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Amador Rains Don’t Dampen Four Fires

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Crowd Am4Fires 2016It wasn't raining all the timeBy Jen Sleppy

May 12, 2016 - Saturday’s Amador Four Fires was well organized. The only glitch was the rain, but as I've seen happen at other festivals, the rain became a positive . . . it created camaraderie and quick friendships as people crammed in together under the tents.

Gary and I met a lot of great people from the Bay Area, Lake Tahoe and even locals from down the street in Sacramento. All were ready to strike up a conversation about their favorite wine or food of the day. It really makes the day when everyone can turn a negative (rain) into such a positive experience.

Our biggest takeaway for the day really was the friendliness of the people and their winemaking history. It is great to walk up to a tasting table and find the granddaughter of the owner is there to joyfully take you through their wines while telling you the history of the winery (Cooper Wines). We also loved hearing stories of the strong and helpful relationships between the multitude of winery owners and winemakers. For instance, while tasting the 2014 Deaver Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel at Terra d' Oro, we learned that the grapes were planted in 1881 by the Deaver family, and that they have been selling them to Terra d' Oro since 1968 based on an old handshake deal. We also learned was that Scott Harvey Wines' 1869 Old Vine Zin comes from the oldest documented vineyard in North America.

Paella Pan 2016 Am4 PicmonkeyPlenty of paella for the Iberian varietiesWe tasted wines from the four separate tents, each one representing the varietals native to a different world wine region – the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Rhône and Heritage California. In our opinion, the Italian tent was the most successful. We felt that the Sangioveses and Barberas were the best wines showcased by the Amador Vintners on the day. The 2012 Barbera from Driven Cellars was a standout, as well as both the 2013 Sangiovese and 2012 Barbera from Cooper Wines.

We enjoyed a couple of great pairings - Seafood & Chorizo Paella with 2012 Tempranillo from Wilderotter Vineyards and Spice Rubbed Venison Loin with Scott Harvey Old Vine Zin.

All of the Chefs did a great job on visually presenting the food. The giant paella pan, as well as lamb and pig on an open spit, really showcased the “Fires” theme.

As part of the VIP experience, we attended the Blending Party with Scott Mahon, Winemaker of Legendre Cellars. He set up blending stations with five single varietals (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah - Deadman Fork, Syrah - Ryan Oaks and Petite Sirah), each with portion-controlled quarter-ounce pumps. Tasters were encouraged to try the varietals on their own, then begin blending their own perfect blends. Scott had his 2013 Arrastre Rhône blend available for comparison. We both really enjoyed this process, and came up with our own Grenache-driven blend.Venison Zin Am4Fires PicmonkeyVenison and Old Vine Zin

Wondering if the rain at this year’s event affected the attendance, we contacted Deirdre Mueller, Amador Four Fires founder this morning. "We were very excited about how the event turned out,” she said. “Despite the weather everyone seemed to be having a great time on both sides of the table: attendees, winemakers, chefs and craftspeople.

"Some folks commented that the event felt spacious, which is our goal. We are making a conscious effort not to grow the event too quickly. We want to maintain an exceptional experience for everyone: attendees and participants alike. We hit our target ticket sales, and with the inclusion of winery personnel, volunteers, vendors, chefs, wineries...had just under 2,000 people in attendance."

Editor’s note: Author Jen Sleppy and her husband Gary own and operate The Shack in East Sacramento. Amador Four Fires will celebrate its third year in May of 2017. Further information about the event can be had at http://amadorfourfires.com.

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