Written by Natasha Bourlin
Cresting the Sierra from any direction, Elysian fields carpet a valley encircled by staggering, craggy alpine peaks.
Within this agriculturally driven valley resides a multitude of charming shops and eateries proudly proffering locally sourced products with a smile.
Aerial view of the Carson Valley. Photo by Ewasko
Restaurants reside in historic structures, while quaint bars invite stories to be told over spirits distilled nearby. Hundreds of years of history here still feel palpable and remain quite explorable.
This Xanadu of sorts is the exquisite Carson Valley.
About a 45-minute drive from Reno or 20 minutes from South Lake Tahoe, Carson Valley is a showpiece for the stunning geographical beauty found in Northern Nevada. Prevalent mountain springs coursing down from Lake Tahoe have long fed the valley’s abundant farms and ranches.
Today, thanks to its lengthy history and vast agricultural acreage, Carson Valley beckons culinary adventurers interested in exploring local fare.
Supporting Local Food Producers
The Pink House in Genoa, a Gothic Revival property built in 1855 that now lives on the National Register of Historic Places, serves house-made, seasonal menu items that incorporate many regional ingredients. The shop sells products from area food producers such as Mary’s Gone Crackers, Hyde’s Herbs, and Z Bee’s Honey. House cocktails feature Frey Ranch and Bently Heritage Estate Distillery products.
Charcuterie at The Pink House in Genoa. Photo by Digiman Studios
The Pink House’s Genoa neighbor, Sierra Chef, is a definitive destination for locavores. This epicurean haven serves as a culinary center, Italian bakery, and gourmet market that prepares to-go dishes such as its Italian delicacies made with beef from area ranches. Gelato also is made in house and now a sought-after sweet. Espresso is poured over the fresh gelato to make its specialty, the Affagato Espresso.
“We make our own everything!” says Cynthia Ferris-Bennett, owner of Sierra Chef, explaining that this provides the business with its own level of quality control.
Private cooking classes also can be booked with Ferris-Bennett.
Sierra Chef bakery case
Nearby in Gardnerville, Overland Restaurant and Pub commemorates the Basque pioneers who settled in the Carson Valley and their gastronomic culture. Alongside Overland’s Basque shrimp and chorizo dishes, its menu boasts delectable pub food such as fish and chips and beer-battered cheese curds, plus handmade pastas, burgers, sandwiches, and more. Ingredients used often are sourced from the area, a mission for the pub’s proprietors. A full bar serving local brews and spirits rounds out the Overland experience.
Brennan Best, marketing director for Reno Local Food Group, of which the Overland Restaurant and Pub is part, says the valley’s history was an alluring factor for RLFG partner Mark Estee.
Overland Restaurant and Pub in Gardnerville. Photo by Bobby Talley
“Mark was immediately drawn to the Overland because … he loved the old-time feel and history of the building, and that it was in a small town full of history itself,” Best says. “From there we couldn’'t pass up being even closer to a ton of our local producers (Bently Heritage, Borda Ranch, and Jacobs Berries, to name a few)!”
Nearby, Jacobs Family Berry Farm tantalizes local food lovers with scrumptious berries grown on its historic Lampe Homestead farm.
Jack and Diana Jacobs make farm-fresh jams and syrups from their juicy, organic raspberries and blackberries, and bottle honey produced by bees that pollinate the plants. Berry fans can pick up orders and products at the Gardnerville farm seasonally, which also serves as a spectacular backdrop for weddings and events.
Fresh berries picked at Jacobs Family Berry Farm
Exploring Makes You Thirsty
In neighboring Minden, Bently Heritage Estate Distillery crafts countless gallons of world-class, estate-grown spirits found in many bars and restaurants throughout the region. A rarity in the liquor industry, its spirits’ vital components largely are grown on the Bently estate, or foraged for in the surrounding hills and forests.
Products such as gin evoke the valley’s picturesque landscape. Imbibers often feel as if they’re blissfully sipping on their surroundings.
It’s not hard to find Bently’s well-loved libations such as Juniper Grove Gin, Single-Estate Source One Vodka, and Hecate Coffee or Cacao liquors around the area.
For a pick-me-up in Minden, head to Coffee on Main, a family-owned shop that serves a multitude of coffee drinks made from organic, locally roasted Alpen Sierra coffee, alongside other area products.
Coffee and scones from Coffee on Main. Photo by Digiman Studio
Valley visitors can’t miss the Genoa Bar, lovingly dubbed “Nevada's Oldest Thirst Parlor.” It’s a must. Here, spirits may be sipped while spirits of a different sort hover. The bar’s structure was built in 1853 and legend has it some of the regulars never left…
Genoa Bar. Photo by Jeff Dow Photography
Aside from pouring exceptional local liquors from its full bar, the historic saloon has served as a movie set multiple times, plus hosted renowned guests ranging from Mark Twain and Willie Nelson to Raquel Welch (who left some underthings to remember her by).
The Carson Valley is so enticing, an overnighter may be in order.
For a fully experiential excursion, choose from several welcoming properties, such as the Carson Valley Inn or Holiday Inn Express. In Genoa, the soothing natural hot springs found at David Walley’s Resort are yet another incredible local offering.
Picturesque Carson Valley. Photo by Ewasko
Carson Valley is an agricultural paradise right in Reno-Tahoe residents’ backyards. Explore all of its offerings and take a step back in time for the day, or make a weekend of it.
Memories formed here will create tales to share for a lifetime.
Throughout the pandemic, the safety and health of their customers has been of the utmost priority for Carson Valley businesses. Calling ahead for reservations or to confirm when the establishments are open is advised at this time.