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Tuesday, 12 February 2019 18:02

Rombauer Expands to Amador County

TASTE News Service, February 13, 2019 – Rombauer Vineyards, one of Napa Valley’s premier, family-owned wineries, has announced the purchase of the Renwood Winery facility in Amador County.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 16:43

Beauties on the Green

By Brendan Cooke and Dan Clarke

It would have been nice to attend the 15th annual Niello Concours d’Elegance at Serrano. It’s the kind of assignment an editor enjoys conferring upon himself (R.H.I.P).

Wednesday, 13 June 2018 00:23

Lifetime Achievement Award for Boeger

By Dan Clarke

Greg Boeger is the recipient of the California State Fair’s 2018 Wine Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 17:42

A Warm Up for Serrano Concours

By Dan Clarke

Sacramento Valley car buffs spend a whole year between each edition of the Niello Concours d’Elegance.

Saluti Cellars vineyard in El Dorado Co PicmonkeyRolling vineyard terrain at Saluti Cellars

TASTE News Service August 13, 2015 – Wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts can choose sip, swirl, hike and savor a historically rich experience in El Dorado wine country. Located between Sacramento and Reno/Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County is home to more than 40 unique wineries and 2,000 acres of vineyard landscape.

Visitors can explore the region by driving picturesque country roads that wind from sleepy historic mining towns to steep hilltop vineyards. Adventurous travelers can plan for summer outdoor activities that include hiking, cycling, river rafting, fishing and gold panning.

Wine lovers will enjoy a mix of stunning vistas, rugged adventure and Gold Rush history paired with quaint tasting rooms of family-owned wineries that are producing some excellent wines.

There’s plenty to do in this area just east of Sacramento. Here are some suggestions for a three-day wine adventure:

Day 1: Fun in Fair Play

·       Take in the mountainous, magical terrain of Fair Play, nestled in the Sierra,Foothills at elevations ranging between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. Picnic, hike, and discover “wines with altitude.”

·       A short drive south of Placerville, the vineyards in Fair Play are planted in sandy, decomposed granite soils, which are ideal for many grape varieties.

·       Tip: Enjoy views, which can span nearly 100 miles, from the patio at Mount Aukum Vineyard and Winery. The curvy steep road up to the tasting room is worth the trip to truly experience high elevation winemaking.

·       Fun Country Drive: The Fair Play area features dramatic transitions – from rolling hills full of oaks into striking mountainous pine forests. Drive Fair Play Road or Perry Creek Road for the complete experience.

Day 2: Bite into Apple Hill

·       Enjoy the wine offerings of this bucolic wine area as you take in its agricultural splendor. Some of the area’s most historic and well-known wineries are located in Camino and Apple Hill, which sit just northeast of Placerville.

·       Foodies will find the diverse agricultural tourism activities a must. Summer brings an array of foods from berries, peaches, pears, plums and an assortment of vegetables that can be purchased directly from farmers at local farmers markets.

“Whether picking cherries, visiting local ranches, or exploring a range of unique wineries, there is always something new to taste and discover at Apple Hill,” said Ann Wofford, owner of Wofford Acres Vineyards.

·       Tip: Even the little ones can get in on the you-pick fun. Don’t forget your picking basket.

·       Fun Country Drive: Apple Hill meanders through old fruit orchards into vineyards hidden among the oak trees. Drive Hidden Valley Lane to capture this magical region.

Day 3: A Perfect Day in Pleasant Valley

Cosumnes River El Dorado Co PicmonkeyCosumnes River in late summer·       Sip, sip, hooray! Italian and Rhône varietals await visitors at the Pleasant Valley wineries. Located just south of Placerville, Pleasant Valley is marked with rolling hills, small farms and views of the Cosumnes River Canyon.

·       This portion of the region boasts marked elevation changes, which results in impressive displays of the various soils types that make up El Dorado. From granite, volcanic to clay, the region’s soils and elevations create a unique setting for its diverse vineyards.    

·       Tip: Like Syrah, Grenache or Viognier? Try some of the Rhône varieties from this pocket of El Dorado; Pleasant Valley is gaining attention for its Rhône-inspired wines.  

·       Fun Country Drive: this region sits in a valley between two mountain ranges. Drive Pleasant Valley Road to experience the remarkable harmony between mountains, vineyards and agriculture.

Fun & Favorite Side trip in El Dorado

·       All wineries in El Dorado are located within half an hour of Placerville, a Gold Rush town with historic downtown that features farm-to-table restaurants and main street shopping.

