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.
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.
The 1850 line of wines is a convergence of historical California and a new outlook on wine. The yellow old-town building is representative of the area's historic past. The 1850 label is iconic Californian and hip at the same time.
1850 Wines is one of the diverse brands under the Goldline Brand of wines. Mark Wooldridge, Chief Operations Officer talked with me about Goldline. He said they “like to over deliver in the bottle.” CEO Paul Haley has a background in international food and wine distribution, international operations, consulting in agriculture and beyond. The group commissioned someone in the industry to research all of the California AVA's to see which area can produce world class wines.
After initiating a research project that took into consideration many factors such as soil, fallow land vs. land currently producing grapes, production sites, land values, ease of access and transportation, which varietals grow best and where, and even cost of bottles and materials... well, the conclusion on all quality parameters was the El Dorado County region!
The soils, climate, and terrain are conducive to Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. Amador and El Dorado County get plenty of daytime heat. The evenings cool off enough to keep the grapes from over ripening, as compared to the Sonora area which tends to stay warmer and produces wines that may be sweeter, heavier, and higher in alcohol. Which wines you gravitate towards, all depends on your style preference.
Mark said, “You can grow great fruit up here if you really pay attention. And with a great winemaker, you can make terrific wines.” With that vision, Goldline hired Mica Raas from Santa Cruz as VP of Production and Winemaking. They moved him up to the region two years ago after extending to him an offer many winemakers dream of...You make the wine and we, Goldline, will oversee the distribution, marketing, the tasting rooms and guests services.
Now Mica makes all the wines for Goldline. He oversees the vineyard development and the quality of grapes. The new 16,000' winemaking facility and lab in Diamond Springs is exclusively for production. Mica can truly focus on the quality and consistency of the wines and do what he does best: produce amazing wines.
Goldline Brand offers different brands of wines for tasters, and each line is unique.
The goal of the 1850 brand is to showcase California winemaking at its best,
with wines made from local El Dorado and Amador County fruit.
It's a big state, but there's a great value-to-product to this region.
When visiting, one can't help notice a tremendous momentum in the wine industry.
There's a passion and desire to highlight the Amador and El Dorado County regions
as premier wine destinations.
That seems to be the theme of many people in the wine industry up here,
and I think they're onto something!
Whether you're tasting wines from new winemakers on the scene,
or historic wineries, here's to your jaunt.
For another look at Gold Country wines, here's a read on the El Dorado region.
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