Every now and then I get to visit a winery
while on a date with my husband.
Not for the purpose of doing a feature on a winemaker or a tasting room.
But just because I want to relax, sip and swallow all of my tastings, and be a guest.
Inevitably, we talk about the wines together as well as with the staff. We love it.
Mica Raas is from my home town, Santa Cruz, CA.
He moved to the El Dorado County region to further pursue his career in wine.
He’s been part of the craft wine industry in Santa Cruz and winemaker for 1850 Wine Cellars based in Sutter Creek.
These days, he has his own winery and tasting room in beautiful Placerville (Link.)
I’ve had the chance to meet Mica at the Amador County Four Fires Festival.
He’s worked first hand with fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Now, he also crafts wines with El Dorado County grapes; combining his years of experience.
2016 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
2016 Cotes du Cruz Rouge
2016 Tempranillo, Clarksburg.
2017 Nebbiolo, Fair Play.
Typically I prefer tasting wines on their own, and then going back to taste the wine alongside the foods.
I feel it lets me experience what the wine is
meant to be, with out the distraction of the foods.
We started the tasting with wine only.
When the reds came, so did the small plates; and
the combination worked!
The savory gorgonzola,
umami mushrooms, salty chips, and
creamy cheeses melded artfully with the wines.
Myka Cellar’s food menu is expanding, and
the dishes are chosen to
complement their line of wines.
The setting will win you over,
while the wine and food will make you
relax and linger.
Happy Wine & Food Pairing to you!
For your next wine outing, bring along some of my Tasting Room Tips...
Wine tasting has become a little more complex in 2021, but is still just as worth it.
Once upon a time, wine fans could hop in their car and head to their winery of choice.
Now, most tasting rooms ask guest to make an appointment online or via phone, for a specific day and time.
Our tasting at Fenton Herriott Vineyards (FHV) was held outside near a bocce ball court and along side the vineyard.
And that’s just fine with me.
I feel that wine tastes better and is more alive when sipped next to the vines.
The homey feel of the winery along with fresh air, outdoor seating, and comfortable spacing is a stellar combination.
Owner, Guy Harriett, planted the vines along the El Dorado County hillside. Today Fenton Herriott’s six acres of grapes include Syrah, Barbera, Sangiovese, and Gewurztraminer. And a new addition--a small lot of Cabernet Sauvignon--is in its first year of wine production.
General manager and winemaker, Nathan, shared with me his interests in honoring the traditional flavors of Fenton Harriett Wines. The fruit-forward, aged wines are what locals and fans have grown to depend on for the last 20 years. FHV wines traditionally are aged in new French oak barrels for up to three years.
Most New World tasters are notorious for drinking their wines soon after purchasing. So FHV lets many of their wines age and mature a bit before being released or sold. That way wine fans—with their first sip—are introduced to what the wine is meant to be.
Clever wine names like “Jane Way” and “Jack Way” are a nod to their location on Jacquier Ct. (dubbed “Jake Way” by locals.)
For the tastings...
Jane Way-Lot 7: a romantic blend of Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.
Sangioves Rose’ 2018.
Nathan is introducing new silhouettes of wines.
His Jayne Way and his dry Gewurztraminer lean towards an Alsatian style that balances acids,
lower alcohols, and a dryer palate to the wines.
I imagine in the next couple of years the wine selection at FHV will be branching out.
Tasters can look forward to classic full bodied red wines as well as anticipate
dryer, lighter wines like their El Dorado County unoaked Chardonnay.
Just a reminder to visit online or call for reservations and for current wine tasting/Covid procedures.
Safe sipping and good health to you and your loved ones!
For more... Tasters are drinking wine in the comfort and safety of their homes,
read about Closures here...and get the most out of every drop of your wine!
If you're tired of visiting wineries that are overcrowded and overpriced,
it may be time to seek out a new wine region.
Here are 3 wineries you can add to your Spring wine jaunt!
The Camino wine region may not be the most popular destination in wine magazines, but it's definitely worth a look! Rucksack Cellars' owners, Maggie and Paul Bush, keep busy crafting wines from local fruit. Rucksack's sister winery, Madronia Vineyards, is just up the road.
Paul is winemaker for the two wineries. It sounds like a big job, but it has its advantages. Sometimes, as people, there are two side to us. The loud and the quiet. The zany and the thoughtful. At Rucksack, Paul has more room to explore, be adventurous and experimental. At Madronia, the wines are made with a focus on tradition and consistency. He has the best of both worlds!
The Rucksack tasting room (Link) is heading into its third year and open seasonally. Assistant winemaker, Ryan Wright, told me that with over 70 wineries in the area, it's a fun wine region to explore. Local touches can be seen around the winery.
