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.
Eric and Emily Hays, owners of Chate'au Davell, sat down with me for a chat in the winery's shady outdoor lounge and shared about their winery. They made an impression on me. Warm and easy going, the Hays make people feel welcome.
A journey into wine is often a series of events. For Eric, he first worked in restaurants and supper clubs. He then started working in the tasting room at Lava Cap Winery, working his way up to trying his hand at winemaking. Now, as winemaker for his Chate'au Davell wines, Eric's perspective, from the soil to the glass, is thoughtful.
Likewise, Emily's eco-friendly values are striking, and something she's brought to the union. She shared the story behind the tasting room and decor—all the items are re-purposed items, vintage pieces, or up-cycled pieces. The eclectic, casual décor of the outside lounge invites guest to kick their feet up and enjoy a flight or bottle of wine.
Emily's ethos on stewardship of the land and resources is demonstrated beautifully in the winery. She seems to care not just for her own family, but for others as well. Emily takes the family ethos of being a humanitarian a step further. She makes sure their bottles are made of recycled glass from California, and uses recycled paper for their labels. Other items purchased have been made in the USA. If they have to source items from out of the country, she seeks Fair-Trade products. Emily said, “It may cost more now, but buying cheap will cost us more in the long run.”
Eric shared, "The goal is to get out of the way of mother nature. Wine is made in the vineyard.” The Hays practice biodynamic farming methods with their organic Estate grapes. The wines are unfiltered and unfined, so the wines have a pleasing texture to them and are more natural. Here, tasters can enjoy wines with no dyes or chemicals added. Sometimes people avoid wine because it causes them to have headaches. But you won't find additives in Chate'au Davell's wines. They have many loyal fans since the wines are clean. Guests and friends have said they don't experience headaches with the Hays' wines.
On the Estate vineyard, the couple's Southdown sheep roam through the vineyards. Too small to reach the vines and grapes, the sheep fertilize the vineyards and eat the weeds, promoting healthier grapes. Eric and Emily then donate the wool to sewing guilds, and also use the wool—which is pest resistant—to insulate the wine cellar. The Hays also have a farm which grows over 40 types of heirloom tomatoes and other vegetables which they sell in season at the tasting room.
The feeling of family and nurturing are a warm theme. The winery is named after Eric's mother, Davell. Eric's favorite wine is his “Green Man” Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The picture is a self portrait and a nod towards being thoughtful stewards of the earth. Compatible, the “Gaya” red blend is a painting of Emily and Eric's tribute to mother earth. I think it also mirrors Emily's determined, yet gentle thoughtfulness with all that she uses and does.
As winemaker, there is variety to Eric's job. From field pruning, to being in the cellar, to time with guests. Every day hold something new to do. And he told me he loves what he does!
Eric is an artist, and the artist at the winery. You'll see paintings of their children, Charlotte and Auguste, along with other family members gracing the walls and the images decorating their wine bottles.
Being a smaller, boutique winery, Chate'au Davell's wines are unique.
Eric doesn't have to appeal to the masses.
The Hays can personalize their wines and surroundings, leaving an impression on guests.
The mood is lite and fun at the tasting room,
laid on a foundation of caring for our land and the world.
Rounding it out, my attention was captivated by the art and beautiful images,
and the kindness of their family.
A toast to your artful tasting jaunt in Camino and to those you love,
For more wine tasting in the Chate'au Davell neighborhood, visit my tasting at Via Romano Winery.
Join me at California Wine