By Melissa Mendonca
Tehama Trail Passport Weekend
A leisurely drive through back roads of Tehama County is one of the simple joys of life in the North State. Various directions wind through picturesque walnut and olive orchards or pastures dotted with cattle. Head off on Highway 36 East to Manton and you’ll end up in a quaint area of mountain wineries where the vintners themselves will pour and tell the stories behind each varietal.
At any time of year, the Tehama Trail is a great guide to the local agricultural producers spread throughout the county. During the annual Tehama Trail Passport Weekend, June 7-8, it’s an even more delightful way to become acquainted with the people who grow our food and the land on which it’s produced.
A partnership of farmers, ranchers, vintners and olive oil producers established in 2009, the Tehama Trail was designed to bring awareness to the wide variety of good food — and the people responsible for it — available outside our own front door. During the passport weekend, each stop showcases the fruits of a producer’s labor.
In many cases, those fruits are award winning. At Pacific Farms in Gerber, many Pacific Sun olive oils have received recognition, including a 2013 Best of Show at the California Olive Oil Council for the Proprietor’s Select Ascolana. “It’s validation that our product holds up against some of the better olive oils from around the world,” says Brendon Flynn, general manager of Pacific Farms, who will be on hand to showcase his olives, olive oils and balsamic vinegars during the passport weekend.
Flynn appreciates how the partnership pools resources. “Lots of folks have local products available and they don’t always have the resources available for marketing,” he says.
The Tehama Trail’s stops range from small family businesses like Julia’s Fruit Stand to the flagship store of Lucero Olive Oil, which has expanded to Napa and Portland in recent years. Products range from the meaty walnuts at Bianchi Orchards to the overwhelming array of olives at I-5 road stop favorite, Olive Pit.
“The Tehama Trail is really something that epitomizes Tehama County,” says Bob Douglas of Tehama Oaks, Red Bluff’s first and only winery. He expects that the Tehama Trail will grow into “a large, large attraction” that will connect both locals and visitors to the producers, and will be a shining example of the power of agritourism.
Douglas and wife Jackie handcraft sophisticated red blends, Syrah, Petite Syrah, and elegant whites like Viognier, Roussanne and a Rhone blend. They look forward to offering tastings from barrels and bottles as well as tours of the vineyards during the passport weekend.
They, too, hold recent awards for their work, including silver medals for their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Petite Syrah from the Florida International Wine and Grape Competition. Bestowed in February, these awards indicate that the 2010 retirement project of Douglas, a former county schools superintendent, meets the grade.
Perhaps the most unique spot on the Tehama Trail is New Clairvaux Vineyard at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, home to Cistercian monks with a strong agricultural and wine-making foundation dating back to 12th Century Europe. In addition to wine tasting, visitors can experience the Sacred Stones project, a reconstruction of an 800-year-old Chapter house from a Cistercian monastery in Ovila, Spain.
Enjoy the Store in Red Bluff is a hub of the Tehama Trail, selling products year-round from a special section of the store. A longtime proponent of the Tehama Trail, co-proprietor Kate Grissom finds it a passion project to showcase the goods of neighboring farms.
The Red Bluff store is a tasting room for Cedar Crest Vineyards of Manton, which will also join the festivities at its winery. Surrounded by five neighbor wineries, a jaunt up the Manton leg of the Tehama Trail to experience the nuances of wine grown in volcanic soil can easily take up an entire day.
Whether you get your first passport stamp in Corning, which celebrates “All things olive,” or in Dairyville at Julia’s Fruit Stand, where people flock for juicy heirloom tomatoes and sweet watermelons, you’ll find the Tehama Trail the right road to food, fun and community.
Passport Weekend June 7-8
Tickets at Enjoy the Store Red Bluff and Redding