PLAY & SHOP: During the Gold Rush, Amador County was once the hotspot for growing grapes in California. But once the Rush subsided and Prohibition set in, the area was deserted. Now, new growers and vintners are focused on creating great wines.
We started our tour in the lush Shenandoah Valley just outside Plymouth. With over 40 wineries in the county, we had an interesting selection from which to choose. In addition to Zinfandel (the county is home to some of the oldest vines), this region in the Sierra Foothills boasts Syrah, Tempranillo, Roussane, Sangiovese, Barbera and other varietals. The “wine” drive is along country roads with beautiful views.
Jeff Runquist Wines was a great introduction to the region. The two side by side tasting rooms are open, airy, run by friendly and knowledgeable staff and filled with wine enthusiasts. The winery sources its grapes from throughout California. Favorites (all from Amador) include these 2012s: Primitivo “R” Nostro Vino Vineyard, Barbera and the “R” Carignane Aparicio Vineyards.
Continuing along scenic Shenandoah Road, Borjón Winery offers an intimate place to get to know the Mexican-American heritage and rich wines of the Borjón family. They’ve called the Shenandoah Valley home for 30 years, starting first in labor contracting and vineyard management then adding winemaking to the portfolio. Don’t miss the 2011 Diferente Red Wine (50% Barbera and 50% Zinfandel) and the Barbera Reserva and Zinfandel Reposado, both 2012.
Renwood Winery’s modern tasting room is set right off the road among the sprawling winery facility (owned by an Argentinean billionaire). Sample the wines at the inside bar or outside on the patio. Specializing in old vine Zins try the Premier Old Vine and Merida, both 2011s. If you’re hungry, choose from a wine/food pairing or something from their deli.
One of the shops on Main Street in Amador City is Feist Wines. Located in an old saloon from the 1850s, it’s a casual place to taste small lot wines and listen to music. The owners are passionate about both. These Shenandoah Valley 2012s are terrific: Reserve Primitivo, Reserve Barbera and Zinfandel.
And while you’re strolling along Main Street, take time to visit the Amador Whitney Museum. This treasure is home to the history of pioneer women during the Gold Rush. The Victorian Closet is filled to the brim with clothes, quilts, trunks and other great antiques.
The town of Plymouth (dubbed “the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley” and established in 1871) has the same kind of ambience and charm that Amador City has. And full of antiques. The whole area is known for antiques including Drytown, located between Plymouth & Amador City.
The Amador Flower Farm is a popular attraction with 14 acres of verdant gardens and picnic areas. Elsewhere throughout the area and depending upon the time of year, find trails for hiking and biking, fishing, golf, water and snow activities. If you want to get into the spirit of days past, pan for gold!
Amador Tourism Council; Amador Vintners Association
PATTY BURNESS can be found @pattygb