Skinner Vineyards Makes an Impressive Debut

Skinner Vineyards, Fairplay

A fragment of the 360 degree view from Skinner Vineyards

Skinner Vineyards is one of three wineries that I had included in my book prior to my having tasted their wines.   The Skinner family has been making wines in the Gold Country since the middle 1800’s.  Their new winery location had not yet opened at the time Pour Me Another went to press.

On my most recent trip to Gold Country I was intent on visiting Skinner Vineyards to taste some of their wines.  I had been told by other wine makers and intrepid wine drinkers that I HAD to go there.  The view was said to be spectacular, the wines fine and the people friendly.

We visited Skinner on a sunny Sunday in November.  Our merry band of friends had dwindled to a group of 4 diehards by Sunday morning.  We ventured forth and after a happy and successful stop at Mount Aukum, we made our way to Skinner.  Their new location is located in the heart of the Fairplay region of El Dorado County.  Turning off Fairplay Road reveals a long winding drive that leads its way up the hill.  Passing through their gates and past their production building, the drive goes even further to the very top of the hill where there is a small tasting facility.

The view from the top of the hill is indeed spectacular.  There is a 360 degree view from there with decks and terraces facing eastward to the Sierras.  The tasting room itself is comfortable, but small.  I think they soon may regret not making the tasting room bigger.  With their wines and the view, I think there will be crowds here in no time at all.

I tasted 5 of the 7 wines on the tasting menu that day.  One of my favorites was the 2008 Seven Generation, a white blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier.  I liked its crisp, light mouth feel.  The Roussanne and Marsanne fruit provided nice fruit and acidity and the Viognier  rounded off the flavors with some body and floral finish.  There aren’t many wineries in this region making white blends, but given the region’s limited success growing white varietals, I think it is definitely the way to go.  In fact, with some exceptions, it may be the only way for this region to produce truly successful white wines.

I also liked the 2008 Eighteen Sixty-One, a red blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah.  In fact, it was my favorite.  I liked the smokey undertones and blackberry flavors.  There was also a distinct, but not unpleasant, bacon smell on the nose.  This bacon fragrance and flavor comes from a specific bacteria that is naturally occurring on the grapes.  In excess, this is considered a negative quality.  In this case of Skinner’s Eighteen Sixty-One, it is not excessive and can be considered a benefit.  The smoky quality underscores the dark fruit flavors and makes the wine an ideal pairing for grilled or smoked meats.

Multiple purchases were made that day and we had a great chat with the two members of the tasting room staff.  They were very knowledgeable about the winery, their wines and the wine world at large.  Skinner is a welcome addition to the Fairplay region, and though new, is definitely in the top rank of El Dorado County wineries already.  They have set a high standard for themselves.  It will be fun to follow them as they continue to develop their wines.

About dslocicero

David is an author and architect living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes about wine, food and travel. His first book is Pour Me Another: An Opinionated Guide to Gold Country Wines, now one of the highest rated books about California Wines.