Cou­ples cre­ate mag­i­cal events in vine­yards, gold mines

San Francisco Chronicle - - GOLD COUNTRY - By Peggy Spear

Move over Napa and Sonoma. There’s a new des­ti­na­tion for wed­dings that has many North­ern Cal­i­for­nia cou­ples head­ing for the hills.

The Sierra foothills that is, as Gold Coun­try wed­dings are be­com­ing as strong as the ore that made the area fa­mous. Be­tween the thriv­ing wine coun­try, the scenic hill­sides and vis­tas and es­pe­cially the rel­a­tive in­ex­pen­sive costs, more and more cou­ples are choos­ing to tie the knot in Amador, Calav­eras and El Do­rado coun­ties.

“We have so much his­tory and beauty and na­ture in the area that many peo­ple from city ar­eas find re­lax­ing and those from ru­ral ar­eas feel like it is home and peace­ful,” says Bryna Da­cus of Gold Hill Vine­yard & Brew­ery in Plac­erville. “Ev­ery cou­ple is unique. We have more of a re­laxed rus­tic feel, which many peo­ple find com­fort­ing. We con­sider our wed­ding cou­ples fam­ily for years to come.”


Venue: Kennedy Gold Mine in Amador County

That’s what Shirley Saravia found when she and fi­ancé, Robert, de­cided to get mar­ried at the Kennedy Gold Mine lo­cated above Jack­son in Amador County. She calls the rus­tic venue “an un­tapped re­source.”

“It’s just a re­ally beau­ti­ful area,” said the new­ly­wed, who was mar­ried in Septem­ber. “I had my wed­ding plans all worked out, we just had to wait un­til the mine was open dur­ing the warmer months to make it hap­pen.”

She said that the sell­ing point for her was the unique lo­ca­tion as well as the scenic views of the foothills, the Sierra Ne­vada moun­tain range and of the com­mu­nity of Jack­son be­low.

“It was also a ‘DIY’ wed­ding,” she said. “Any­thing brides can dream up, they could do.”

The staff of the mine al­lows cou­ples to bring in what­ever dec­o­ra­tions they want and they can sug­gest ven­dors for the wed­ding.

After the cer­e­mony, the guests pro­ceeded to a small gully adorned with tents and twin­kling lights. Her hus­band, Robert, a crafty guy, even made doors peo­ple could walk through, to get the im­pres­sion of walk­ing into a wed­ding won­der­land.

Guests were easy to ac­com­mo­date, too, says the for­mer San Ma­teo res­i­dent who now lives in Jack­son. The pop­u­lar Jack­son Rancheria Casino & Re­sort and ho­tel is just down the hill. For en­ter­tain­ment, guests can even be treated to tours of the mines.

“It was magic,” she said. “We were treated like fam­ily. It’s a won­der­ful place to start your life to­gether.”


Venue: Val du Vino in Calav­eras County

For Dar­ren Nosseck and his part­ner, Jared Strawderma­n, the two main things they wanted for their Septem­ber nup­tials were peace and a party. The Val du Vino win­ery in Mur­phys in Calav­eras County of­fered both.

The cou­ple knew of the win­ery from a visit to the Gold Coun­try when they wanted to es­cape the noise, traf­fic and hec­tic pace of

their life in the South Bay.

“Ev­ery­one was re­ally friendly, and it al­lowed us to dis­con­nect from stress, even the day of the wed­ding,” Dar­ren Nosseck­S­traw­der­man said.

Be­sides the vine­yards and a large pa­tio, the win­ery of­fers an on-site villa, where the cou­ple could stay and pre­pare for the wed­ding. It also of­fers a full ar­ray of wed­ding ven­dors, from florists to cater­ers to choose from, so the cou­ple didn’t even need to worry about long-dis­tance ar­range­ments.

Mur­phy’s is also home to the his­toric Mur­phy’s Ho­tel, where they stayed and where they knew their fam­ily and friends could stay to make it a truly des­ti­na­tion wed­ding.

“For a lit­tle town, there is so much to do, with all the winer­ies and the his­tory of the place,” Dar­ren Nosseck-Strawderma­n said. “We wanted to share with friends what we had found there.”

And share they did, with a unique cer­e­mony that was more ca­sual than a sit-down wed­ding. De­spite the heat — it was 95 de­grees the day they said their vows — it was com­fort­able on the pa­tio and in the vine­yards, where they set up wine and food pair­ing sta­tions, thanks to a lo­cal ven­dor.

“It was so re­lax­ing, we hardly had to do any­thing,” Dar­ren Nosseck-Strawderma­n said, ex­cept party with their friends and



Venue: Wedge­wood at the Se­quoia Man­sion in El Do­rado County

Re­lax­ation was also the aim of Vanessa Echev­erri and hus­band, James Britt, who tied the knot at the Wedge­wood at the Se­quoia Man­sion in Plac­erville in Jan­uary.

“Not only was the lo­ca­tion beau­ti­ful, but the staff made it all about me,” said the bride.

The cou­ple wanted a vin­tage style wed­ding, and the staff made it hap­pen, she said.

“It was laid back and per­fect,” she said.

She had seen the venue at a friend’s wed­ding, and the Dixon cou­ple de­cided that the cost and the nat­u­ral beauty in the foothills made it the per­fect lo­ca­tion for their spe­cial day — de­spite the fact it poured.

The day was no­tably spe­cial for James, who hosted his par­ents and grand­mother “Mama” all the way from North Carolina, so they could show off some of Cal­i­for­nia’s his­toric beauty.

Sadly, James’ “Mama” re­cently passed away, but he will al­ways re­mem­ber that spe­cial day.

“I know she en­joyed it, and it’s a mem­ory I will never for­get,” James Britt said.

Fam­ily is im­por­tant to the cou­ple, and that’s what they were treated like at the his­toric home turned wed­ding venue.

“I felt more like fam­ily than a cus­tomer,” Vanessa Britt said.

Like many of the other Gold Coun­try wed­dings, the man­sion of­fered a list of tried-and-true ven­dors that Vanessa Britt took ad­van­tage of, and the re­sult was a warm and in­ti­mate af­fair in the heart of win­ter.

“It was an ex­pe­ri­ence I’ll never for­get,” said the bride.


Dar­ren and Jared Nosseck-Straw­der­man dur­ing their first dance at Val du Vino in Calav­eras County. The cou­ple stayed at the his­toric Mur­phy’s Ho­tel.


Above: Shirley and Robert Sar­avia were mar­ried at Kennedy Gold Mine, which is just north of Jack­son. Be­low: Vanessa and James Britt held their wed­ding in Plac­erville at Wedge­wood at the Se­quoia Man­sion.


Shirley and Robert Sar­avia pose with their wed­ding party on the bal­cony of the 1907 Mine Of­fice at Kennedy Gold Mine lo­cated above Jack­son in Amador County.


Vanessa and James Britt held their vin­tage style wed­ding at Wedge­wood at the Se­quoia Man­sion in El Do­rado County. The cou­ple was drawn to the nat­u­ral beauty in the foothills.


Left: The Kennedy Gold Mine has views of the city of Jack­son and the Sierra Ne­vada Foothills. Right: Val du Vino holds wed­dings at their 4-acre vine­yard. Dar­ren and Jared Nosseck-Straw­der­man gave jars with suc­cu­lents as wed­ding fa­vors. Be­low: The...



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