Terra d'Oro, Land of Gold in Italian, is an apt descriptor for the winery and the region. Tucked in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, Terra d'Oro Winery is located in Plymouth, Amador County.
The Shenandoah “spice” is that certain je ne sais quoi characteristic of the wines from the region. Notes of spice, such as fennel, pepper, anise, cinnamon, and clove, add luxurious undercurrent of flavors to Terra d'Oro's wines. The Shenandoah Valley is a sub-AVA within the Sierra Foothills (which has its own AVA.) Only 10 square miles, it's roughly a tenth of Napa County, yet is a wonderland of wineries.
My visit to Terra d'Oro was hosted by Jeff Meyers, Vice President and General Manager of TDO. Jeff graduated from UC Davis in '81 after studying Viticulture and Enology, and has been at TDO for over 30 years. With that experience comes wisdom, a connection with the land, wine, and staff...and a good sense of humor.
Jeff knows the region. He strives to produce wines that reflect the terroir and cultivar, the selecting and planting of varietals in the best possible location for the desired results, in TDO's 400 acres of vineyards. Sustainable vineyard practices enhance the wine and care for the land. Additionally, he shared, there are thousands of small decisions when making a wine, like little building blocks. I imagine these decisions as one block/decision upon the other, ultimately culminating in the finished wine. "The wine in the glass is a sense of the winemaker and a sense of the place."
A European paradigm separates the region, and Jeff is enthusiastic to share how TDO's wines stand out. They are less oak focused and the oak they do use is American, French, or Hungarian and plays a supporting roll, imparting flavor vs. dominating flavor. Also, the wines are higher in acid and lower in PH. This lays the foundation for wine that's drinkable now, with food, or can be cellared or aged.
And yes, Terra d'Oro grows and produces silky, deep Zins and Barbera (that lush grape is another big player in area.) But the selections keep coming. Along with the tour, a tasting spanning eleven wines was offered; representative of DTO's beautiful lineup of wines.
You can expect TDO wines to be made with care. The barrel room is humidity controlled with 10” cement walls, and the ceilings are insulated. The temperature is kept from topping 55-60 degrees. Why would that matter to you? Well, this translates to a steady temperature and less wine evaporating from the barrel which means less waste. So you get better quality at a better price. Be pleasantly surprised by the price to value here of wines from $16 to $24.
In addition to the Terra d'Oro's line up of reds, be sure to try their whites.
Winemaker, Emily Haines, is new to the team and has a penchant for whites.
She already has plans for expanding the offerings.
I'm thrilled about this! White wines can fit right in with California cuisine.
Jeff has a passion to see the Plymouth region establish itself in the California wine scene.
Part of that is introducing tasters to what grows well in the AVA. The area is Zinfandel-centric, with over 60% of America's Zinfandel coming from the region.
“ Zinfandel is a noble varietal, grown in a noble region,” Jeff shared.
He believes Amador County Zinfandel is different from Zin grown in other appellations.
It's more structured, sophisticated, and offers the Shenandoah spices.
I hope you get to try some Shenandoah Valley spice in a glass.
Best to you on your jaunt to the California Shenandoah wine region!
To see pics and wines from the Barbera Fest at Terra d'Oro....
The drive down HWY 49 to Plymouth was a scenic journey. The road lead into cozy valleys with puma colored dry grass, then curved and ribboned along steep ravines with vistas of oaks and granite.
In a field adjacent to rows of plump purple grapes, hawks soared over the vineyards, and dragon flies danced around the grounds. Here is where the Barbera Festival was hosted, at Terra d'Oro Winery.
This was my first time attending the festival, and I soon discovered there is an art to attending the event. Wines are poured under the tents, and hay bales are scattered around for guests to have a seat and take a break. But returning guests brought fold up chairs, picnic blankets, hats, and carry bags for their purchases. Near the tents they staked out shady spots under the oaks. This way, they could taste, take a break, taste, purchase food and eat, dance to the live band, shop a little, then repeat.
With over 60 vintners pouring Barbera wines as well as other varietals, it was difficult to choose who to visit! Barbera was originally from Italy, and according to the local vintners, the first Barberas were fairly acidic. Now, Barbera's acidity is dialed down a bit. California Barbera is typically soft, smooth, light to medium body, and is not heavily tannic.
