In Northern California, El Dorado County is an hour away from Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe. Known for its rugged landscape, granitic soil and ridges, with dazzling views of the snowcapped Crystal Mountain range to the east, and the Central ValleyIn Northern California, El Dorado County is an hour away from Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe. Known for its rugged landscape, granitic soil and ridges, with dazzling views of the snowcapped Crystal Mountain range to the east, and the Central Valley to the west, the first vines were planted in the county in 1849. But after becoming one of the top winegrowing regions in California before the turn of last century, most of the vines were replaced by fruit trees after prohibition.
In the 1970s, the second phase of grape growing was rekindled with the encouragement of University of California-Davis, and the first modern vineyards planted by Greg Boeger of Boeger Winery and Richard Bush of Madrona Vineyards. But it wasn’t until 2008 that the amount of vineyards surpassed the 2,100 acres planted in 1904.
Today, the appellation features over 70 wineries and over 2,400 acres of vineyards, including Zinfandel and an impressive mixture of French, Spanish, and Italian grape varieties. Most of the wines are made with estate grown grapes and vineyard designates. Besides the regular draw of thirsty consumers from Sacramento and the greater Bay Area; the newest visitors to the region are talented winemakers, and representatives from high profile wineries, who are looking to strike it big with purchases of high quality fruit at admirable prices.
Whites: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the workhorse grapes grown in the region. But you’ll also find great offerings like Riesling and fantastic aromatic wines made with the Rhone varieties of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne.
Reds: In addition to a widespread planting of Zinfandel, many of the vineyard blocks included fighting varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Sirah. And over the past two decades, the wine of region has expanded to include impressive Mediterranean grape varieties, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, Graciano, Barbera, Tempranillo, Refrosco, and Aleatico.
White Wines: The Chardonnay from high elevation tends to be leaner, minerally, and a great style for Chablis fans. The style of Sauvignon Blanc is pleasant and appealing with pretty aromas and citrusy flavors. The latest trend has been to work with Rhone varieties such as Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne, which tend to produce wines with natural viscosity, bright acidity, and the citrusy flavors of lemon, lime, and grapefruit, with flinty notes from the soil.
Red Wines: Over the past two decades, the diversification of grapes planted in El Dorado has made a big splash with consumers searching for full-bodied wines with deep flavors, and layers of spice. Zinfandels from the region commonly feature juicy flavors of black raspberry, dark cherry, spicy herbs, and cedar. Syrah, Mourvedre and red Rhone blends often feature mineral aromatics and notes of lavender, violet, cherry, boysenberry, and blueberry. For Bordeaux varieties, look for notes of ripe mountain fruit, dried herbs, and balanced tannins. And the other gem of the region is Barbera, an Italian grape variety, which features dark fruit flavors, mineral and bright acidity, that can compliment fine cuisine. Better yet, many of these new releases retail at the user–friendly price points.
For white wines, think gourmet salads, fine cheeses, and comfort foods. With the red wines, the diverse styles match up well with grilled vegetables, rosemary potatoes, chicken, duck, barbecued red meats, sausage, gourmet pizzas, and a nice tangy red sauce with pasta.