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Yosemite USA PicmonkeyYosemite Valley in June as captured by Guy Francis

TravMedia April 30, 2014 —Yosemite National Park in Northern California is popular year round, but in summer and autumn its popularity swells with full hotels, campgrounds and queues at entrance points.  Many visitors aren't aware of the abundance of lodging options in communities at three of the park's main entrances. 

The park and its surrounding Gold Country communities offer visitors easy access to attractions such as El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, and offer insight on lesser known, yet worthwhile experiences both inside and outside the park.  The communities to the north, west and south of Yosemite provide visitors a local perspective and helpful tips on great places to stay, best times to visit and other visitor services such as vacation planners and maps. 

Dispelling a major myth--cars are allowed in Yosemite National Park.  Visitors are welcome to drive to the park and within it, including the Yosemite Valley.  For those who prefer not to drive, transportation companies, like Yosemite Areas Regional Transit (www.yarts.com) and private tour companies provide a round trip to and from the park for visitors staying at various gateway lodging locations. In an effort to reduce entrance wait times and parking issues during peak season, the National Park Service is recommending that motorhomes use designated Park and Ride locations outside park gates or in selected campground facilities and ride YARTS or tours into and out of the Park.

When visiting Yosemite during the peak summer season, it's a good idea to plan on early entry through the park's gates to avoid queues.  Head to the Yosemite Valley floor either early or later in the day (busy times are between 10 am and 2 pm, especially on weekends).  Park in the day use area and take advantage of the free Valley Shuttle to see all the iconic sites like Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Merced River, Vernal Falls and Yosemite Chapel.

 

Tuolumne County – North Entrance – Highway 120Groveland Main Street PicmonkeyGroveland's colorful Main Street

Tuolumne County is the North entrance (Highway 120) to Yosemite National Park.  Highway 120 is the shortest route to Yosemite from San Francisco and all points north.  Driving time from San Francisco to the Yosemite Valley floor is approximately four hours, traffic dependent. Visitors heading to Yosemite via the Highway 120 entrance can stop by the Tuolumne County Visitors Center in Chinese Camp to the latest information on activities in around the Park as well as on Tuolumne County and the surrounding Gold Country.

Continuing south from Chinese Camp on Highway 120 towards Yosemite for approximately 30 minutes you will encounter the quaint town of Groveland. The Groveland Hotel offers comfortable accommodations with each room dedicated to a famous, and sometimes infamous, character of the past.  The hotel's Cellar Door Restaurant has held the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2011.

A stop at the Groveland Museum will give visitors insight into the colorful past of this Gold Rush town.  Just a couple minutes south of Groveland on Highway 120 (towards Yosemite) is the popular Rainbow Pool swimming hole.

Madera County – South Entrance, Highway 140

The south gateway to Yosemite National Park, on Highway 41 in Madera County, is the most traveled year round entrance for visitors who wish to self-drive, or sight-see on a tour bus, to experience this awe inspiring region of California.  From Los Angeles, drive time is approximately 5 hours.  Madera County offers convenient and affordable lodging options from full service resorts to local hotels/motels, vacation rental homes and bed & breakfasts.

Papagni tasters PicmonkeyBevy of tasters at Madera's Papagni WineryWhen you're leaving Yosemite plan to depart in the early afternoon and take advantage of the long summer days to explore the many south gate attractions like the popular Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.  Ride back in time on the one-hour narrated tours that depart several times a day and enjoy the Thornberry Museum, gold panning, gift shops, and more. 

More popular south gate attractions include the Madera Wine Trail, art galleries, museums, Fossil Discovery Center and an abundance of outdoor recreation.

 

Yosemite Mariposa County --   West Entrance, Highway 41

This region of the Gold Country offers access to Yosemite National Park from Highway 41 through the West gate is one hour north of Fresno, and is the shortest distance to the popular Mariposa Grove, a square mile home to the Earth's largest and oldest living organisms. 

More than 500 Giant Sequoias keep the grove cool on even summer's hottest day.  You can explore the area on foot or take a 75-minute guided tram tour from May through October, with programming in English, German, Japanese, French and Spanish.  Tip:  To avoid parking lot jams, visitors may park their car at the historic Wawona Hotel and take the free Wawona-Mariposa Grove shuttle to see the Sequoias.

Model A at Yosemite Falls PicmonkeyFord Model A at Yosemite Falls The town of Mariposa, first settled in 1849, is the southernmost in the Gold Rush chain of towns.  The streets follow the original street grid laid out by John C. Fremont in 1850.  Several disastrous early fires convinced settlers to rebuild with stone, brick and adobe.  Consequently, many of today's existing structures in the historic downtown had been built by the late 1850s, with most of the remaining ones completed by 1900.  Because they have always been in use, the old buildings haven't had to be restored or recreated.

