When I tell Bay Area people that I write about Gold Country Wines, almost everybody thinks Napa and Sonoma Counties, even when I have clearly said “Gold Country”. Then I’ll say, “No, Sierra Foothills wines.” This generates blank looks. “Placerville,” I’ll say, “on the way to South Lake Tahoe.”
At this point, astonishment will render on people’s faces and they’ll ask with incredulity, “There are wineries up there?”
Oh, yes there are. Over 100 in Amador and El Dorado Counties alone. The region is only about a two hour drive from San Francisco, and offers both a beautiful landscape, far less traffic and almost no “attitude” from the wineries.
If you are tired of the snootiness and high prices for tastings, both common in Napa and Sonoma counties, the Gold Country is beckoning! If you are even more tired of all the tourists and bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 29, the Gold Country may be just the antidote!
Next time you want to go wine tasting, but you don’t want to spend $20 or more per person to do a tasting, head east to the Sierra Foothills, and visit a handful of the wineries in Amador and/or El Dorado Counties. (My guide book, Pour Me Another: An Opinionated Guide to Gold Country Wines, out at the end of this month, will help you on your way.)
The wines are good Gold Country. Many Napa Valley wineries buy their Zinfandel grapes from Amador or El Dorado County vineyards. Not every winery is a winner, but the same can be said of Napa and Sonoma. But there are enough good ones, really good ones, to make the drive worthwhile. And in Gold Country it won’t break your budget just to taste the wines!
Head East on Highway 80 to Highway 50 and explore the Gold Country. In addition to the wines, Placerville is a great Gold Rush town, and Sutter Creek is like a storybook small Gold Rush town. Both have great places to eat and more antique shopping than you can shake a stick at.
*Horace Greeley is said to have coined the phrase “Go West, Young Man!” in a fit of American Westward expansion enthusiasm. But I don’t want to exclude women, hence “folk”, although I lost the strong connection to Greeley. I don’t want to be age-ist either. I considered leaving out the “young”, but then it totally lost the connection to Greeley’s exclamation. Am I rambling now?