Use Sacramento as your home base and travel along the Zinfandel Trail to Amador!
Note: Due to Covid-19 restrictions, please check individual websites for schedules and reservations.
It is no secret that Amador County is rich with historical significance to the state of California. Originally home to the indigenous Me-Wuk tribe, (source: native-land.ca) their land was overtaken by Gold Rush era settlers in the mid 1800’s when Amador became well-known as a prominent mining town. Pre-prohibition era hotels, saloons, and dance halls, still exist and are visited daily and enjoyed as historical sites. Incorporated into municipal government by 1915, the city is now a quaint place to visit for tourists and just under an hour’s drive from Sacramento. For wine enthusiasts, it’s the land surrounding Amador City that contains the real gold. Amador County ‘s first vine plantings date back to the 1860s with the Original Grandpere vineyard’s first Zinfandel plantings. These vines have survived both phylloxera and the prohibition. Imagine how many influential people enjoyed wine from these very same vines, planted when Abraham Lincoln was president! Wine tasting in Amador is tasting history in a glass. With deep roots and historical relevance, Amador County has easily become California’s most underrated wine country destination for Zinfandel.
Amador County’s sub-AVAs are; the Shenandoah Valley AVA, northeast of Plymouth, CA known for warm temperatures and higher alcohol wines, and Fiddletown AVA, which is substantially higher in elevation. Traditionally, wine from the Shenandoah Valley display lush and earthy with ripe berry fruit and baking spice characteristics. Wines from the smaller Fiddletown appellation are decidedly more austere and linear. Fiddletown AVA lies at between 1,500 and 2,500 ft. in elevation, which encourages higher acidity and leaner tart cherry fruit and leathered components.
In two days, it is possible to visit historical attractions, eat local food, and taste delectable Zinfandel wines from both AVA‘s within Amador County. Along the Zinfandel trail, one can find 100+ year old vines, high elevation wines, and wines that range from bold and ripe to tart and refined—there are enough choices for any Zinfandel lover to enjoy.
11000 Shenandoah Rd, Plymouth
This winery has a clean, modern and minimalist design with its greatest attribute being the breathtaking backdrop that surrounds the tasting room. Andis winery is a smart, sustainably focused building with east to west facing aspect that is protected from the harshest direct rays of the sun. This means that despite desert-like temperatures in Summer, Andis winery remains a cool oasis. Eco-friendly, energy efficient choices like solar energy panels are thoughtfully designed to look like art, making this forward-thinking winery feel perpetually streamlined and bright. Sweeping vineyard views create an ideal destination for a wedding or event.
Andis Wines are the product of teamwork. On the winemaking side, estate winemaker Mark Fowler works closely with consultant winemaker, Phillipe Melka, and sales director Lorenzo Musila to make wine that they themselves would like to drink while respecting the unique terroir surrounding them. The wine style is “Traditional and terroir driven.” Estate winemaker Mark Fowler describes it, “As far as our wine style, It’s California, we are not dogmatic. There’s obviously variation with certain vineyard sites and blocks. At the end of the day, we respect the fruit and climate to create something that we are comfortable with, which ends up being on the more traditional side.” He continues: “When it comes to Zinfandel, we make single vineyard wines from exclusively old vines (40 years or older) as well as an assemblage including; our Estate Freidlander, Original Grandpere and Di Stasio vineyards, each fermented separately and then assembled,” says Fowler.
From single vineyard wines to conglomerate vineyard blends, Andis wine does not compromise on quality. “We are comfortable with what we do and what we put in the bottle. We are not making wine because the market wants it or because of a consumer trend. We are the first consumers of our own wine. We try to make wines with high acidity driven by varietal correctness while still respecting the region we are in. We are Amador. We don’t try compete with Lodi or Paso—it’s our own identity and that is the beauty of California.” Says sales director Lorenzo Musila. Owners Andrew “Andy” Friedlander, Janis Akuna, and COO Jenae Plasse all contribute by sharing their creativity and preferences with the winemaking team to create unique wines inspired by the region.
