In our first installment of "Amador County Wine...California's Second Gold Rush", we took a stroll through the history of some of California's oldest vineyards, planted during the Gold Rush in the 1850's. When mining became less profitable and surface gold was depleted, many miners abandoned their claims and went on to find greener pastures. With this exodus from gold country, most vineyards were also abandoned and left unattended, some dying away and others going dormant.
It wasn't until the 1960's and 1970's when Amador County saw it's second "gold rush", this time in the form of the wine industry as a whole. In addition to the vineyards, wineries began popping up throughout the Shenandoah Valley.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
While not quite the tourist destination at that time, heck, even Napa Valley was still budding, winemakers in Amador County began producing world-class wines to sell commercially and to individuals. Some of the first wineries in Amador County include Montevina (est. 1973) and Story Winery (est. 1973), both of which Scott worked at before and after his winemaking education. Read more about Scott's History. While wineries, such as Cooper, Dillian and Spinetta, didn't open until after the 1980's, these families have been growing grapes in Amador County for decades, thus firmly earning a place in the Amador County wine history books.
Amador County is home to the third oldest winery in the state! The D’Agostini Winery was started in 1856 by Adam Uhlinger. In 1911, the winery and its 125 acres of vineyards were purchased by Enrico D’Agostini, for whom the winery was named for. In 1984, Armagan Champagne Cellars purchased the business and the Amador County vineyard and wine cellar were sold to the Sobon family in 1989. The original wine cellar still exists today, and is now the Shenandoah Valley Museum.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
Today, there are more than 40 active wineries that make up the Amador Vintners Association with faciliites throughout the Shenandoah and Fiddletown AVAs, along with a handful of others outside of those AVAs. Many of these wineries are family owned and operated, and have been for generations. They always welcome you in with a smile and the desire to show off their home grown and hand crafted wines. Visit the Amador Vintners Association website.
Scattered throughout Amador County, you'll find a number of private tasting rooms featuring award-winning gold country wines. Up and down Main Street of historic Downtown Sutter Creek, you'll find more than seven tasting rooms nestled among unique shops, fine and casual dining and top-notch lodging facilites. Visit the Sutter Creek Business Association's website and Wine on 49.
WHAT WE HAVE TO OFFER
While Amador County is known for its tasty, award winning and historical Zinfandels, the rising and shining star in Amador’s vineyards is Barbera. An Italian variety that hails from the Piedmont region of Italy, this grape variety is unknown to many in California and most of the United States; unless of course you’re a Scott Harvey fan, then you've already established your love affair with Barbera. Amador County Barbera has become so popular, it even has it's own event! Learn more here about the Barbera Festival.
Amador’s volcanic soil, made up primarily of sandy clay loam as a result of decomposed granite, is ideal for growing Zinfandel and Barbera, as well as Syrah, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah, among other lesser-known red varietals. While Amador County is not known for its white wines, you’d be surprised to know that it is home to some award winning Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
Just recently, the Sierra Foothills region made headlines when Wine Enthusiast contributing editor, Jim Gordon, wrote about his experience in "The New & Improved Sierra Foothills". Mr. Gordon highlights some of the rustic charm mixed with relaxed luxury as well as some of the old vine gems scattered throughout Amador County and the Sierra Foothills; including a Cellar Selection rating on our Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel.
RETHINKING CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY
Let's revisit our word association game. This time when we say "California Wine Country", maybe you'll think of Amador County. When we say "Award Winning California Wines", you can easily name a handful of Gold Medal winners from the Sierra Foothills. When we say "Barbera", you think "YUM!". As for "Old Vine Zinfandels", you, as a Scott Harvey fan, know first hand that these are must-haves for your collection!
When you're getting ready to plan a trip to “California’s Wine Country”, think Amador County. In addition to the fantastic wines and wineries, you will also enjoy the rustic charm of historical towns such as Sutter Creek, Jackson and Plymouth. Take in all that Amador County has to offer, including fine dining, shopping, gold mine excursions, art events and much more!