·       Tip: Driving north from Placerville on Hwy 49, bring the kids to visit the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, where James Sutter first discovered gold in 1848. A perfect place for a bike ride, hike or a family picnic.

Editor’s note: A comprehensive source of information on wineries is www.eldoradowines.org. If you’re planning a visit to this part of the state, we suggest that you visit El Dorado County listings in the Gold Country sections of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of many Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of Wineries and nearby purveyors of Craft Beers.

CA State Fair rosette

By Dan Clarke

Sacramento, California June 18, 2015 - Today the California State Fair announced winners of its 2015 Commercial Wine judging. Wines selected as Best of Show in both red and white categories were made from varieties native to Spain and relatively obscure in this country. Moreover, the grapes were grown and vinified in regions obviously capable of producing great wine, though perhaps not well-known by the average consumer.

Picked as Best of Show Red was the 2012 Tempranillo from El Dorado County’s Lewis Grace (Grace Patriot) winery. Honors for Best of Show White went to the 2014 Albarino entry from Oak Farms Vineyards in the Lodi appellation.

While many “Cult Cabernets” are now priced way over $100 a bottle, 72 of the best wine judges in California chose a wine retailing at $30 as 2015’s best red wine. Though top quality Chardonnay, California’s most popular and most prestigious white wine, can approach—and even exceed—$50, those same judges declared that the $19 Oak Farms Vineyards Albarino is the best white wine of 2015.

This year's wine competition consisted of 2,881 wine entries received from 743 participating winery brands. Seventy-two judges on 18 panels awarded 57 Double Golds and 254 Golds, and the top winners showed the diversity of California wine, coming from around the state and from wineries of every size.

“California's 78,000 farms and ranches produce roughly half of all the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States; and our grape industry accounts for 90 percent of all wine consumed in America. As one of the oldest professional wine competitions in the nation, we are extremely pleased that for the second year in a row the State Fair has seen increased participation in our prestigious wine competition,” said Rick Pickering, CEO of the California State Fair. “With more than 2,800 wine entries from 700 plus wineries, the State Fair continues to be an enormous showcase of the Best of California."

The first State Fair Wine Competition was held in 1855. The competition is the oldest and one of the most prestigious wine events in the country. Top wines, including Best of Region and Best of California winners, will be featured at the State Fair in Sacramento ain the Save Mart Supermarkets Wine Garden for visitors to enjoy July 10-26.

Comprehensive information on all the winners of this year’s California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition is available here.

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning to visit the wine country of El Dorado County or of the Lodi appellation, first check out Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of all the Wineries, as well as links to the websites of hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:34

El Dorado Boasts Exceptional Harvest

Sierra Vista Vnyd at dusk PicmonkeySun sets over Sierra Vista Cabernet vineyard 

TASTE News Service – November 26, 2014 – Wineries and grape growers in the El Dorado wine region have wrapped up another successful harvest. Though the 2014 yields appear lower than the last three years, the recent harvest resulted in extremely high-quality grapes. Significant spring rains followed by consistent, slightly above average temperatures during the growing season marked one of the earliest harvests on record.

“The quality of this year was outstanding,” said Josh Bendick of Holly’s Hill Vineyards. “2014 was the shortest harvest we have ever had. Although we’ve started picking earlier in previous years, we were done earlier this year.“

Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, the El Dorado appellation is home to more than 70 wineries and nearly 2,000 vineyard acres perched at some of the highest elevations across California.

The ongoing statewide drought did cause expected concern across the region, but local growers acted proactively—with fantastic results. Well-timed spring rains, coupled with careful irrigation and discerning pruning practices, contributed to the harvest’s success.CedarVille Vnyd Susan Marks and Johathan Lachs PicmonkeySusan Marks and Johathan Lachs entertain visitors at their CedarVille Vineyard

Jonathan Lachs, co-owner and winemaker of Cedarville Vineyard explained, “With the prior two years of drought, plus the lack of rain in the beginning of the current year, we had insufficient water in our soil profile and feared we would need to irrigate much earlier than usual.” Forward thinking growers saw this coming and pruned aggressively, lowering bud counts in expectation of lower yields. Lachs continued, “Fortunately, March and April rains replenished the soil moisture, and enabled us to not have to tap into our water reserves. This enabled us to push out irrigating until July—and in some blocks, we did not need to irrigate at all.”