Harvest Widow Zinfandel Blend Rosé. 13% ABV $25 | 90 cases produced
Zingy bright flavors of tart strawberry, watermelon and hibiscus water, this bubbly saingeé rosé is a fun way to begin a Zinfandel tasting on a lighter note. Perfect for hot temperatures and for individuals in your group who are tagging along but not necessarily Zin connoisseurs. Drink it now and through the Summer. Suggested Pair: Cold seafood, lobster, crab or shrimp. Grilled prawns with curry over rice.
2018 Painted Fields Old Vine Zinfandel Sierra Foothills AVA | 15.5% ABV $35 | 1200 cases.
Bold juicy blackberry and ripe red strawberry fruit contrasted on the finish with an even layer of tone, firm tannin structure. Another approachable option and value for the novice Zinfandel lover. The 2018 vintage marks Andis’ second vintage, of the Painted Fields Zinfandel (available in 25 states. About 8% of the wine was co-fermented with estate Barbera to help bring in a balanced level acidity. By adding a bit of this complimentary variety, Estate Winemaker Mark Fowler is able to avoid any other additions while maintaining the purity of whole fruit expression. Drink now or in 1-3 years.Suggested Pair: Bacon Wrap Roasted Figs (Recipe at https://www.zinfandelic.com/food-wine/roasted-figs-bacon.php )
2017 Friedlander Block Estate Zinfandel Shenandoah Valley AVA | 15.5% ABV $35 | 300 cases
The best of both worlds, characteristic richness in aroma with nutmeg, cocoa and spice, followed by ripe red fruit on the front palette that finishes with classic authoritative prudence on the finish. Well integrated tannin structure and focused acidity. Friedlander Block Estate Zinfandel was planted in 1970s, is dry Farmed. Friedlander Block Estate Zinfandel represents the most distinctive of Andis’ single vineyard Zinfandel and is owner Andi’s favorite of the line-up. Great Value at $35. Drink now or 3-5 years.Suggested Pair: This wine doesn’t need food- simply pop open a bottle and pair with a best friend.
2018 Di Stacio Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel Shenandoah Valley AVA |15.5% AVB $45. |161 cases
The Di Stacio vineyard is visible from the tasting room and is planted in Sandy loam and granite soil. Historically, the ranch dates back to 1900 when it was founded by the Esola family. The Esola’s (Formally “Isola” meaning “island” in Italian) were Italian immigrants who started farming this site in 1910.
Compared to the more restrained Grandpere, Di Stasio Zinfandel presents a richer, juicier profile. Driven by Red strawberry and cherry fruit on the palate, the 2018 Di Stacio uses 100% native yeast and was cold soak fermented for two days. The site and clone really augment the character of this wine’s fruit profiles and spice level. This is wine is rich and storied with nostalgic aromas of a grandfather’s study, cigar box and sweet tobacco. Intelligently seductive soft leather and velvety mouthfeel. Drink now or rest 5-10 years. Suggested Pair: Pair with a juicy burger, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper.
2018 Grandpere Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel | 15.5% ABV $60| 100 cases produced
2018 Grandpere Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel uses 20% new oak. The wine features aroma of subdued plum and blackberry fruit. Tannins are smooth and pithy.
“The yields of Grandpere are low. The beauty of a vineyard that’s been around so long, is that the wisdom really comes from the vines themselves. These vines essentially read the year. They know when we’re going to be a dry year, they’re going to need to retain more moisture or when it’s going to be a wet year with a lot of sunlight and they need more cover or shading. It helps to have a grower who knows that they do not need to intervene.” Matt Fowler Suggested Pairing: Pair with a simple cast-iron seared steak, finished in the oven with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Turley Wine Cellars
10851 Shenandoah Rd Plymouth
The tasting room is cozy and casual yet truly unique in its artistic identity. Turley’s tasting room consists of the indoor bar featuring art from Turley’s label; a moon, sun, and stars depiction, symbolizing owner Larry Turley, his wife and four daughters. Outside, ample outdoor seating can be found under a covered patio, perfect for a BBQ gathering. Round tables encourage group tastings complete with comfortable seating dressed in Mexican style blankets.
