Our first official stop on our first full day was at the delightful and appropriately-named Gold Hill Winery, not far from the historic town of Placerville. We were met by Ken Dacus, who could not have been nicer to us. The winery is in a beautiful setting, in the heart of the Sierra Nevada foothills, just a few miles from the location where John Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill.
Today's gold is apt to be white or red in color, and a liquid rather than a solid. It's found at the vineyards rather than in the gold fields. I can attest to the high value of the Gold Hill Winery's offerings, like the "Meriticious," a terrific Bordeaux blend, part Cabernet Sauvignon and part Merlot, that complimented our picnic lunch.
As for John Sutter, he hoped to keep Marshall's find quiet, fearing the consequences of a gold rush that could wreck his plans of an agricultural empire. Word did leak out, most famously when Sam Brannan, a San Francisco newspaper publisher, after learaning of the discovery, strode the streets of the city by the bay, shouting, "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!" Sutter's empire was destroyed by the onslaught of humanity who rushed to California; Sutter died a financially ruined man. Marshall, too, failed to find profit from his momentous discovery.