Holly's Hill Vineyards
As my car climbed the hill to the vineyard, I could feel a sense of anticipation. This Placerville winery was higher in elevation than I'd expected. Holly's Hill Vineyards grows and produces Rhone style wines. The lean wines and hilltop vistas made me feel as if I was tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Here you'll find Roussanne, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Viognier, and their signature wine, Patriarche, to name a few. Carrie and Josh Bendick are the winemakers, producing wines from their 24 acres of grapes for their club members and tasters from the Tahoe and Sacramento areas. The winery (LInk) has been crafting wines, and participating in the El Dorado's annual Passport weekend for 17 years.
With their penchant for Rhone wines, Holly's Hill is part of the El Dorado Rhone Rangers; a collective of vintners who promote Rhone varietals. There's a niche here. The winery's higher elevation allows local and visiting fans to enjoy Rhone style wines—which typically aren't found in the Foothills.
The wines were paired with flavorful small bites.
Lava Cap Winery
Lava Cap is iconic. Each time I've tasted in the California foothills, people say, “Have you been to Lava Cap? While Lava Cap makes notable wines, they also are home to a very special geological site.
Emmett Jones, part of the vineyard team, spoke about the land. Lava Cap sits on one of the few areas in the Sierra Nevada Foothills with volcanic soils. Bedrock runs along the contours of the ridge of the vineyards (Link.)
This makes for organic, highly nutritious soil. From erosion comes fine wines. Beautiful things can come from struggle.
It takes a team to produce Lava Cap's smooth wines, from soil to bottle. Jean Jones is the founder of Lava Cap Winery, and the Grandmother. She daily walks to the tasting room and enjoys a glass of wine. She's a warm and charming woman, and looking at her, she's an example to me. Pioneering a winery, and still daily making time for people and a touch of wine.
Charlie Jones, vineyard manager, focuses on sustainable vineyard applications. Being a family business, Noreen, wife to Charlie, was chatting with guests during my visit. Winemaker, Joe Norman, has been at Lava Cap over five years. He's the one to thank for the style of the wines—artfully fruit forward, layers of flavor, and gracious.
Emmett shared how his grandfather was a geologist and his grandmother was an avid bird watcher. The Lava Cap name and logo is a winsome merging of their interests.
These are the kind of wines that deserve sitting down with a glass,
giving them my full attention.
It's a great time to plan a few Spring wine jaunts.
These wineries are off the beaten path, and may be your next favorite.
Here's to your next discovery,
Wine tasting in Corralitos?
Nicholson Vineyards serves wine among the apple & oak trees...read about my visit.
Winemaking is very personal.
When Brian and Jennifer Bumgarner hand you a bottle of their wine, they hand you their best. Something they've poured into. They've even designed their Five Fingers Pinot Noir with a finger print as a reminder of that purpose.
Brian cut his teeth in the wine biz by working for Boeger Wines, starting in '95. He worked in the tasting room and wanted to learn more, so he started hanging out with Greg Boeger to learn the process and craft of winemaking.
Remember, Greg is the one who started the El Dorado AVA and put the wine region on the map! (See my visit to Boeger Wines.) With that start in the local wine industry, Brian launched out and started Bumgarner wines in 2010. Brian's first flagship wine under his own label was his Cabernet.
Many hands make light work. The Bumgarners have children, and community involvement and spending time as parent volunteers is important to them. With every bottle of their Many Hands Cuvee Bordeaux blend, they donate a portion to the local Waldorf School.
Some say, “it takes a village,” but here, a bottle can make a difference!
As winemaker, Brian, intentionally crafts his wines to be dry. Their three Hard Apple Ciders are made in the dry style as well. My cider tasting included the: Silver Fork Hard Apple Cider, a Silver Fork Dry Hopped Cider, and a Ginger Infused Cider. Hard ciders would be tasty with sushi, holiday meals, and warm-weather foods.
The Bumgarner tasting room pours different wines each week,
giving tasters a chance to try a variety of their wines.
This sophisticated Cab is worthy of a special occasion.
But it also made my weeknight of home life—school lunches, doing dishes, and
folding laundry—shades better!
For a look at Bumgarner's most recent offerings, visit their site at:
During your visit:
Check out the historical outlying buildings.
Pack small bites or a picnic to enjoy with your Bumgarner wines. Picnic tables on site.
More wineries are within driving and even walking distance, so designate a driver, or trade off tastings.
This is wine country!
Now Bumgarner Wines are a local name; their Tempranillo wine being a customer favorite.
The winery draws customers from Sacramento, the Bay Area, travelers en route to
South Lake Tahoe, and guests from as far as Australia.
Local restaurants, such as Heyday Cafe, carry their wines.
This is all beneficial to spreading the word about the El Dorado region.
It's a community bursting with wine.
Enjoy the view on your Bumgarner wine jaunt!
To browse my other visits in the region, visit my California Foothills Page.
Join me at California Wine