Northern California’s beauty is found even on a grey dreary day. El Niño’s influence was unmistakable during a recent quiet weekday visit in early January. The weather wet and cold, with periods of heavy downpour, still, undeterred, great friends treated Kathey and me to a wonderful day of wine tasting. What better pastime than to drive about Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley in the Sierra Nevada foothills, sipping classic zinfandels—originally from Croatia—and other varietals from Spain, Italy and France. Whites and Reds, everyone happy.
With more than 40 wineries around Amador County, a region famed for its zinfandel wines, especially old vine zins, the choices for wine tasting abound. “I Love Amador Zin” is a saying I have known and liked for many years. And, being a fan of the varietal, I always enjoy those opportunities to taste these fruity, sometimes jammy, usually yummy, wines of the area.
We usually write about our world travels, but what better destination than a comfortable drive within our own home state, and to taste great wines with good friends. Navigating the narrow roads, winding lanes, zigzagging this way and that, glad there was so little traffic. The rains pouring down, views no further than the rich textures of brown and grey vineyards beside our path, freshly pruned vines, and cultivated rows heading off into dark cloudy hillsides.
However, we were not alone in our tasting adventures. The skillfully decorated tasting room at Toscano Winery was not full to the brim as on a summer day. But there were enough people on the same agenda as us to keep Drew, the young wine pourer behind the counter, busy dispensing tastes for clients coming and going—wine tasting in the rain.
Wine tasting in Amador County is a very relaxing way to spend a rainy day. Take your time and enjoy. Shenandoah Valley is a superb destination within the county, with its multitude of vineyards and wineries, one with an easy-going pace and a laid-back persona. Nothing at all pretentious about the wines, the countryside, or the people.
Some of the ancient zinfandel vines date back to the historic Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. And, the hills teem with history as evidenced by museums housing Gold Rush and vine-land artifacts, original winemaking equipment of grape crushers and fermenting tanks, mining apparatus and household goods. While out and about Amador County, nestled against the fringes of the Sierra Nevada range southwest of Sacramento, tour Gold Rush era towns with names like Sutter Creek, Amador City, Plymouth and Volcano. Galleries, museums, antique shops easily found in these small wonders of period architecture straddling Highway 49 and side roads.
That lovely grey day, we made a couple more visits at favored wineries, then off to a wonderful quite dinner at the Hotel Sutter in the fine Gold Rush era town of Sutter Creek, on old Highway 49. Even in winter these wonderful old hotels, B&Bs, shops and wineries are here for your enjoyment.