Memberships at Turley wines are singular in that they do not require a subscription delivery or membership fee. Instead, Turley focuses on longevity through the cultivation of relationships with members who love their wine, using alerts to members after every release in order for them to secure their allocations at will. Members also have the opportunity to join unique members-only events such as pick-up parties and the highly coveted, “Taste and Trot” event, a very special affair involving wine tasting while walking through the vineyards.
Turley Vineyards is best known for their single varietal vineyard designated Zinfandel. Turley features wines made from several vineyards including the famed Rinaldi and Story vineyard both 100+ years old. The philosophy of Turley involves using site-specific vineyard blocks to create wines of place. Winemaker Nick Finnarelli notes that Turley’s wines focus on “expressing terroir and purity of fruit expression.” Out of the many vineyards Nick works with to source grapes, Rinaldi vineyard, originally established in 1865, is certainly one of the most magical. This vineyard is a historical site found between 1,600 to 2,000 feet above sea level in the Fiddletown AVA, glittered with glinting granite jewels and gnarly Zinfandel vines. The grapes from Rinaldi are grown in small loose clusters and bursting with intense flavor.
2019 Shake Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills AVA | 14.6% AVB, | (Newly released. SRP is TBD)
Available at the tasting room only. Grapes farmed by Anne Kramer. Located on a ridge top parcel sitting at about 1500ft above sea level the grapes from Shake Ridge Vineyard is unusually energetic for a Zinfandel with a certain delicacy, slightly smooth mouthfeel like a dry stone, with integrated tannins that are far from grippy. Notes of crème of Violette, Blackberry, fig, and that characteristic austerity of a refined high altitude Wine. Suggested Pair: Grilled cheese featuring sharp white cheddar from Dedrick Cheese in Placerville (@dedrickscheese) and local blueberry jam
2019 Sadie Upton | 15.6% ABV | $44 ($40 members)
Just two parcels over from the tasting room Sadie Upton’s pre-prohibition era vines produce just a few tons for this small production indulgence. Aromas of farmers Market blackberries, perfumed purple floral component give this wine a feminine feel balanced with notes of wet rock, crumbly gravel and light toasted cedar add to the wines complexity. Overall the wine feels lush and has a silky mouth feel. Drink now though 2030. Suggested Pair: Grilled apricots and peach chutney spoon over double-cut pork chops. Drizzle with a touch of Amador County honey.
2018 Judge Bell 15.7% ABV | $35 ($32 members)
Muscular wine. Comes from Story vineyards, brilliant acidity expressed through blood orange notes, taught chiseled tannin and lean fruit character. Reminiscent of the grasslands sage, rosemary and other resinous herbal aromas that can be found in the grasslands surrounding Story vineyard. The quintessential Amador County Zin. Suggested Pair: Pair with Deaver Ranch Lamb Sandwich thinly sliced on a soft French roll made with savory “Au Jus” stlye dipping sauce
2018 Rinaldi Vineyards, Fiddletown AVA | $70 | 100 cases produced
Blue and black fruits characteristic of a cool vineyard site. Tight gripping tannin. Suggested Pair: Grilled Portobello sandwich with melted Camembert cheese with roasted Mediterranean vegetables in Farro salad
20680 Shenandoah School Rd, Plymouth
Tasting fee: $5 – $10
Expansive vineyard views and a multitude of grape varieties can be found at Terra d’Oro winery. The property is dog and family friendly, with rolling hills, a manicured lawn and gardens and plenty of space for outdoor tables. On hot days, misters keep wine tasters cool under a trellised back patio with a separate area for wine club members. The wine club is 4 shipments a year of 3 bottles, rarely exceeding $100 per shipment. Guests can come picnic, bringing in their own food and blankets to enjoy an afternoon in nature tasting wines that range from artisan, with only 71 cases produced, to larger production wine that can be found all over the country.
