I wasn’t sure what to expect when I climbed onto the IFBC wine tour bus at 8:00 in the morning. Destined for Clarksburg, California, some of us were a bit bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived. I looked forward to meeting wine makers who spent their lives dedicated to wine. I also hoped we’d taste a few wines. (Wish granted. Yay!)
Our tour guide, Phil Ogilvie of Muddy Boot Wine, is perky and chatty in the mornings. As it turns out, he knows a lot about the area. He knows even more about his hometown Clarksburg, California. Clarksburg is home to Muddy Boot Wine and a dozen other wine makers.
Only 15 minutes outside of Sacramento, it’s a tiny town. I come from a small farming community in Wyoming, so I understand the ins and outs of small-town living. Clarksburg itself is a bit, I don’t know, peculiar? It looks and feels like a small-town, having a little over 400 residents. At the same time, the Sacramento city vibe lingers in the air. The buildings are old. The elementary, junior high, and high school are about the same size and share the same cafeteria. There’s no tom-foolery or shenanigans here without the entire town knowing about it.
Clarksburg has an interesting crop history. Before settling on wine, they harvested tomatoes, alfalfa, flaxseed, and sugar beets. Some of the farms are generational, passed down 8 generations (maybe more). The Muddy Boots twins are fourth generation wine makers. That’s either dedication or insanity. I’m not sure which, but I’m glad it happens. As we toured, Phil kept saying things like, “And that’s so-and-so’s great-great grandpa’s house…” The residents are proud of their town and their heritage. As well they should be.
It only takes 7 minutes to drive the main town’s parameter. Yet in this small town, big magic happens. Vineyards and trees cover the land, and the Sacramento River runs along the border. There are only 10-14 days left before the grape harvest rush begins. The harvest anticipation hangs in the air. Once the rush begins, many locals will keep dusk-till-dawn schedules until complete.
And that’s where the Old Sugar Mill comes into play. Wine makers bring their harvested grapes here to produce their wine. The Old Sugar Mill can process thousands of pounds of grapes, turning each load into a work of art. The large facility lets wine makers craft their wine with exact precision.
It’s time for a random fun fact. The Old Sugar Mill was first built in Ogden, Utah. It remained there until the mid 1930s, about 25 years. Over a two-year period workers dissembled it brick-by-brick and transported it by train to Clarksburg. Quite a few of the workers came with it!
For years the Old Sugar Mill processed sugar beets, stinking up the town for months at a time. When the sugar beet market died, it wasn’t hard to convince the town to process grapes there instead. If given the opportunity to smell like [censored] or produce exquisite wine, the choice is clear.
Anybody can visit Clarksburg, California and experience some of the best wine California has to offer. Take a moment to stop by the Wilson Vineyards and Muddy Boots Wine property. They maintain a beautiful estate. It’s used not just for wine, but weddings and other social engagements. Then drive a few minutes down the road to the Old Sugar Mill, and experience what another 11 wine makers have to offer. It’s an experience worth having.
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