The old west is historically represented on Main Street with the wooden sidewalks, a tour of the oldest court house west of the Rockies still in continuous operation since 1854 and the Mariposa Museum and History Center at 5119 Jessie Street, named one of the best small museums in America by the Smithsonian Institute, where you can see remnants of the gold rush, a Sheriff's office and miner's camp, early Miwok Indian life, early frontier furniture and player piano and one-room school house.  (Open daily year round, Adults $4, children under 18 are free.) http://mariposamuseum.com.

The Mariposa area has vineyards and wineries where you can taste or pick up a bottle to accompany your afternoon picnic.

A unique way to explore the area is in an historic, original Model T automobile with the top down. Visitors may choose from a variety of vintage vehicles, from a 1915 Touring car to a 1929 Model A Roadster with Rumble seat for children (www.driveamodelt.com).

 

Editor's note: To help you understand California better, we identfy our features as relating to one of a dozen separate regions of the state. Sometimes these regions have exact boundaries such as Los Angeles and San Diego Counties. Sometimes they are more general, such as “North Coast” or “Deserts.” At Taste California Travel we define Gold Country as that foothill land between California's great Central Valley and its High Sierra Mountains to the east. Since there is not precise dividing line, we consider our High Sierra section to start somewhere above 2500 to 3000 feet. Yosemite National Park would fit that definition. Other attractions mentioned in the article above might be at lower elevations in areas we call either Gold Country or the Central Valley.

In any case, we suggest you check out the Central Valley, Gold Country and High Sierra sections of our Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area wineries and craft beer specialists.

 

1864-Ale Abe Lincoln label

Oakhurst, CA – September 26, 2013 – The Southgate Brewing Company in Oakhurst is holding a release party to help show off a new beer that helps mark the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Yosemite Grant.

The 1864 Ale, produced by brewmaster Rick Bouke, is an Oktoberfest style beer that will be available throughout the fall. Bouke said he used the past as an influence while creating this new brew.

“I am excited to brew this beer for such a special occasion as the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant. I tried to make a beer with techniques that would be similar to the beer being brewed 150 years ago,” he said.

The beer is described as being amber in color, with a smooth toasted toffee and caramel flavor.

“Rich, toasted malts toasted in the our wood-fired oven and fresh, local hops sourced from a secret location near Yosemite Valley, make this beer a balanced and refreshing seasonal beer perfect for a Fall in the Sierra,” said Casey Hawkins, owner of South Gate Brewing Company.

A release party is being held on Saturday, Oct. 5 starting at 3 pm to debut the new beer and help mark the milestone of President Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant that set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove for preservation.

Festivities will include an Art Exhibit by local artist Courtney Lynn who has designed the 1864 Ale label of President Lincoln as well as the other South Gate Brewing labels; live music, Oktoberfest-style dinner specials by Chef Dawn Pliche, 1864 logo t-shirts & steins giveaways, plus a grand prize drawing for a two night stay in a cabin at The Redwoods in Yosemite. Also, attendees are advised to be on the lookout for President Lincoln himself, to make a special appearance.

“It’s a great honor to be involved in the celebration of our ecological history,” said Hawkins.

“Brewing a beer with locally sourced hops and toasting grains here on site will give this beer a uniqueness that speaks to our local community. We hope everybody enjoys the craftsmanship and thought that Rick is putting into the 1864 Ale,” he said.

Numerous events will be held in Madera County and each of Yosemite’s four gateways to honor President Lincoln’s preservation of Yosemite in an action that paved the way for the creation of the National Park System. To learn more about the anniversaries, go to www.nps.gov/yose/anniversary.

Editor's note: Links to the websites of brewpubs like Southgate Brewing Company can be found in the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. Also in the Directory are links to Lodging and Dining options in the Yosemite area.

Monday, 03 June 2013 21:05

New Microbrewery in Oakhurst

Southgate Brewing in Oakhurst PicmonkeyFrom left, Lindsay and Casey Hawkins, owners of Southgate Brewing Company and brewmaster Rick Boucke, toast the success of their new Oakhurst brewpub.

Beer lovers have a new place to try just outside of Yosemite National Park. Southgate Brewing Company opened their doors in Oakhurst—about 15 minutes south of Yosemite--just prior to the start of the Memorial Day Holiday weekend and so far, the public has loved the new microbrewery and restaurant.

