NOTE: For an updated 2007 Apple Hill Guide, click here. (Don’t worry, it’s not link to another website.)
Fall is in the air, and on the calendar, and in the malls, but nowhere more omnipresent than up highway 50 at Apple Hill. I’ve had a few shocks in my life, including that time when I missed two straight periods (turned out to just be work stress), but none more jarring that finding out that several good friends and close acquaintances had never been to Apple Hill. Hating to think that those unfamiliar with the joys of the hill might not want to venture east because of the alien nature of the trip, I’ve concocted my own little visitor’s guide. The following are just suggestions, mind you, and please feel free to let me know if there is anything that I missed, but more than anything, I provide this little guide because I don’t want to hear anyone say that they didn’t head up the hill this year because they “didn’t know where to go, what to do, my kids were sick, I had a flesh eating virus, I’m a big puss-puss, etc.”
Heading up to Apple Hill is easy: Get in your car, get on Hwy 50, pretend you’re going to Tahoe, follow the signs. Best time to visit is between 9AM and 5PM. Takes about 45 min to get there from downtown. Once you get to the general vicinity, you’ll start to notice a lot of barns and kids and ponies. Stop in at any one of the Apple Hill orchards (usually identified by a spiffy number on its sign) and pick up a map. An apple hill map is invaluable in exploring the great cider belt. With a map you’ll be able to find the following places:
Rainbow Orchards: Apple cider doughnuts, best damn doughnuts you will ever have. Don’t stay there too long, just go for the doughnuts. Yes, I refuse to spell it “donuts.”
Kids Inc.: Best pies on the hill, fresh or frozen, grab a “walking pie” with cider sauce while you’re browsing.
Boa Vista: Open year round, a great market with everything that you never knew could be jellied, pickled or turned into a hot sauce. Fun to browse and easy to pick up all your foodstuffs.
High Hill: This is the one you remember from your childhood, fishing pond, huge cider press, big gift shop, pony rides and the obligatory obnoxious craft fair.
Grandpa’s Cellar: This is also one you may remember from your childhood, but only if your childhood included court dates and restraining orders. Hey, if you’re ready to take on your psychological demons, then I’m right there with you. If you do, however, choose to venture into “Mistress Ethel’s Apple Dungeon,” you’re on your own.
Abel’s Acres: Try Abel’s apples, they have mysterious powers.
7 thoughts on “Unofficial Apple Hill Guide”
Mentioning your “period” in a food column = total awesomeness!
Especially since sac-eats is male!
Don’t forget the Jack Russell Brewing Comany!
Just wanted to add my comments, since I just returned home to Napa, CA from a day spent at Apple Hill. I’ve been going for the past 7 years, and have historically taken visiting family and friends with me. Beginning in 2004, I noticed a lack of friendliness amongst some of the apple hill ranch folks. Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of nice people, but for some reason the stinkers seem to stay in my memory. One of those stinkers was the owner of Denver Dan’s (# 14 on the official Apple Hill map). Even last year he appeared pretty grumpy and wouldn’t even look up or turn around to greet visitors. Same thing today. But, this time on top of his sour attitude, the 4 oz. jams and jellies along the walls looked old and the jars are dirty! They look like they’ve been on the shelves for a few seasons, and most even have a new price tag stuck on top of the old price tag! EEeee! The woman that we spoke to at inside the bakery window had the dirtiest fingernails I’ve just about ever seen. She was nice, but criminey, get your hands off the food lady! I vote # 14 on the map be renamed to “Dirty Denver Dan’s Doggone Unfriendly and Filthy Ranch”. I also noticed another of the places I’ve frequented called Plubell’s Family Orchard (# 20) wasn?t too friendly either. I go there every year for their caramel apple wedges, which are fantastic. I hate to bag on them, since they have a wonderful bunch of animals and a cool wagon ride for kids, but sheesh! I thought maybe it was just me, but my husband noticed the same behavior. Nobody makes eye contact, nobody says “HI!” or “Thanks for coming!? Where’s the warm fuzzy southernish down-home welcome feeling that used to be there a few years ago? Geeze, if I wanted to feel alienated I’d go to one of my high school reunions, I don’t need to drive 2 and a half hours for that crap! Last but not least, I’d like to mention a WONDERFUL place to visit while at apple hill….Abel’s Apple Acres (# 38 on the map). They had friendly folks working there (and they weren’t even the owners!) a wonderful selection of fudge, cookbooks, baked goods and more. They have one of my favorite sauces (used on ice cream & more) that I used to get at Dirty Denver’s called “Cider Sauce”. Dirty Denver’s is $6.00 a bottle, and Abel’s Acres is only $4.50 and FRESH and CLEAN!! One last comment, the best caramel apple I’ve had so far is at Grandpa’s Cellar (# 17). Creepy name, but nice gift shop and the most caramel per square inch on his apples, which scores high points in my book!
Thank you to both sac-eats and frequentapplehillvisitor for the comments – these are the kinds of insider comments that I value and look for when trying to visit an area I treasure and want to know better. Apple Hill holds many lovely memories for me, I didn’t know the name of the farm I was remembering until you mentioned the fishing pond… this is where – at the obligatory craft fair – that I found two of my most treasured *rag* dolls originally bought for my newborn 13 years ago, but remains mine!
Thank you very much for the candid review. I’m going up for the 1st time this weekend. I’ll be looking for the places that you mentioned. I’m to very particular of where I eat and of peoples thankfulness for my business.
Thank you again
I usually go to Apple Hill every year. High Hill Ranch has a bit of everything but I would recommend to go here first. The crowds can get pretty heavy during the day. I have spent 40 minutes trying to get out of their parking lot in the afternoon. They do have a good fudge shop. Kids will like the pony rides and the fishing pond but again the line is long for the ponies so come early. I also like Plubell’s. I really like their apple crisp that comes with soft serve. I make a point to get my dessert here. I like that they have a seperate place for lunch and dessert so you don’t have to wait in the same line. This is an excellent place for kids too. They have wagon rides, animals, tree swing, tractors to play on and pumpkins. I think they might also have face painting. It can be a long wait to get lunch at many of the orchards so it might be worth packing a picnic lunch. Many of the orchards have large grass areas and some have picnic tables. We usually have had at least a 30 minute wait for lunch which can be lengthy with kids so we are packing a picnic this year.
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