The acidic personality of Barbera make it a food-friendly wine. Enjoy it with paella, grilled chicken or meats, roasted veggies, pasta with fresh tomato sauce, minestrone soup, or a spinach salad with bacon.
In the vineyard, I had a chance to taste Barbera grapes that were growing on the vine. What a treat! They were slightly sweet, juicy and tart, but the seeds and skins were not very tannic in the mouth. I could imagine these grapes being harvested soon and then the wine making journey would begin.
For a Bay Area Barbera, check out Wargin Wines: wargin-wines-soquel-watsonville-fruit-forward-bite-and-personality.html.
I know it's tacky to show up at a tasting room five minutes before closing (yes, it really was five minutes,) but I did. With good intentions, I left Sacramento allowing time to stop in Lodi for a tasting on my way home. But Traffic had other plans.
While I wouldn't recommend following my example, the staff were nicer than nice and let me do a quick tasting as other guests where still tasting. My previous visit to Jeremy Wine Co. was on a warm day, relaxing, slowly sipping... but even a short visit and a chance to taste and pick up some wine is better than none.
Combine one-part classic, to one-part funky, and you've stepped into Jeremy Wine Co.'s tasting room. The tasteful décor which is full of personality, and the quaint, European-style outdoor courtyard set the scene for sampling their fine wines. Jeremy and Choral Trettevik are the owners of Jeremy Wine Co. The tasting room is in downtown Lodi—which is suited to walking to shops, dining, and other tasting rooms.
At this year's Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento, I happened to walk by a wine label company's rep-booth. They were using a run of Jeremy wine bottle labels as a demo. The “J” logo really stood out with its simplistic yet stylish look. Check out Jeremy Wine Co.'s site for a little bio on their label. Jeremy, among other things, was a wine label designer for many wineries and has an artistic eye. Without spoiling the story, I can say their label is keenly thought out and attractive.
City living is often about doing as much as you can in the space that you have. Revolution wines is an urban boutique winery and bistro, with wine making and production on site—and doing it well.
So what's the big deal about making wine in a city? Well, Revolution Winery is Sacramento's first urban winery since prohibition. Second—there's the issue of land. The winery is smack dab in the city. Hence, Revolution purchases their wine grapes within 50 miles of the winery from local growers in the greater Sacramento region. Their wines are made with the intention to showcase the Sacramento terroir.
Revolution tends toward a “less is more” focus on their wines. Less oak. Less time with the wine on the skins. In fact, you won't find an industry or trade link on their site with detailed information on each wine. A bit of mystery in today's age of over information is refreshing. But feel free to ask questions on the wines during your tasting. Revolution is family owned and the staff are friendly and only too happy to share about their wines.
The tasting room and bistro is city-casual and is open to hosting events, weddings, meetings, and gatherings. Try their wines in a tasting flight, by the glass, or a bottle in the bistro. Wines are available to take home via bottles, through the wine club, or their Rex Growler—a refillable glass wine jug.
Revolution Wines is located in a trendy corner of shops. I've included some pics of the area
since it's a fun place to frequent.
There is something inherently good about seeing someone get a chance to do what they love, and a chance to do it better, bigger, and with more finesse. I feel that way about M2 Wines.
Somehow, I stumbled onto M2 wines a few years back during a visit to Lodi. At the time, the tasting room and production facility were in an industrial building on the outskirts of town. The wine press was in the parking lot and the juice was in the making. I had the chance to meet Layne Montgomery, M2's winemaker. He mentioned their Old Vine Zin came from Lodi Zinfandel vines that were planted in 1916. It was 100% Zin—and that's not necessarily easy to carry off. Well, it was a delicious bottle of wine!
Fast forward, and I finally had the opportunity to visit again. M2 built a swank new winery (in 2014) which is now in Acampo, just a few minutes north of Lodi. This time I ended up meeting Ted Woodruff, general manager and co-owner. I stood in the breezeway and he asked me what I thought about the place. I told him I wanted to live there.
The buildings are set in the middle of a vineyard with grassy areas. The walls are oxidized steel next to warm woods and huge ribbed sheets of recycled plastic. The high ceilings and various seating areas indoors and out continue the peaceful feel, as well as the visual treat. There is even a piece of Alaskan pipe-line that's been turned into an outdoor fire pit. Ted showed us around the winery and then got us up-to-date with M2 wines.
So what about the wines?
In the middle of M2's expansion—in size, influence, production, and volume—they have continued to make their noteworthy wines with finesse.
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