Owner Casey Hawkins said it’s his staff’s attention to service and detail that has helped them gain a quick following.

“We have a knowledgeable, dynamic team that delivers top notch service to every guest in a fun, family friendly brewpub environment,” he said.

“Our menu pairs beautifully with our house made beers and is thoughtfully sourced, featuring American Pub fare with some exciting twists. Fried Artichoke Hearts and House Made Potato Chips are a great way to start your meal. Our South Gate Burger is made with grass fed beef from Painted Hills Farm, and our Mary's free range chicken is another house favorite,” said Hawkins.

Ingredients are locally sourced, with cheeses coming from local dairies, most of the produce sourced from local growers and even the ice cream for their root beer floats comes from Reimer’s Vanilla Bean ice cream. For patrons looking for wine instead of beer, local Idle Hour Winery wines are featured on the menu.

While the food has been earning praise, it’s the microbrews that many people are coming for, and those too have earned commendation from the public.

“We have the Deadwood Porter, a smooth dark porter with roasted malt and coffee flavors, the Gold Digger Blond, an easy drinking pilsner-style beer lightly hopped and great on a hot day. We have the Sawtooth IPA, A west-coast style IPA with a slightly tropical/citrus flavor and smooth finish and our Glacier Point Pale Ale is hoppy pale ale with grapefruit and citrus flavors and my personal favorite,” said Hawkins.

Editor's note: Planning on being in the Yosemite area? In Taste California Travel's Resource Directory, you will find a link to the website of Southgate Brewing (in the High Sierra section of our Beer listings). Also in the directory are links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the area.

Sunday, 05 May 2013 00:32

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway Opens

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway PicmonkeyMile High Overlook is one of several sweeping vistas along the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

from TASTE News Service

The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, a 100-mile journey through the Sierra National Forest adjacent to Yosemite National Park, has opened for the season. While not as well-known as its National Park neighbor, the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway offers many similar types of sweeping vistas as Yosemite.

“The Byway is often referred to as a ‘secret Yosemite’ because there are a lot of similar views,” said Jarrod Lyman with the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau (YSVB). The YSVB promotes Madera County, which encompasses the byway as well as the Southern Entrance in to Yosemite. “The Byway gives guests the chance to take in some truly amazing scenery with far fewer people than they would see in Yosemite. A lot of people like that opportunity,” he said.

The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway starts in North Fork, the exact geographic center of California. Guests experience elevation changes from 3000 feet to points above 7000 feet as they explore various ecosystems along the way.

There are historical points of interest, such as the Jesse Ross Cabin which was built in the 1800’s and still stands today, scenic overlooks like Mile High Overlook or the Fresno Dome Overlook and odd rock formations such as Arch Rock and Globe Rock. There is even an old general store located at Beasore Meadow which has been in operation since the 1800’s.

“The Jones Store is such a popular stop for people along the byway. It’s like stepping back in time, they have no electricity, no phone service, yet still are famous for delicious hamburgers and pie,” Lyman said. “The store has an amazing history, and the owner, Vern Black, who was a bomber pilot in World War II and has run the store for over 50 years, can tell some amazing stories of life in the region many years ago,” he said.

The byway is maintained by the National Forest Service. While the warm spring and less-than-average snowfall this winter mean an early opening, travelers are still encouraged to call 559-877-2218 for road conditions.

Editor's note: Those planning a visit to Yosemite National Park or the scenic surrounding area may want to check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory where they will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options. 

Region: Central Valley     City: Madera     Contact: www.maderavintners.com

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 18:34

Quady Winery Earns Accolades

Life is certainly sweet for one Madera Wine Trail winery known for their sweet dessert wines and their vermouth. Quady Winery earned several accolades recently for their Vya Vermouth and several of their wines.

Vya Vermouth impressed the people at Made in America so much that Quady Winery was nominated for and received an American Treasures Award.

Since its inception in 2008, Made in America has recognized, promoted, and provided assistance to Quady Asst Winemaker Darin Petersen  PicmonkeyDarin Peterson, assistant winemaker at Quady Winery, accepts the American Treasure award at Washington DC reception. American businesses committed to production in the United States. Key to this effort has been providing companies access to resources and expertise outside those traditionally available within their industries.

The American Treasures Awards are presented annually at the American Treasures Cullinary Experience to individuals and small producers in recognition of a singular and significant contribution to our Nation that both preserves and fosters a unique All American craft and tradition. This year’s awards are presented to organic growers and craft producers. The winners were carefully selected and vetted through a deliberative process by a National Advisory Committee consisting of individuals with relevant subject matter expertise. A special Congressional Honorary Steering Committee supports the initiative.

