The year was 1933. The place, Smithfield, Utah. Plagued by blight and drought, the Amalgamated Sugar Company was forced to take drastic measures. Rather than closing up shop entirely, the building, made mostly of bricks, was disassembled and moved piece-by-piece via railroad to California, about 8 miles south of Sacramento, where it was reconstructed and in 1935 put back into service as a sugar production facility. Sugar beets did well in Yolo County, and the factory, under ownership of several different companies, produced sugar until 1993. In 2000, plans were made to renovate the building, and in 2005, the Old Sugar Mill opened, housing a handful of wineries and a full-service custom crush facility.
Today, the Old Sugar Mill is home to 11 wineries. The building features a large atrium, which serves as the concourse and the setting for many events. Wineries either pour in the concourse, or in rooms right off of it.
In February, I was invited to a private wine tasting at Todd Taylor Wines, one of the Old Sugar Mill’s original wineries. Friends and I made the 90-minute journey up to Clarksburg, the small delta town along the Sacramento River that the Old Sugar Mill calls home.
Todd Taylor wines are single-vineyard-designated red wines. Grapes come from the Napa Valley, Shenandoah and Clarksburg areas and are crushed, bottled and aged on site. Todd presided over our tasting, which included a plate of assorted cheeses, crackers and chocolate. Passionate about making wine, Todd was the perfect host, gave a tour of the facility, answering all of our wine-making questions, including a fairly thorough discussion surrounding the debate between corks and screw tops.
In addition to private tastings as some of the wineries, and public tastings at all, the Clarksburg Wine Company at the Old Sugar Mill hosts walking tours from noon to 1pm on the first Saturday of each month. Cost is $10, which includes wine tasting.
On the second Saturday of each month, the Old Sugar Mill is home to the Delta Art Walk from noon to 4pm showcasing a variety of media, including jewelry, watercolor, chalk, wood lath, sculpture and hand blown glass.
Check the website for various events, including live music, and food and wine pairing events throughout the year.
Heringer Estates, Carvalho Family Winery, Elevation Ten, Merlo Family Vineyards, Rendez-vous Winery, Due Vigne di Famiglia, Draconis, Three Wine Company and Perry Creek are the Old Sugar Mill’s other resident wineries.
Things to know: Find the Old Sugar Mill at 35265 Willow Avenue in Clarksburg, just south of Sacramento. Admission is free, but each tasting room charges a nominal fee. Food trucks are often parked outside on weekends, bring a picnic to enjoy on the patio, or stop for a bite to eat at one of the casual restaurants close by. Bring a sweater or light jacket. The building temperate is maintained at around 65º throughout the year. The building is open daily from 11am to 5pm, but check the website for individual winery hours, which vary. More info: oldsugarmill.com or 916.744.1615.