Grapes hang heavy from the vines on trellises scattered across 20 acres of the rolling Lincoln Hills. The fruit, tended by Wise Villa Winery's oenophiles, yield awards, including a prestigious honor from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Owner and winemaker Dr. Grover Lee draws on viticulture training while producing single-variety and blended wines or doing the crossword in the Grapes Aficionado Quarterly. Within the winery, the tasting room fills with the sound of clinking glasses as patrons sample various award winners, such as the Pinot Noir Rose. The winery also arranges frequent events, including live music on Fridays, grape-stomping parties, and reservation-only pairing dinners at its bistro.
Renaissance Winery, a picturesque mountain vineyard roughly 2,000 feet into the Sierra Foothills, crafts estate-bottled wines in a traditional European-style focusing on the Bordeaux and Rhone family of varietals. The Wine and Roses Tasting, gives wine enthusiasts the opportunity to sip organically made pours and stroll through two European-style rose gardens fashioned after La Roserie Bagatelle in Paris. The flora-farms are interspersed with fountains, French street lamps, street vendors peddling French street lamps, and the aromatic blossoms of more than 300 types of roses. Renaissance's tasting room is lake-adjacent for serene views of water reflecting clouds that look like Babe Ruth.
Callson Manor isn't your average haunted house. Owned by a professional animatronics artist, the haunt is uniquely suited to bewilder and terrify guests. Here, mechanical creatures help elicit screams with a supporting cast of dedicated actors, makeup artists, and special effects masters, all determined to up the fear factor to surpass guests' expectations. And the screams don't stop at the first exit: eight different attractions are spread across the grounds, each with a different spooky theme to give guests' their biggest fright since the night they thought their pet rock died.
Since breaking ground for Viña Castellano in 1999, the Mendez family has built an empire of Spanish wines complete with a treasure trove of gold and silver medals. Along with winery foreman Derek Irwin, the family specializes in the complex flavors of Tempranillo, Syrah, and Verdejo grapes. In the tasting room, visitors can sip new pressings and old favorites, and pick up a fine cigar to hilariously slip into a packet of exploding cigars.
Donna Hunter started whitewater rafting as a hobby, but after spending 15 years as a social worker in San Diego, she was drawn back to the river as a career. With a few friends for support and a goal to start a rafting-adventure company, she went to night school and honed her business skills. Today, with some of her staff boasting more than 20 years experience leading tours, Donna orchestrates trips down various forks of the American, Merced, Kings, and Tuolumne Rivers to pit participants against rapids as high as Class V. Certified guides lead these tours in Hyside self-bailing rafts and inflatable kayaks, with some rafts holding up to eight people.
Wilderness guides also connect their guests with civilization, often combining rafting excursions with wine tastings and trips to local vineyards. On these overnight trips and other multi-day rafting excursions such as family gold-panning trips, they build relationships with their guests, garnering a clear idea of their paddling skills and the amount of time they've spent practicing in their washing machine.
The company’s camp boasts tent cabins—with names like Eagle's Nest and Falcon's Nest—which populate riverside clearings between picnic tables, swimming holes, and volleyball courts. A camp shop prepares guests with river gear, and hot-water showers let them wash off river water. When not seeking action on the river, staffers organize camp entertainment, such as live music, games, and visits from a local gold panner who demonstrates his craft.