by: Matt Garrett and Melanie Warner

Road trips in California are a beautiful way to see this fine country of ours. We are the type of people who enjoy unique and diverse life experiences, especially when it involves golf. Living in California, we are truly privileged to have an opportunity to travel and experience some of the finer things that many may take for granted. So when we were invited to experience the renowned Greenhorn Creek Resort in Angels Camp, we jumped at the chance.

Greenhorn Creek is in Northern California between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. We rolled up highway 99 from Fresno into Merced where we were able to leave the hustle and bustle behind, taking a road less traveled. The route took us towards the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevada where a gradual climb ensued, lifting us to 1500 feet. The air began to crisp and that typical valley haze disappeared. Not long after, we found Greenhorn Creek Resort nestled between two foothill ranges just outside of the historic town of Angels Camp, home of Mark Twain’s celebrated jumping frog.

Our Greenhorn experience began with Golf. A fabulous Robert Trent Jones II redesigned course. We found a fully-equipped golf shop staffed with PGA professionals. We had the pleasure to play with the friendly Greenhorn Creeks staff who explained the unique experience that the resort and the area in general had to offer. We learned that Greenhorn Creek truly caters to a fine golf, dining and lodging experience.

The course calls upon your best effort with changing elevations, natural and manmade hazards; a stone wall, a Chinese miners baking oven and various water hazards. We found it demanding, yet still respected a twenty handicap. The well-manicured greens are of tour quality, both challenging and true.

Golfers may want to take advantage of the “Stay & Play Package” or other resort packages which are offered year round. With ample facilities, Greenhorn Creek Resort is a destination for all occasions including golf tournaments, weddings and meetings. There are two swimming pools, spa, tennis complex and fitness center.

The lodging choices and packages accommodate to fit a variety of individuals or groups. “The Caddy Shack” is a unique lodging facility unto itself with five bedrooms that sleep twelve and includes a full kitchen, lounge and patio lawn with horseshoe pit and BBQ, well-suited for groups or family gatherings. There are also quaint two and three bedroom cottages as well as condominiums with full kitchens, fireplaces and BBQ’s. All are within a short walk to the pool, tennis courts and fitness center.

Following the golf game, it was time to relax with a taste or two of wine. Many areas in California are conducive for growing wine grapes, but we were surprised to learn of the quality of wines produced in this historic and remote wine-growing region.

Robert Reed from Greenhorn Creek Resort, and our guide for the afternoon, suggested we visit Chatom Vineyards touting its awarding winning wines and its feisty owner – Gay Callan. So, up the road towards the town of Murphys, we went. Upon entering the winery we were kindly met by the staff and Gay, then the tasting commenced. We are not connoisseur of wines but can say that we enjoyed everything we sampled. Gay explained that the Sierra Foothills is one of the oldest wine growing regions in California and that pre-prohibition, it was the third largest regions. The people that came looking for gold, not only brought shovels and picks, they also brought grape vines, Zinfandel being the most prominent. This hearty varietal, as well as the Syrah, thrive on these warm day and cool night climates. These rich and more deeply flavored grapes are produced by vines that have to penetrate nutrient-lacking decomposed granite to find soil containing food and water, making it one of the strongest root structures. We moved to the cellar for a barrel tasting. That’s when we learned, like her vines, Gay Callan is also founded on good roots. Her family has been in agriculture dating back to the mid 1800‘s. She moved to the area over thirty years ago to continue on in the grape interest her and her family started ten years earlier. Locals refer to Chatom Vineyards as the “Jewel of the Sierra”,

We headed back to “The Lodge” at Greenhorn Creek Resort for a Wine & Dine event that was hosted by Greenhorn Creek’s Vintner Members . Once again, we were amazed at the number of award winning wineries and wines being represented for the area. These rural mountain grape growers thrive on a sense of mutual support and community, a trait that may sometimes be lost in larger growing areas. It was a pleasure to meet these fine people and taste their wines.

Dinner was served at CAMPS, home to Sierra’s preferred dining destination. Executive Chef Sherri Smith and her staff are dedicated to providing a memorable culinary experience, and this night was no exception. The ingredients Sherri uses are locally grown or raised. The beef, many times, comes from Sherri’s own ranch. Our first course was a warm seared scallop with bacon leek risotto. Sherri’s risotto was perfect al dente, and when topped with the seared scallop, it melted in our mouths. This was followed by blood orange sorbet and golden beets, an interesting delicate sensation, and cleansing of the palate. Our second course, local Wagyu Beef with truffle butter, was cooked to perfection. The third course amazed the buds with seared Muscovy Duck Breast with cherry port sauce and Outer Isle purple potatoes. The beef and the duck were devoured between sips of a tasty and robust Syrah made by Val Du Vino Winery. We’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy a salad following the main course, rather than before. Fresh picked watercress, baby golden heirloom tomatoes and toasted walnuts. The desert course, if you dare, was a flour-less belgian dark chocolate “Rush” cake with raspberries and vanilla bean ice cream – Amazing! This desert was paired with a delicious Chocolate Ruby Port from Domaine Becquet Winery. Yum!!

That night we slept well, leaving the windows open to invite that fresh mountain air in as we faded off to unfinished thoughts of the day. The next morning we awoke fully rested and ready for the week ahead. A little more relaxed, a little more clear, a little more appreciative. We had found yet another fantastic place in our own “backyard” that, had we not visited, could have been easily overlooked and taken for granted. I believe Robert Frost had shed some light when he wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

We have found that whether its golfing, wine tasting, fine food, frog jumping, exploring caves, river rafting or simply relaxing amongst the rolling hills of the Sierra Nevada’s with your favorite book and a friend, Greenhorn Creek and it’s surrounding community – is a must visit locale that offers much for those looking for a truly unique get-away that will have you soon planning your return trip.