The name Madison was bestowed by Daniel Bradley Hulbert after his hometown, Madison, Wisconsin, in 1877. Surrounded by farmland, Madison has always been a quiet little burg, with a population of just over 500 souls, at the vital intersection of Highway 16 and County Road 89.
At Guy’s Corner, you can get gas and supplies for the road, and a delicious meal at the adjacent La Plazita restaurant. Spring through Fall, you’ll often find local farmers selling fresh-picked produce, from strawberries to melons to corn.
The Madison Fire Department takes charge of producing the big car show every year during the Almond Festival.
From here, it’s a short drive to Historic Oakdale Ranch (a popular wedding and event venue) and, further on, the heart of the Capay Valley.
The name Esparto means “feather grass” in Spanish, and it is a delicate, peaceful place. Established in 1888, it was an important stop along the Vaca Valley Railroad line until 1941 when service ended. With some 3,200 residents, Esparto is the largest community in Capay Valley.
Lovely Esparto Community Park is the epicenter of the annual Almond Festival, which takes place the last weekend in February ~ and this year marks its 101st Anniversary. Live music, food, vendors, and a huge antique automobile show are just part of the fun. Throughout the year you can get a bite to eat (get a great burger at Bailey’s) or do a little shopping.
If you like freshly prepared sandwiches or meat cuts to take home for the BBQ, stop at Manas Meats just east of town on Highway 16. On the edge of town, affiliated Manas Ranch offers “The Best Peaches in the West” according to Sunset Magazine, plus their fabulous selection of local jams.
Esparto is also home of the Esparto Regional Chamber of Commerce and of Capay Valley Vision, both of which serve the community and visitors alike with helpful information. Stop by the office along Main Street to pick up the new Capay Valley Farm Trail Map and enjoy the rest of your visit.
The town of Capay has a long and colorful history. Located on the Mexican land grant Rancho Canada de Capay, the town was originally named Munchville after one of the first white settlers, a man named Munch, who built a house on the Cache Creek in 1857. The local post office opened in 1868. The town got renamed Langville after John A. Lang, who operated a hotel and owned a brick yard and a store in the early 1870s. Langville grew enough to have a town plat filed on January 1, 1875, and the town became Capay.
Today you will find Road Trip Bar & Grill, serving great food and often presenting live music out in the back patio area, and Capay Junction Saloon, a favorite stop for thirsty travelers. You may also see farm stands selling local honey, eggs, and arts-&-crafts goods.
Close by is Capay Organic Farm, source of Farm Fresh To You CSA delivery service and host for occasional farm tours and hosts events like the annual Capay Tomato Festival and Capay Crush. Neighboring Grumpy Goats Farm makes some of the best extra virgin olive oil you can buy. You can spend the night at charming Capay Valley Bed & Breakfast, with two comfortable rooms and two charming cottages.
Brooks is best known as the home of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the tribe of Native American Indians who have called this part of the world home for many generations. The tribe farms hundreds of acres here, producing wines, olive oil, vinegars, and honey under their Séka Hills brand. Their olives (and the fruit of many other producers) are pressed at the state-of-the-art Séka Hills Olive Mill, which also sports a beautiful public tasting room and a busy schedule of events.
The tribe also built the 200-room Cache Creek Casino Resort—a full-service resort with nine restaurants, spa, outdoor pool, a concert hall, and other amenities—and the splendid Yocha Dehe Golf Club; these two remarkable facilities draw visitors from literally all over the world.
You’ll find wine-tasting also at Capay Valley Vineyards, with premium small-lot Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Viognier—and “The Champagne of Yolo County,” their luscious Sparking Viognier. The landscape is lovely around here with orchards, vineyards, rolling foothills, and open unhurried road.
In the 19th Century, Southern Pacific Railroad officials named the town after a cherry tree: “guinda” means “cherry” in Spanish. Guinda got its first post office in 1889. Today less than 300 call Guinda home.
But don’t pass it by. You’ll enjoy discovering Guinda Commons for lunch or dinner, especially their delicious smoked means and (when the weather is cold) their stone fireplace in the dining room.
During Almond Festival, the Western Yolo Grange hosts an exhibit of old farm engines and machinery as well as a sale of locally made foods, crafts, and artwork. At the venerable Corner Store(“Grocery, Beer, Bait, Ice” reads the sign), you can stock up for the day or the trip home—they retail lots of products from local Capay Valley farms including produce (much from nearby Riverdog Farm), breads, jams, olives, olive oil, pork, chicken, and lamb. You might also catch live music being performed out back.
Stretch your legs at 22-acre Vernon A. Nichols County Park, which embraces a lovely stretch of Cache Creek and includes picnic tables, barbeques, a playground, beach area, creek swimming, fishing, and a baseball field. Here you can also visit the Will Baker Garden, a lovely ½-acre native memorial garden.
Rumsey might be the “blink and you’ll miss” it town in Capay Valley, but you’ll want to have your eyes wide open to the natural beauty all around here. You can stop to enjoy it most at Cache Creek Canyon Regional Park just 3 miles north, offering several miles of river access and swimming spots, plus picnic tables, overnight camp sites, and a playground. Also close by is Camp Haswell, a favorite access point for kayakers and rafters.
In 1878, the spot was called “Rock,” but 10 years later the post office moved and the name changed—Rumsey derives from DeWitt Clinton Rumsey, the prominent property owner there at the time.
During Almond Festival, the locals cook up a storm, from barbeque to smoked oysters. You can also shop for local produce, nuts, honey, and arts and crafts.
Rumsey is also the home of Cache Canyon River Trips, offering one- or two-day white-water rafts trips starting high up above the canyon, running Class 1, 2, and 3 rapids, and out toward the valley floor—enjoy pure excitement and unmatched scenery in one fell swoop. To rest your weary head, consider the comforts of Rumsey House B&B, with two spacious rooms, lovely grounds, rocking chairs on the broad porch, and well-prepared fare.