Regional fires during the harvest months also presented a challenge, though luckily, they were on the far edges of the AVA and winds pushed them away from vineyards and area wineries. “Thanks to the hard work and resolve of our local and regional firefighters, the El Dorado wineries were able to avoid extensive damage and allowed to do what they do best: make outstanding wine,” said Terrie Prod’hon, co-owner of Mount Aukum Winery.

Narrow Gate Frank Hildebrand PicmonkeyFrank Hildebrand Dryer weather, consistent above-average temperatures, without any extreme heat spikes and lower crop load overall led to a more compressed growing season. “This was our earliest harvest in the 43 years we've been growing grapes—at least a week earlier than any prior harvest,” said Greg Boeger, founder of Boeger Winery. “It’s a little too early to determine the long-term characteristics of this vintage, but color, flavor, and intensity in the reds seem excellent at this initial stage.”

Winemaker Richard Stading, owner of Auriga Wine Cellars, concurred, “We are seeing very intense grapes, smaller clusters, lower tonnage, and very high quality.”

Adding additional excitement to this year’s harvest, the early maturation and even ripening led to many grape varieties reaching optimal ripening simultaneously, creating a condensed timeframe to bring in grapes. “Our harvest was the earliest and most compact to date,” said Christine Rorden of Cantiga Wineworks.

Winemakers spoke of challenges and noteworthy qualities of the 2014 harvest, but most were content to be done early and excited to see what the vintage will bring. “It is a bit too early for me to make a declaration of how the vintage will develop except to say that all the stars are aligned for an outstanding opportunity to make truly excellent wines,” said Frank Hildebrand, co-owner of Narrow Gate Vineyards.


About El Dorado Wines

With over 150 years of history steeped in gold and agriculture, the El Dorado region is poised for its newfound resurgence in viticulture. Unique vineyard soils and a high elevation create a superior environment for a vast array of varietals. The region is gaining recognition for its ability to grow quality grapes that exhibit a sense of place. For more information about El Dorado, visit www.eldoradowines.org.

Editor's Note: If you're thinking of a visit to El Dorado County, first check out the Gold Country listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to many Lodging and Dining options.

Friday, 14 November 2014 19:33

November 14, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Bumgarner Cab S bottle shot Picmonkey

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon


Bumgarner Winery

El Dorado County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $35


“Sourced from two El Dorado County Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards at 3000-foot elevation. Blend includes 3% Merlot. Traditional Cabernet attributes evoking cassis, dark cherries and some cedar, with a bit of black olive in the background.

“Accepted wisdom is that mountain-grown grapes yield flavors of greater intensity, which would seem to be evidenced here. But what's even more appealing about this small-production wine (396 cases), is its sophistication and elegance. Winemaker Brian Bumgarner has crafted an extraordinary wine at a bargain price. His 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon would fare well if competing against Napa Cabs at double the cost.”

Food Affinity: “Pick a red meat to be accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes. Venison would be great, as would the richness of slowly-cooked osso buco. Hanger steak is another option.”

Sunday, 09 November 2014 10:17

November 7, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Nello Olivo Sagrantino Picmonkey

2011 Sagrantino


Nello Olivo

El Dorado County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $100


“To our knowledge, Rancho Olivo Vineyards in El Dorado County is one of (at most) a handlful of California growers of the Sagarantino grape variety, which is native to the north of Italy. Nello Olivo of the eponymously-named winery traces his ancestral roots to Montefalco in Umbria and believes that the Sagrantino grape will do as well in El Dorado County as it does there.

“The 2011 Nello Olivo Sagrantino is deep, dark and full of intensity, though such qualities do not come from its alcoholic content, which the label defines as just 13.5%. We find black plum, blackberry fruit and lots of tannin in this wine. There's also some earthiness in the background—maybe a little like the famed 'Rutherford Dust,' though less obvious. Taste California Travel has limited experience with this variety, but Nello Olivo's 2011 Sagrantino tastes like it will still be maturing a couple of decades from now. The wine is almost absurdly expensive—even by Italian, as well as Californian, standards—and consumers can find plenty of concentration and power in wines priced way less, but Nello has near exclusivity with his California-grown edition of this variety and scarcity often determines price.”

Food Affinity: “Needs strongly flavored dishes. High quality cured meats. Dishes incorporating black truffles. T-bones or shoulder lamb chops grilled over grapevine prunings or mesquite.”

