pm June through September

Solune - ( -
16303 Jewett Lane (Off Hwy 174), Grass Valley, offers tastings on Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm or by appointment

Union Square Event Center and Wine Bar - located at 151 Mill Street which is the central cross street to Main. This is unique operation that combines a lounge atmosphere usuable for such events as weddin receptions, dinner theater, special occassions parties, and the capability of completing wine tasting all in one large, vwery well decorated room and mezzazine. The owner has elected to feature the four Nevada Counties listed at the beginning of this summary: Coufos, Double Oak, Montoliva and Naggiar. Wine tasting is offered from four wineries during the following hours:open 6 days a week from noon til 5pm closed Tuesday.