Cider doughnuts, apples, pumpkins, fudge, crafters, live music and lines of cars — it’s either Apple Hill season or a heck of a party.
With more than 50 grower members on the Apple Hill Farm Trail, there is a huge variety of offerings for every visitor and today we visit three of the stops you may not be familiar with.
Stop No. 35 is Bill’s Apples and Felice’s Dolls at 2234 Cable Road in Camino. From the first view of the park-like grounds, you are enchanted. In October the lush rows of marigolds, zinnias and dahlias give way to lavish mounds of pin cushion mums flanked by 80-year-old Rome apple trees and fronted by emerald-green lawn.
Owner Bill Johnson is a former El Dorado County Supervisor who has owned the orchard since 1971.
“We lived in Tahoe where you can’t grow much,” said Johnson. “I had three sons and I wanted to be able to grow food.”
Ed Delfino, one of the founders of the Apple Hill Growers found the run-down orchard on Cable Road for Johnson. Bill and his wife Felice have spent years turning it into a showplace.
Everyone who comes to Bill’s Apples receives a fresh-picked, cored, peeled and sliced apple. Johnson grows 16 beautiful varieties of apples and he has a secret weapon to do so: Jorge and Christina Sanchez. Jorge not only keeps the extensive grounds looking their best, but he has a massive vegetable garden and he hand-picks the apples fresh every morning. Christina helps him do the planting of the flowers, but Jorge’s handiwork is amazing.
Felice Johnson, Bill’s wife, passed away in 2012 so her handmade porcelain dolls are no longer available but she left the legacy of a gift shop, now managed by Tom Munsell.
Felice had an eye for creative yard art from all around the country and extraordinary bargaining skills. The gift shop and its surroundings are filled with lawn spinners, cowboy and cowgirl sprinklers, rock animals, horseshoe art, signs, country-style home decor and great stories.
Bill has a story about almost every artist whose work is represented in the gift shop, giving each item a special significance.
With plenty of parking, beautiful grounds, pristine apples and a great gift shop, Bill’s Apples is well-worth a visit. Bill’s Apples is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept.1 to Dec.1.
For more information call them at 530 644-5283.
The Mill View Ranch, at 2740 Cable Road in Camino, is stop No. 23. Even if you have stopped at Mill View Ranch in the past, you’ll need to stop there again. Seven months ago, Loretta Kim and her husband bought the 9-acre property and began a massive renovation, expanding the bake shop, cleaning up the orchard and grounds and opening up the barn as the biggest gift shop amongst Apple Hill members.
Kim brought her successful gift shop over from Abel’s Acres where she had it for about 15 years. The barn is a huge expanse that is being filled with all manner of home decor and fun things. Also, as a former bakery owner, Kim boosted the size and offerings of the previously tiny bakeshop.
“We offer things you won’t be able to buy at other places, like fine cakes and breads,” said Kim.
Fritters, apple turnovers, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and pies are joined by barbecue, pizza, hog fries (French fries with pulled pork), fudge, caramel apples and jams and jellies.
Other things you might not find at other Apple Hill members are Larry the Bar Rooster and exotic chickens, line dancing lessons on the weekends, wagon rides through the orchard and a live scarecrow in October. Mill View also has U-pick apples and a pumpkin patch.
“The neighborhood has been so supportive of all our renovation and people who came here for the first time have already come back and told us how friendly our staff is,” said Kim.
Manger Francisco Perez and baker Laura Solorio are part of the crew that is making everything happen, said Kim, as well as her in-laws who love Apple Hill.
“It’s been a lot of work but as long as the customers like us, it’s all good,” she said.
The Mill View Ranch is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from May 1 to Dec.31.
For more information call 530-622-6885 or visit millviewranch.com and say hi to Larry.
The Apple Pantry Farm, at the corner of North Canyon and Hassler Road, at 2310 Hidden Valley Lane in Camino, is an oasis from the seasonal traffic.
Known for specialty pies and cinnamon apple dumplings with hot caramel cider sauce, No. 37 is a good place to pull off the road, grab a bite to eat and relax.
“We’re not as crowded as some of the bigger places,” said Vicki Price who owns Apple Pantry with her partner, Ken Wood. “We have a picnic area and being between upper and lower Apple Hill is a great location.”
Apple Pantry grows its own golden delicious apples and also offers a pesticide-free Rome apple by the box, Asian pears, Barsotti cider, homemade apple and pear butter, jalapeño jelly, local honey, handmade soy candles, lunch items like tamales, those killer dumplings and pie — by the slice, whole and frozen to bake at home. Instead of wine tasting, Apple Pantry offers pie tasting, so you can choose the perfect pie.
“The apple-blackberry pie is a big favorite,” said Price.””We’ve built a reputation on our specialty pies. We do everything by hand with no machinery and each pie is like a work of art. People come up here to buy their pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Price and her long-time assistant, C.J. Brown, make the pies themselves with the aid of Price’s young crew of local youth.
“We’ve got some really good kids up here and training and working with them is really rewarding and fun for Ken and I,” said Price.
You’ll know you’re at the Apple Pantry Farm when you see the apple green 1930 Model A parked on the corner. Both Price and Wood are members of the Hangtown Model A club and have been known to hold vintage car shows at the Apple Pantry.
“This car is famous,” said Price, ” People look at it as a landmark.”
Another event the Apple Pantry hosts during the season, is the kid’s pie rolling event.
“It’s really fun,” said Price. “Most kids have never seen pie dough and we teach them to make turnovers.”
Apple Pantry Farm is open with its official opening on Sept.19. It is open Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until mid-November.
Call 530-318-2834 for information or visit applepantryfarm.com.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.