Terra d’Oro’s vineyard history dates back to 1970 when Walter Field and Cary Gott partnered to purchase the land in Amador County. The early days of this winery were full of success and experimentation, as California Zinfandel was beginning to gain recognition worldwide. It was around this point, current vice president and general manager, Jeff Meyers, joined the winemaking team as oenologist in 1981. By 1982, Meyers, alongside Jeff Runquist, became the wineries leading winemakers. Since then, the winery has grown with the guidance of the Trinchero Family (Terra d’Oro was the Trinchero’s first ever winery acquisition in 1988) to become the Italian variety focused winery it is today. The first vineyard in Amador to grow and plant Barbera, Terra d’Oro now boasts over 500 planted acres of vines in five estate vineyards (ranches), with about 18 different varieties all tended to by viticulturist Mellissa Bordi. Terra d’Oro sources from just two outside vineyards including Deaver Vineyard, for their old vine Zinfandel. Terra d’Oro kept their spirit of experimentation, currently doing trials to test concrete tank fermentation, extended skin contact fermentation, dry farming, and has been organically cultivating their Barbera since 1970. Today, Winemaker Emily Haines uses her expert blending skills and the diversity of grapes at Terra d’Oro to highlight the beauty of Zinfandel in styles that range from entry level to artisan.
2018 Terra d’Oro Zinfandel, Amador County |14.5% ABV, $18 | 15,000 cases
This wine is welcoming with aromas of ripe melon, juicy peach, and summer orange blossom, on the palate blackberry pie, quince and lemon curd envelop the tongue. This wine is easily approachable for the novice palate and food friendly. Suggested Pair: A selection of cheeses from Dedrick Cheese in Placerville (@dedrickscheese)
2018 Terra d’Oro Home Vineyard Zinfandel, Amador County | 15.5% ABV, $30 | 600 cases
The fruit for this wine comes from just four acres out of the total 600 acres that comprise the Terra d’Oro estate. Handpicked, de-stemmed and gently pressed, this wine exhibits qualities of a beautifully balanced, fruit forward, plush style Zinfandel. Robust notes of raspberry, and red cherry on the front palate, with subtler vanilla, crème brûlée, and blueberry fruit undertones on the back palate, smooth and balanced tannin structure lingers with warm spice on the finish. Suggested Pair: Spiced meat or cauliflower curry hand pie from Justin Lewis Pantry in Amador (@Justinspantry)
Taste Restaurant and Wine Bar’s Organic Duck Confit in Plymouth (@Taste_restaurant)
2019 Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel, Amador County. 15.5% ABV $30 | 600 cases
The driest and most austere of Terra d’Oro’s vineyard designate wines come from Deaver Vineyard, planted over 100 years ago. Higher in acid than the Amador and Home Vineyard Zinfandels. Deaver Ranch Zinfandel displays notes of tart fruit, red raspberry and black cherry juxtaposed with toasted cedar, cocoa and baking spice on the finish. Potential for longevity in ageing with proper cellaring. Drink now or in 5-10 years. Suggested Pair: Grilled Deaver Ranch lamb pops with local fig or cherry jam
11093 Shenandoah Rd, Plymouth
Amador Cellars is a small family-run winery that produces a mere 3-5000 cases annually. Sister and brother pair, Ashley Long and winemaker Michael, run day-to-day operations at the estate. The winery makes several Italian varieties, but focuses on its 10 acres of estate Zinfandel. The tasting room, built in 2003 has the look of an old converted farmhouse, with a modern twist. Equipped with open plan design and elegant fixtures, the space gives guests a shabby chic aesthetic and cozy feel. Outside, picnic tables can be found, where tastings are often conducted by the winemaker Michael himself, and can be elevated by the addition of charcuterie and cheese for a surcharge of $5. The estate is simple, yet elegant and would be a beautiful destination for a wedding or event.
When tasting at Amador Cellars, it becomes very quickly apparent that Zinfandel is the star of the show. “We believe Zinfandel is the ultimate grape in the region,” Winemaker Michael Long states as he describes the seven different Zinfandel clones they produce from the 100% estate fruit. “I don’t want a wine that is so soft that it lacks in texture, I like acidity and I like tannin, but you have to find a happy medium” says Long, and it shows in the wines! All of Amador Cellars wines were expressed in a generally traditional style, with bold flavors, and a healthy dose of alcohol by volume, these wines are small productions and purely Zinfandel.