Thursday, 28 August 2014 19:26

El Dorado County Grapes Travel Well

Madrona vineyardmountains Picmonkey 2Looking toward High Sierra from Madroña 

TASTE News Service August 28, 2014 - As the 2014 harvest begins, El Dorado-grown wine grapes are capturing the attention of both large-scale wineries and small artisan producers outside the area. Thanks to dramatic elevation changes, unique soils, distinct microclimates and its diverse selection of grape varieties, El Dorado is establishing its identity as a world-class growing region, the El Dorado Winery Association announced this week. The county has more than 2,000 acres of grapevines at elevations ranging from about 1,000 to 3,500 feet and is home to nearly 70 wineries.

With several vineyards already picking fruit this week, El Dorado growers are excited to see their grapes gaining more and more notoriety. Nearly half of El Dorado’s wine grapes leave the area to be made into wines made in nearby Amador, Napa, Sonoma and Yolo counties. According to the county’s grape reports, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Petite Sirah are the most highly sought after grapes.

Family owned and operated Bogle Vineyards is a large case production operation that recognizes the diversity of the state by sourcing grapes from several AVAs. They bring in nearly 500 tons of grapes from El Dorado to their winery, which is located south of Sacramento in Clarksburg. Local grower Ron Mansfield helps Bogle source grapes from several growers in the region, mainly Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Bogle credits the area’s diverse topography and rocky soils for its quality fruit. “It’s a very good relationship,” Mansfield says, “that benefits both Bogle and the El Dorado grape growers.”

“There is also a lot of interest and demand for the less usual grape varieties from wineries outside the county,” says Elizabeth Standeven, president of the El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Association. “Our mountain setting offers winemakers a unique and vast selection to choose from; we grow more than 45 different grape varieties here.”

Dirty and Rowdy, a North Coast-based winery, sources grapes from around the state, including vineyards in El Dorado. Co-owner and winemaker Hardy Wallace describes the soil as “incredible, unique and unlike any of the other regions we’re using.” Wallace says, “There's this pioneering attitude in El Dorado. Growers are still in discovery mode and there are really cool plantings of super interesting varietals.”

Mansfield, who owns Goldbud Farms and sells grapes to several distant wineries, has been growing fruit in the region since 1980. After initially planting two acres to eight varieties, he was convinced to focus on Syrah and other Rhône varieties by Steve Edmunds (of Berkeley-based Edmunds St. John), who started sourcing grapes from El Dorado in the late 1980s. This progression continues today with a mini revolution of Rhône-loving winemakers finding the rocky soils and higher elevations ideal for grape growing.

Jared and Tracey Brandt, co-owners/winemakers at Donkey & Goat (another Berkeley-based winery) came to the area in search of Syrah in 2003 and today more than half of their 6,000 case production is from El Dorado. Tracey Brandt says, "We fell in love with the terroir for our Syrah.” Over the years Mansfield has planted and grafted many Rhône varietals for the Brandts and today they have 11 of the 22 Rhone varieties including many of the lesser known like Counoise, Cinsault, Picpoul and Clairette, which is one of two known plantings in California. “There is still a wild west spirit in El Dorado which resonates with us,” says Jared.

A rising star in the wine world, Helen Keplinger looks to El Dorado as the source for her Caldera blend – Mourvèdre, Grenache and Counoise - from a sixteen-year old, head-trained vineyard. Speaking about the increased attention coming to the region, Keplinger notes, “Hopefully the majority of winemakers will see it as an opportunity, not just to raise the profile but to also to continue to raise the bar.”

Teena Hildebrand, president of the El Dorado Winery Association and co-owner of Narrow Gate Vineyards, is excited about wines from El Dorado, regardless of where they are made, “The fact that so many winemakers are searching us out is a testament to our quality. It’s validating to those of us who came here in search of a magical wine region and now call it home.”

The future looks bright for El Dorado. Standeven is optimistic, stating, “With each year, we’re gaining notoriety for our wines and as we continue to refine our vineyard practices, our reputation and reach will only get stronger.” The El Dorado AVA will continue to add a valuable piece to California’s winegrowing industry with its unique soils and microclimates, one-of-a-kind mountain locations, and ability to grow a diverse selection of varieties.

Editor's Note: More information on wineries located in El Dorado County can be had at www.eldoradowines.org. If you are planning a visit to this exciting part of Califonia's wine country, visit the Gold Country listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of all the foothill wineries, as well as links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to craft beer purveyors in the area.

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