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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Amador County Wines

We spent a long weekend in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Amador County, part of California's Gold Country.   This is a lesser know wine area of the state.

The oldest American vineyards still in production are here, but the area has only been on the map for wine since maybe the mid-1980s though it seems to have really boomed in the number of tasting rooms in the last five years.

It took awhile for them to "find themselves" as they went from Zinfandel and some Cabernet to more Barbera, Sangiovese, and Rhone varietals.   Zin is still king, but Cabernet, thankfully, is fallen behind as it never was very good.   (If you've never had a Ruby Cabernet from the Sierra foothills you haven't missed anything).

Life was a bit tougher in the gold mining days
(From the Sutter Creek Cemetary)

This trip we stopped at these wineries:
  • Amador Foothill - a longtime favorite
  • C G Di Arie
  • Convergence
  • Cooper
  • Driven - a display of cars and trucks, mostly rust buckets.  This guy apparently has TWO hobbies that got out of hand!
  • Jeff Runquist - Appears to be the closest thing Amador has to a cult winery.
  • Nine Gables
  • Scott Harvey - He's been making killer Zins for a long time.
We've been to Amador Foothill, Nine Gables and Scott Harvey before; the rest were new to us.  For what it's worth I bought wine from Amador Foothills, Cooper, Jeff Runquist and Scott Harvey wineries.

At Amador Foothill Winery we came across a rare wine (to California) called Aglianico from southern Italy. Aglianico traces its origins back to the Romans and the Greeks. It's full-bodied with noticeable tannins and acids. Sort of a cross between Barbera, Petite Sirah and Cabernet.

At Scott Harvey Winery we had "Vineyard 1869" from the oldest Zinfandel vineyard in the country--136 years old and counting with less than 200 cases produced by Scott (some of the grapes are sold to others).  The winery had an original document on display proving this to be the oldest vineyard around.  There's lots of local drama around this claim--do a search on "grandpere vineyards" if you are interested.    Whatever, the wine was damn good, but a bit expensive for a Zinfandel.  I guess you're buying history.