Just this weekend, Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz,
El Dorado and Amador County wineries and tasting rooms
flung open their doors to tasters!
Yes, exhale with joy!
Winemakers and their staff are as eager to see you as you are to see them.
After almost four months of sheltering in place, California is starting to open up wineries.
Before you plan your customary day of tasting, here are a few tips on what’s happening in the tasting room scene:
When you arrive for your tasting appointment:
Your favorite wineries are anxious to see their tasting fans again!
Contact them if you have any questions about their current—and evolving—tasting practices.
And bringing a note of thanks, a big air hug, or a treat to your best loved winery is always in style.
A toast to the new ways of sipping!
Gain more from your next tasting with Nose & Palate wine traits...
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.
If you're adventurous and hanker to try a variety of wines, Windwalker is your place. The Fair Play region is prime for growing many types of wines. Windwalker offers four whites and over 20 red wines! (The menu and availability varies by season.) Look for: Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet, Mourvedre, Barbera, Primitivo, and the selection goes on.
Jim's wine story began in 1989 as a home winemaker. He also soaked up more of the industry by volunteering for different wineries for 12 years. Alanna and Jim Taff purchased the Windwalker property, which was one of the first wineries in the El Dorado County. For over 11 years they've produced an abundant selection of wines and now have a community of wine fans.
Windwalker wines have won their share of awards. In 2017, they were voted best Bordeaux and best Sangiovese in California. To see more of their accolades, visit Windwalker's site (link.) With special attention, all of their fruit is sourced local. 15% is Estate grown, and the rest is from Amador and El Dorado County vintners.
Though the tasting room is within striking distance of Sacramento (1 ½ hours,) the setting is pure countryside. Admire the soothing views of the vineyards, the pond, and the green spaces for events. Enjoy a glass or wine or share a bottle on the deck of the tasting room. It's a welcome relief from the crush of the Bay Area.
It's easy to see the devotion Jim has to Windwalker and producing great wines. A lot of things can happen when you make wine. The sulfur, histamines, an acids can get out of balance, Jim briefs me. “We care about all of the steps. You can only make great wine with great fruit. There are a thousand ways to screw up. ”This is an honest and attentive approach to making wine. I asked Jim who his tasters and customer base are. “Our Wine Club is our customer base.” This spring they “just signed up our five thousandth club member!” That's something to celebrate! Club Members can enjoy club discounts and access to exclusives such as dinner and pairing events, club tastings, and the members' annual picnic.
It's trending now for winemakers to use neutral oak or stainless when making white wines. But Windwalker barrel ages their wines. Even their whites age in 20% new oak barrels. I think it imparts a richer taste to their wines and gives a foundation for the other flavors.
A little of this and that from my visit...
The Sierra Midnight is their flagship blend of Zinfandel 50%, Petite Sirah 25%, and Mourvedre 25%. Scion-ed by Jim, this particular blend was made over a series of different years. It is their most sought after wine. During my visit, Jim was pouring guests a vertical tasting of four wines from the Sierra Midnight series—lot 1, 3, 7, and 9—that encompassed over ten years. What a moment!
This was one of the highlights of my visit. It was amazing to taste wines that were made in different years from the same combination of grapes. But when you add in factors like weather, aging, and the 1000 little nuances that could improve or change a wine, it was like drinking a piece of wine history.
The final highlight took place towards the end of my visit.
Jim walked over and gifted me with a bottle of his Sierra Midnight, lot #1.
Taking a reserve or library wine home is akin to taking a piece of the legacy of a winery home.
The years of crafting wine, the patience to set some aside for the future,
then share it with others...well, it's significant.
Sometimes I'll save a singular bottle like this for a special occasion in the future.
But this time, I knew I wanted to open it and savor it with my Mom and Dad.
They have history with me. And patience. And can see the potential in their family.
That kind of love is for family, and also, for special wines.
Cheers to you and your family as make your own history!
For tasting room tips, bookmark my Tasting 101 page...
Living in a climate that's friendly to growing Italian style grapes, Jon and Leanne have embraced the region, and Italian varietals. They met over a love of wine, and were married in Italy. Frequently, they visit Italy and research the wines, food, and regions. After each trip, they come home to Placerville with a new understanding of Italian wines. Then they turn that learning into producing Italian style wines here in California.
Leanne is the owner, grower, and vineyard manager of Via Romano Vineyards (link). She also has an eye for running the tasting room, guests services, and promoting the winery. Talent all the way!
Jon can chat all things wine in an easy going fashion. As owner and winemaker, he shared how the original Italian immigrants planted Zinfandel when they settled in the Placerville area. Now Zinfandel is one of the most common varietals in the area, along with Cabernet.
Via Romano makes two Rose's. (Thank you, Leanne and Jon!) Both are made with Sangiovese grapes from the same vineyard, but from different clones. The Rose' de Sangiovese is a still wine (no bubbles) and would be a great pantry staple for warm weather areas and for those of us on the coast. “It's an out-on-the-deck wine,” Jon shared.
Their Sparkling Rose' of Sangiovese is made in the Frizzante style—lightly bubbly—perfect for the warm, sunshiny climate of the area. It's lower in alcohol than the still Rose', dry, and an easy drinking wine. I could do some damage with this. Look for grapefruit on the nose and palate, and refreshingly spot on. Not sweet or bone dry. Just right.
For more wines...
In the future, Jon and Leanne hope to visit Spain; as well as Alsace, an area in Northeastern France known for producing stunning white wines. This year they are making a Nocino, an Italian dessert wine (23% alcohol) made from green walnuts infused with spices. That can all only be good for us wine fans!
Jon told me,“The county grows lots of lovely whites. There are so many different things to do with them, so why not?” My tasting companion shared, “People are branching out; wiling to try something new and unique.”
If you're wanting to try locally made Californian "Italian" wines, Via Romano is an ideal place to visit.
I enjoyed trying the various wines, sampling them with foods, and hearing about their story.
This was 100% more alluring, and convincing, than making my best guess from a grocery store shelf.
The Italian music in the background even enhanced the wines.
So here's to new winemakers in California...sharing Old World wines.
Best to you on your Italian Wine Jaunt!
To find more wines near Via Romano, visit my post on the El Dorado region.
Join me at California Wine