Last Sunday I decided to scout out the area that will host the Capay Valley Almond Festival on February 24, 2019. The blossoms are everywhere here in Los Gatos, CA where I live so I figured they would be weighing the branches down up north. We’ve had tons of rain this season. It’s probably normal for this time of year but it always catches me off guard, making me long for the sun. Sunday looked to be sunny so I planned an early departure.
My first tip for any trip is start out early! I can never understand why people leave late when they’re off on an adventure. And by late, I mean 10:00 or past. Why not get there as early as possible so you have time to relax, explore and to top it off, miss the traffic?
I pushed off around 6:30 am as soon as the rain stopped with coffee in hand. The sun was creeping up over the mountains and the air was clean after a night of rain. With the rest of the world asleep – I can attest to this since no one was on the highway – I worked my way north over to highway 680 and then up to 505 north. Before I take you through the trip I’d recommend, let me tell you a little bit about the festival.
The Capay Valley Almond Festival began in 1915 and is the only five town event in Northern California. I image that first year and the excitement of driving along the back roads in a brand-new Detroiter motor car (photo below) with the wind blowing through ones hair, smelling the fresh air while white blossoms would be falling around you like spring snow.
Well, 104 years later the festival is upon us again. This “traveling” festival takes you through five Capay Valley towns including Esparto, Capay, Brooks, Guinda and Rumsy. Here is a map that I got from the Esparto Regional Chamber of Commerce. I used it as a reference when I did my scouting trip and can offer some thoughts if you have the opportunity to go. I marked a few places in red and to make it easy, I’ve provided addresses so you can easily drop them into your GPS. Let me note that because I went a week early there were very few blossoms. So I can’t WOW you with a bunch. But trust me, if you go when they are blooming you’ll be amazed. Here are some examples with some photo credits. (Kite Hill Artisan Almond Milk Foods, GreaterCapayValley.org)
Back to the map:
- Historic Oakdale Ranch: 17785 Country Road 86A, Esparto, CA (Bring breakfast and coffee to enjoy by the lake)
- Country Road (CR) 22: Directions below
- Road Trip Bar & Grill: 24989 CA-16, Capay, CA 95607
- Seka Hills Olive Mill: 19326 Rd 78, Brooks, CA 95606 (Olive oil /wine taste and have lunch outside)
- Western Yolo Grange: 16787 Forest Ave, Guinda, CA 95637
- Early dinner in Yountville: Head south via highway 128
1. Historic Oakdale Ranch: 17785 Country Road 86A, Esparto, CA
This was a little hard to find and there was actually no one there when I went. However, they may have folks at the site the day of the festival. It was very pretty and remote with a small lake, palm trees and a dock. Bring coffee and breakfast with you and sit by the waterside as a start to your tour.
Best way to get there so you take the scenic drive: When you’re on 505 look for 29A and exit left. Make your first right (89) and head north to Country Road 23, then right on Country Road 86A. The ranch will be on your right. The sign is a little hard to find so keep your eyes peeled.
2. Country Road 22
I tried to find the Freeheart Farms and Event Center and never did. What I did find was Country Road 22 and it was beautiful. Lined with almond trees, fields dotted with grazing horses and even a family of peacocks it’s a must see road. From the Historic Oakdale Ranch head south on Country Road 86A and make a right on Country Road 23. Pass Country road 85B and the next road is Country Road 22. When you get to the end of CR 22 drive along CR 87, 14 and 85 as noted in the map above to see more almond blooms.
3. Road Trip Bar and Grill
This is a well-known restaurant / bar with a lovely outdoor dining area. It also has a tribute to Veterans which was nice to see. I would recommend to order their special of the day. When I was there it was a French dip and the couple next to me got it and it looked amazing.
4. Seka Hills Olive Mill
I absolutely fell in love with this place. Make sure you enjoy the trees which line the drive up to the store and tasting room. They have a beautiful outdoor seating area located under olive trees. You can olive oil / wine taste which was great fun. You can also have a glass of wine and order food to eat outside. I’d recommend to have lunch here.
5. Western Yolo Grange
I actually never saw this place but read about it in a blog from last year. It sounds like they have a number of festival events so you might want to check it out. All along the drive you’ll see almond blossoms so take your time and enjoy.
6. Back home along high 128 over to Yountville/Napa for an early dinner at Ottimo
Once you’re explored the festival consider taking an alternative route home and head over to the Yountville/Napa area and have an early dinner at Ottimo where they have the absolute best pizza! The route I recommend is highway 128 west to 29 south. You’ll pass lake Berryessa and drive through the countryside that will make you feel like you’re on a movie set.
Early Dinner at Ottimo: 6525 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Ottimo is located in the quaint town of Yountville among shops, restaurants and tasting rooms. It’s absolutely charming and the pizza is some of the best I’ve ever had. Michael Chiarello is the founder and a well known chef. Ottimo means “optimal” and it certainly is.
You can either stay the night up in Napa or head home. If you start early this is an easy day trip. Please let me know if you go in the comments section! XO Photogirl.
Here’s a map showing where Capay is in relation to Yountville