It’s hard to find a single word to describe a dramatic belt of land that stretches nearly 200 miles in length and ranges in elevation from 1,000 to 3,000 feet. But when we’re talking about the sierra foothills, the first word that comes to the visitor’s mind is “breathtaking.” Pick a trail and drive through hills, valleys, old mining towns, and untouched fields. Be reminded that there are still parts of the world where life is simple and the greatest pleasures can be found in a pristine view or an herbal, fruity Sauvignon Blanc. Here, we highlight four wine trails that beg to be explored. Each one deserves at least two days to be fully discovered and appreciated.
SHENANDOAH VALLEY WINE TRAIL
With an average elevation of around 1,800 feet, California’s lush Shenandoah Valley is the lowest lying area in the region. It is also the warmest, providing a perfect incubator for Zinfandel (some from vines more than 100 years old) and many Italian varieties. Stay just several miles away in charming Sutter Creek, laden with plush bed and breakfasts. Start your wine tour eight miles up the road in Plymouth, a historic mining town. Stop in the Pokeville market for picnic supplies and then take Highway 49 to Shenandoah Valley road. You’ll find wineries along Shenandoah school road on the right; and Dickson, Bell, and Steiner roads on the left. Vino Noceto is a must-stop for Sangiovese enthusiasts. Villa Toscano Winery is a picturesque European villa, studded with serene gardens and koi ponds. Sobon Family Wines is housed in one of the oldest wineries in California and has been designated as a historic landmark. Montevina Winery is the largest winery on this trail, with a state-of-the-art facility featuring SHR School House Road wine (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Barbera fermented together). C. G. Di Arie’s Shenandoah Valley tasting salon has beautiful picnic grounds complete with a waterfall and koi pond.
MURPHYS WINE TRAIL
A bumper load of tasting rooms has sprung up over the past few years in downtown Murphys, which is now calling itself the “wine tasting capitol of the sierra foothills”. It’s a compact, delightful historic town, complete with charming places to stay, gourmet restaurants, and eclectic shops. Make Murphys your base camp, but don’t hesitate to head for the hills, in any direction. Brice Station Vintners is situated on a family ranch with a pottery shop, geese, horses, and llamas. Stevenot Winery offers a convenient downtown tasting room, but the drive up sheep ranch road to its breathtaking vineyard property is highly recommended. Newsome-Harlow Wine has an inviting tasting lounge on Main Street, complete with a shady terrace and fire pit, and indoor space that’s great for seminars and parties. Solomon Wine Company also has a tasting room on main street, featuring a rotating art exhibit and weekend happy hours with hors d’oeuvres and its cloud 9, Garsa, and Muse labels served by the glass or bottle at bistro tables.
El Dorado County
APPLE HILL & FAIR PLAY WINE TRAILS
Easy to reach from Sacramento, El Dorado wine country has more than thirty wineries with tasting rooms to visit. Two concentrated trails: Apple Hill, just north of Placerville; and Fair Play, which winds around its namesake town, offer enchanting scenery and wineries around every turn. Downtown Placerville is a good place to stay, with bed and breakfasts and the historic Cary house hotel. You can explore Apple Hill one day, and Fair Play the next. Boeger Winery is a great spot for a picnic with a redwood grove, pond, and striking vineyard view. ParaVi Vineyards, known as a wonderful wedding venue, has a fine portfolio of distinctive wines. Skinner Vineyards’ new tasting room offers stunning panoramic views and cozy indoor fireplaces. Miraflores Winery sits majestically on a hill, lending splendid views of the cool mountain vineyards. Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards serves 30 varietals and imports, French sparklers, plus endless pizzas from a barrel stave-burning Italian oven on Friday nights. Perry Creek Winery offers themed lunches on its lovely veranda each weekend.
NORTHERN SIERRA WINE TRAIL
Travel a little further north and you’ll find yet another destination worth exploring in and around the towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley. Nevada County has more than a dozen wineries whose vineyard elevations range between 1,300 and 2,600 feet. This diversity yields an exciting collective portfolio of wines to be discovered. Plus, the scenery is exquisite. Nevada City offers some charming bed and breakfasts, including the Deer Creek Inn, a 150-year-old restored Queen Anne Victorian. Stay in Nevada City, but plan to tour the nearby hills and valleys. Lucchesi Vineyards & Winery has a Grass Valley tasting room, but call first and visit the winery’s steeply terraced vineyard. Nevada City Winery, now located in the historic Miners Foundry Garage, has won its share of California State Fair nods, including best Cabernet Franc of California, awarded to its 2007 vintage. Avanguardia Wines features several unique wines from grape varieties that have been imported from Europe, like Selvatico, Refosco, and carmine. Indian Springs Vineyards offers complimentary tastings in a fantastic tasting room in the historically preserved part of Nevada City.
As seen in the issue Spring 2012 issue of Touring & Tasting Magazine.
Along with picks and shovels, people brought grapevines to the Sierra Foothills in the mid-1800s. Warm, sun-drenched days followed by cool, crisp nights yield grapes of remarkable intensity. And intense grapes produce wines with magnificent flavor profiles: pure gold.
7 Top Wine Regions to Watch
Nearly everywhere we turn we find another great area to tour, taste, and stay! Here are our seven top regions to watch—and visit—in the summer and fall of 2011.
Glory and Gold in the Sierra Foothills
The foothill range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains was dubbed “Gold Country” during the great California Gold Rush more than 150 years ago. The region is still referred to that way—and maybe for good reason. Here, the vineyards, located between 1,500 and 3,000 feet, are planted in well-drained, rich soils. Warm, sun-drenched days followed by cool, crisp nights yield grapes of remarkable intensity. And intense grapes produce wines with magnificent flavor profiles: pure gold.
Rediscovering Gold in the Sierra Foothills
Although the California Gold Rush of 1849 is long past, the quaint towns and fertile land of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains still whisper "gold".
Savoring the Bounty of Gold Country
Delicious fall recipes that go great with wines from Sierra Foothills wine country.
What Sierra Foothills Winemakers Enjoy Most About Their Craft
Here we ask some of the Sierra Foothills’ inspired winemakers what they enjoy most about winemaking and the Sierra Foothills.
Spelunking and Tasting in the Sierra Foothills
Join Editor-in-Chief, Wendy Van Diver on her editor's tour of the Sierra Foothills.
Lucchesi Vineyards & Winery
Twenty acres of grapevines grow on the steeply terraced terrain of Lucchesi Vineyards & Winery
Skinner Vineyards & Winery
Skinner Vineyards & Winery’s stunning new tasting room is located at the very top of the Skinner property, located in the Sierra Foothills, offering panoramic views in all directions.