2017 Amador Cellars Winery, “Native” Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley | 14.9% ABV, $36 | 75 cases
Winner of, “Best Zinfandel” at the 2020 Amador County Fair, and showcases small bin fermented grapes with native yeast fermentation and zero new oak. This wine is big and bold with bright red fruit. These wines are age worthy, drink now through 2030. Suggested Pair: Classic BBQ chicken with Local Amador County honey BBQ sauce
2018 Amador Cellars Winery, “Native” Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley | 14.9% ABV, $36 | 75 cases
The 2018 Native is winemaker Michael’s personal favorite, and showcases unique nuances for the variety as the reaction of this wine is usually met with “ooos” and “aahs” by tasters. Pretty floral flavors like, lilac and Mexican violet flavored chewing gum creates a flirtatious feel on the bouquet while blue and black fruit notes lift the palate and finish with lingering cocoa and vanilla notes. Suggested Pair: Rosemary infused toasted sourdough BLT
2017 “The Estate” Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley | 16% ABV, $30 | 200 cases
Red fruit forward flavors with, a touch of new oak. Bright acidity, bold fruit, with baking spice, this high intensity wine is layered and complex. 2017 was an unusually hot and dry year reflected in the ABV, yet not overwhelming. This Zinfandel is made to express the purity of the fruit without the addition of water which is a typical practice for most wineries in the area during climatically hot years. This wine composes several high intensities favors that have potential for aging 5-10 years. Suggested Pair: Grilled Rib Eye with Reduced Zinfandel Mushroom Sauce
2015 Family Reserve, Shenandoah Valley | 15.8% AVB $45 | 200 cases
Rich fruit forward notes of overripe strawberry and fig coupled with undertones of warmed caramel, butterscotch and cocoa, this wine is the most sensual of the line-up. Both new and old oak lend spice notes to this wine allowing for an indulgent tasting experience. Suggested Pair: BBQ Deaver Ranch Lamb Chop Chimichurri Sauce
Bella Grace Vineyards
22715 Upton Road, Plymouth
Tasting: $10 (Members Taste Complimentary, including 4 guests)
Diversity of wines and a knack for sustainability, Bella Grace is a good place to stop for a fresh take on traditional winemaking styles with over 15 varieties to choose from. The covered outdoor patio is perfect for large groups, while the cool underground wine cave is a spectacular spot for a more intimate occasion.
After a chat with Koerner Rombauer; wine lovers, Michael and Charlie Havil, decided Amador county would be the perfect place to embark on their retirement dream of starting a winery. Soon afterwards, the couple left a life in corporate America to move to Amador and start Bella Grace. In 2006, they purchased the previously established 50-acre area, including 20 acres of vines, and named property “Bella Grace”. Since then, the couple has been growing a variety of grapes including Primitivo and Zinfandel, without the use of inorganic substances. Michael, who’s philosophy has become, “Always respect the fruit.”, is head winemaker.
Relying on 100% solar powered energy, operations at Bella Grace consider sustainability to be as a top concern and look to dry farming in their near future. With four different clones to work with, Zinfandel at Bella Grace is a top priority and best enjoyed in their cool state-of the-art underground cellar, which remains a comfortable 57 degrees year-round.
2018 Montagñaro 50/50 Blend, Barbera and Zinfandel. 14.5% ABV $35 | 550 cases
Bright cherry, blackberry, vanilla and star anise give this wine a cheery holiday feel. Casual enough for a backyard BBQ yet festive enough to bring to a family dinner, this interesting blend is both crushable and delicious. Drink now and enjoy. Suggested Pairing: A juicy wagyu beef burger with all of the fixings.
2018 Bella Grace Old Vine Zinfandel, Amador County. 14.2% ABV $29 | 1200 cases
Grapes for this wine primarily sourced from 65+ year old Crane Sleeper ranch are aged 22 months in oak new and neutral oak. The wine is juicy and ripe with fruit forward notes of blackberry compote and muddled black cherry. A bit of cocoa on the finish make this wine feel lush and approachable for any palate. Drink now to enjoy the pinnacle of fresh fruit flavors. Suggested Pairing: Perfect pineapple and pepperoni pizza pairing wine!
