Sutter Creek charms visitors with shops, history, nature

Folsom Lake Entertainer
By: Ken Larson, Folsom Lake Entertainer
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I love living in this region because there are so many options for day tripping. I thought a recent Saturday was going to be just another one of these exciting days, a bit of history, a nice hike and some beautiful scenery, but I had no idea the gold mine I was about to discover. Sutter Creek is only 45 minutes from Folsom and this community has it all. What was going to be a short trip turned into an all-day adventure in a charming little town along the Mother Lode. I found history, beauty beyond description, ?world famous? wine tasting rooms, interesting and unique shopping opportunities, architecture that dates back more than 125 years, food beyond description, world class bed and breakfasts, theaters and some of the nicest people I have ever met. Located in the Sierra foothills, historic Sutter Creek is a welcome retreat from the everyday bustle of life. It?s in Amador County, very close to Jackson and to get there remember to drive to Highway 16, then Highway 49, but turn off the bypass and drive about three miles down into Sutter Creek on Old Highway 49. Here are a few of the highlights of my trip. The history of the Gold Rush is probably best preserved in Sutter Creek in a vast array of historic buildings and homes. Dennis Price, a former school teacher and now full time guide, volunteer and history buff explains how people first panned for gold in the rivers and streams beginning in 1848. He talks about how John Sutter first arrived in the area from Switzerland in the 1840s and created an empire providing lumber to Sacramento. Then everything changed when James Marshall discovered gold in Coloma and the rush was on. Tens of thousands of miners from all over the world stampeded to the foothills. Following the river and stream panning explosion, was years of hard rock mining. Gabby?s Gold Rush Tours provides fun, authentic walking and driving tours of Amador County. Check it out at Lisa Klosowski, part-time Visitor Center director and full-time shop owner of the Music Box Company, sums it up best. She gave us a walking tour of main street, introducing us to shop owners and business people, all the while talking about Sutter Creek as a haven of tranquility, nestled in oak-studded rolling foothills. A few of the impressive shops include the Antique Gardener, Sutter Creek Ice Cream Emporium owned by Josh Hock, Creeky Cupboard, Music Box Company, Valley View Interiors (offering a wonderful mix of local work showcasing furniture, lamps, and art work) and Topia Home and Garden. Sutter Creek is home to a wealth of talented artists and showcases many fine galleries. Enjoy the transformation of molten glass into wondrous works of art at Chaos Glassworks, where David and Heather Hopman create incredible pieces of art. Gallery 10 features all local artists, while Fine Eye Gallery, located in the old mercantile building for the past 22 years and home of dozens of California artists, features ceramics, glass, and contemporary American art. A visit with Michael Harvill of BellaGrace Winery gave an overview of why the wines in Amador County are far superior than others in the region. BellaGrace, winner of two awards in the 2012 California State Fair (2010 Barbera and 2011 Grenache Blanc), explains, ?every bottle bearing the BellaGrace label reflects our fundamental philosophy of doing things right at every step of the winemaking process from vine to bottle.? BellaGrace is one of four wine tasting rooms that offer free wine tasting along Historic Sutter Creek. Theater is brought back to life at the Sutter Creek Theatre presenting contemporary and traditional music, theatrical performances, dance, film, and other artistic events that are engaging to the diverse regional audience. Owned by Laura and Byron Damiani Jr., the theater is a complete multipurpose entertainment venue that hosts events year-round. Although there are a number of wonderful restaurants, don?t pass up lunch at Thomi?s. Thomi Manzano has operated her small restaurant with ample seating inside and out for seven years and you always know you are in good hands when you find the place the locals love to gather and enjoy a fine meal. For more information, call the Sutter Creek Visitors Center at (209) 267-1344 or visit