Friday, June 1, 2012

Off the Beaten Path and Into a Vineyard

If you drive about two hours northeast of San Francisco, you will start to find yourself in one of the more unusual places in Northern California; you’ll find yourself in California’s third largest wine region, tucked away in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  An area that was originally founded during the Gold Rush days, this area has become a prominent wine region in California, encompassing almost 2.6 million sporadically planted acres and a number of subappellations. The Sierra Foothills is described as ‘unpolished and eccentric,’ but these qualities give an unparalleled charm to the small wineries that call this area home.

When the gold rush came to California, many of the European miners who came seeking their fortunes planted vineyards.  However, the gold eventually ran out and the vineyards went the same way. The area began to experience revitalization in the 1970’s when the Sierra Nevada AVA was established.  The Sierra Foothills region stretches from the country sides of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta into the hills of El Dorado Country, where the landscape becomes much more remarkable. This diversity of terrain as well as the unique climate of the area lends itself to an interesting blend of wines. The Sierra Foothills region is ideal for Zinfandel, with many 100-year-old vines proving this stance, along with a nice collection of Syrah, Viognier, Barbera, and Pinot Grigio.

Because most of the family-owned vineyards in the area only produce a small crop, there is limited national distribution of the area’s wines; you would have to stumble your way to California to purchase the unique vintage. The area is quite rustic, so if you require a four star hotel, you may want to make a day trip from Sacramento which is less than an hour’s drive.  If you enjoy the quainter things in life, there are many bed and breakfasts in the area in towns such as Placerville and Amador City. You can also get a feel for the California Gold Rush era in historic towns Sutter Creek and Columbia. 

With authentic, family owned vineyards, the Sierra Foothills region is surprisingly interesting.  So, if you’re a Zinfandel fan looking for a unique experience, head this way.  Just a day trip from both Sacramento and San Francisco, this area is worth the adventure. 

For more information, please visit Wine Spectator.

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