Sarah and Tanner really wanted their engagement session to feel like a normal day and didn’t want anything too posed or formal. They had fallen in love with my work through their friend Kelley, whose engagement session to her now husband Neal, was a romp around San Francisco. Since Sarah and Tanner had already planned a trip with her family out to California, we decided to all meet for a Sunday funday together for their Napa engagement session. It was a blast! We played bocce and picnicked at their bungalow on a vineyard to start, took in an incredible vista, went wine tasting at the winery that Tanner’s brother works at, Ashes and Diamonds, and all finished up at an incredible dinner in town at one of their favorite spots. It was such a great way to get to know the two of them and I had such a blast exploring one of my favorite places. I’ve since been back to Ashes and Diamonds multiple times because I absolutely fell in love with their wine and I am super excited to photograph their wedding in Aspen, CO over Labor Day weekend this year!
Morgan and Vittawat met in high school. Yes. That still happens. Flash forward ten years and they are both in advanced academia, living apart and engaged. This summer, Morgan was working and studying in Sacramento while Vittawat was still in their hometown in Reno. When we started talking about possibilities for portrait locations, I was quick to suggest a Sutter Creek engagement session. I had been following them on instagram for awhile and knew that they both loved wine, the outdoors and exploring as much as I did. It was also equal distance between all of us, which made it convenient for Vittawat to get to as a weekend getaway with Morgan.
It was partially a selfish request – I LOVE Sutter Creek. I had been eyeing it as a portrait location forever. My best friend’s parents live in the nearby town of Plymouth and some of my favorite clients ever (ahem, Jack and Kyle, as well as, Kerri and David) were wed there. It’s my home away from home and one of the places in the world I feel most comfortable. Wine, country and golden light – what’s not to love?
There are more of my favorite images from Morgan and Vittawat’s Sutter Creek engagement session after the jump. Here are some travel suggestions if you would like to visit the area yourself.
STAY: While the area has no limit to the kitchy bed and breakfasts’ available for the traveler that loves doilies and gardens, there are quite a few adorable boutique hotels here now as well.
- The Hanford House Inn is my personal favorite for staying directly in
the downtown of Sutter Creek. Downtown is a relative term: there’s one adorably quaint and walkable mainstreet. Don’t let the tiny town fool you though – what it lacks in size, it makes up for in friendliness and charm and it has everything you would need within your reach: wine tasting rooms, a gourmet cheese shop, and a provisional general store. Hanford House delivers warm fresh scones to your front door every morning and offers free wine tasting in the lobby every evening.
- Is there anything more adorable than a boutique hotel named Rest? The answer is no. Obviously. Rest is only 20 minutes away from Sutter Creek in Plymouth, CA and it happens to be located within walking distance to my favorite restaurant, Taste, in the area.
- The Union Pub and Inn in nearby Volcano only offers four rooms over an exceptional restaurant, which happens to be owned by the same owners as Taste. It’s been a longtime dream of mine to get a crew of people together to rent out the entire lodge one weekend for a getaway.
EAT: it’s a sad state of affairs when you think the food in the foothills is better than the food at home, but it’s true. I would drive two hours to eat at any of these restaurants!
- Taste has been awarded up and down every list imaginable that involves food and wine and for good reason. I jump at any chance to eat there. I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve been served and more often than not the meals come with a surprise delightful twist. I’m a huge fan of their Monday Night Supper menu, which offers a first, main, and dessert course at a pre-fixe price along with wine pairings.
- You can’t suggest the Union Pub and Inn without including them on the eat recommendation list as well. Their inventive seasonal menu changes frequently and it’s incredibly charming to sit on the patio and wine and dine on a warm summer night.
- Element is housed in the lobby of the Hanford House Inn and it’s my go-to brunch spot in the area. Their daily egg specials always make your menu decisions incredibly difficult.
- Yorba offers small lot, premium bold wines from the Amador area. Their tasting room is directly next door to the Hanford House Inn and their Shake Ridge Red is not to be missed.
- Terre Rouge and Easton offers a wide selection of variety of everything Plymouth has to offer. Their tasting room is unpresumptuous and their selection outstanding. I love everything they offer (which is why I’m a wine club member) but their barbaras and zins really stand out for me.
- Helwig Winery is worth a stop for a picnic lunch just for the incredible view of their beautiful grounds, as well as a bottle of their bubbly rose.
- I love C.G. Di Arie for their inventiveness and spunk. I became enamored with them after meeting the owner, Chaim Gur-Arieh, a few years back. It helps that they are NPR under-writers also. Chaim was born in Istanbul, Turkey but immigrated to Israel as a teenager. He has a PHD in food science and spent a number of years working to engineer the flavors and consistency behind some of America’s most beloved products (Hidden Valley Ranch! Captain Crunch!). His energy, enthusiasm and quirkiness won me over and this bleeds into his wines. Their gallery collections offer something unique to the area: inventive heavy blends using grapes like the touriga.
Cedarville Vineyard is one of my favorite wineries of Fairplay. Cedarville, owned by the amazing husband and wife duo of Jonathan Lachs and Susan Marks, is sustainably and organically farmed. They have amazing underground caves they designed to store wine, feature owl boxes to assist with pest control, and use rotating grasses, weeds and other crops under the vines to help keep soil healthy and pests to a minimum. Jonathan and Susan were looking for a slew of marketing photos to have at their disposal for the vineyard. It didn’t take much convincing (or any at all) to get me and some of my favorite people to the vineyard for a tour, a wine tasting, a picnic spread and some wandering among the vines.
Cedarville Vineyard is located in Somerset, CA and welcomes visitors for tours, tasting, and sales by appointment only. You can either email or call 530-620-9463 to set up an appointment. You won’t regret it and tell them I sent you!