“We’re very proud to be recognized nationally as a unique all-American craft producer,” said Andrew Quady.

Andrew credited the ideal conditions of Madera and his staff with the creation of a product deemed an American Treasure.

“Our part of California, the San Joaquin Valley, is noted for its especially warm climate and rich soils. Certain grape varieties do especially well here. Our business is built on the development, production, and marketing of new wine styles especially suited to grapes from our region. This sets us apart and creates a unique spirit amongst our employees because our business is like no other.”

“We are proud to be designated an American Treasure along with a small selection of craft and organic food producers across the U.S.,” he said.

Andrew said the unique history of the spirit, along with the experiential nature he strives for with the creation, captivated the Made in America judges.

“There are a few other American made vermouths on the market now, but ours appeared almost a decade earlier and the Vya has flavors and history like no other. I created Vya with the idea that vermouth could be appreciated in a similar manner to wine: as a full sensory experience, for me, it’s like aromatherapy.”

According to Made In America, The American Treasures Awards are presented annually in July at the American Treasures Cullinary Experience to individuals and small producers in recognition of a singular and significant contribution to our Nation that both preserves and fosters a unique All-American craft and tradition.

This year’s awards were presented to organic growers and craft producers. The winners were carefully selected and vetted through a deliberative process by a National Advisory Committee consisting of individuals with relevant subject matter expertise. A special Congressional Honorary Steering Committee supports the initiative.

Not to be out done, three of Quady’s wines received medals at the Lone Star International Wine Competition.

Quady’s 2010 Elysium won Best of Show/Grand Star and a Double Gold. The 2011 Red Electra took silver and the Flore de Moscato earned a bronze medal.

“It’s almost a double reward,” said Quady winemaker Michael Blaylock.

“Everybody here strives to make sure it’s the best quality we can achieve in a given year and we feel great about giving it our all. Then when we are recognized elsewhere and we see the quality on the shelf, we feel a sense of pride. All of this is made right here in our hometown, Madera California, and for me, the main thing is I’m still having fun,” he said.

To learn more about Vya Vermouth, visit www.vya.com. For more on Quady’s wines, visit www.QuadyWinery.com.

(TravMedia.com sources contributed to this article)

Editor's note: Readers interested in learning more about Quady and other Madera County wineries can find links to their websites in the Central Valley section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also listed are links to hundreds of lodging and dining options in that part of California.

 

A Malbec wine from Madera County took top honors at the 2012 Orange County Fair wine competition in Costa Mesa June 5 and 6.

Farview Farm Vineyard, owned by Ray and Tammy Krause of O’Neals, earned a four star gold medal for their Malbec Saint Michael. It was the only Malbec to earn this coveted rating.RayTammy Krause SMALL at Fasi 2009 largerRay and Tammy Krause

“Gold medals are like belly buttons. A four star gold, well, that’s a different story,” said Krause with the usual quick wit and good-natured grin for which he’s known – almost as much as for his wines.

Ray said he’s grateful for the recognition, and he and Tammy were pleasantly surprised.

“To be the only Malbec to win a FSG out of all Malbec entries in all price ranges and, to be one of but 39 given out of nearly 2800 wines is pretty cool.”

The honor means even more, as the approval comes from his peers. Only California wines are judged at the prestigious event, and only California vintners serve as judges.

Ray said the latest accolades continue to prove a point that he and the Madera Vintner’s Association has been championing; that Madera County grapes, given proper attention, can produce top quality wines.

“Chalk up another win for Madera County-grown fruit which can certainly hold its own against the big dogs,” he said in an email thanking his winegrowers for the superior fruit that became the wine.

Farview Farm Vineyard is the second label owned by Ray and Tammy. Their flagship label is Westbrook Wine Farm, also of O’Neals, where they create “Authentic hand crafted wines of quality and conscience.”

Westbrook also had great success recently. At the 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition, held June 15-17, their 2008 Fait Accompli “CRYO” took a double gold medal. Made from estate-grown grapes in Madera County, this “Claret style” wine retails for $60 and is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Cabernet Franc (20%), Malbec (10%), Merlot (8%) and Carmenere (1%).

More information about Farview and Westbrook wines can be found at http://www.westbrookwinefarm.com.

 

(PRWeb contributed to this article)

 

Those planning to visit the Madera Wine Trail and/or the Yosemite National Park area will find links to websites of the wineries there, as well as links to many lodging and dining options, at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.