11011 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth
Tasting: $10 ($1 for members)
This red barn style tasting facility features beautiful vineyard views and plenty of outdoor seating. The winery has a casual wine country vibe with a community centered atmosphere. Though the winery location is certainly noteworthy, it’s winemaker Rusty Folena’s expertly produced wines that ultimately take center stage. Made with respect to Italy’s strictly regimented vinification practices, most of the wines found at Vino Noceto are single vineyard designated and see a few years of barrel and bottle ageing before ever hitting the shelf.
Before you get too excited, there is an important caveat to note for Zinfandel lovers who may have otherwise found the holy grail of quality wine in Amador County. Vino Noceto is a white unicorn among black stallions in Amador as they are the only winery exclusively focused on producing wines made from the Sangiovese grape with the exception of one very special Zinfandel vineyard: The Original Grandpere. Considering the wineries proven track record producing excellent wines across the board, coupled with the presence of head of sales, Tyler Lee who curates a uniquely entertaining tasting experience (there is even a surprise “Pick-me-up” wine gelato available for purchase at the end of your tasting) – Vino Noceto is not one to be missed.
About the Zinfandel
The Zinfandel at Vino Noceto is sourced exclusively from the Original Grandpere Vineyard. This vineyard was propagated over 150 years ago, just 10 years after California became a state. The Vines are own rooted and dry-farmed with sandy soils that prevent vineyard pests like phylloxera from prevailing. The Zinfandel produced from these vines is austere and elegant.
This vineyard is also unique in that vineyard owner, Terri, does not allow any outside wineries’ staff to come in to “check on” or manipulate vines in any way until they are harvested and ready for pick up. All of their vineyard practices are executed internally by the owner and her team.
2016 “OGP” Original Grandpere Vineyard Zinfandel, Amador County| 14% ABV, $44 | 345 cases produced (36 Magnum bottles produced)
Traditional in style and rustic in favor, this wine presents sophistication and refinement with herbal notes of dried eucalyptus bark and black peppercorn leaf on the nose. Medium in intensity and tannin, aged leather and tobacco notes balance fruit heavy characteristics of red raspberry, red cherry and wild blackberry on the palate. Pure fruit dominates the forefront but not a “jammy” Zinfandel. Firm tannin structure and focused acidity makes this wine capable of ageing at least 5 years for a better integrated fruit balance. Drink now through 2027-29. Suggested Paring: Hearty Minestrone soup with beef bone marrow bone broth and crusty Italian bread from Camden Spit and Larder ( @camdenspitandlarder )
Hotel Sawyer Kimpton
500 J Street, Sacramento
Options for lodging exist in Amador County, most falling within the realm of quaint BNB style hotels and smaller inns. Lodging in Sacramento is the way to go for those who are seeking a selection of dining and nightlife. There is plenty to see and do within walking distance of the city center. Hotel Sawyer Kimpton is one hotel that encompasses the best of all worlds for visitors including a third story “rooftop” pool with a spectacular sunset and city views.
There are several in house dining options and proximity to all of Sacramento’s sites and attractions including Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center. Rooms here are comfortable and options for valet or self-park make day trips fun and convenient. There is plenty to see and do within walking distance of the city center. Bring in your favorite Amador county Zinfandel and enjoy with a Winston’s Burger!
Bubbles and Champagne Bar
615 David J Stern Walk, Sacramento
Next door to the Kimpton Sawyer hotel is Fizz, a boutique sparkling wine bar that serves a variety of bubbles; Champagne, Prosecco, Sekt, Cava- You name it! Great place to have happy hour and bites are available! Try the oyster platter with duck fat French fries!
Camden Spit and Larder Bar and Restaurant – A London inspired eatery
555 Capitol Mall, Sacramento
Camden Spit and Larder Bar and Restaurant is one part fine dining and one part business casual with a gastro pub flair. Excellent for happy hour and suitable for date night. The menu is innovative yet simultaneously nostalgic, with offerings such as; Winston’s Burger featuring American Wagyu patty topped with shaved prime rib and Worcestershire onions, or classic English meat pie. Oliver Ridgeway derives inspiration for several of his creations from his hometown glory across the pond, making the dining experience feel especially authentic.