Each time we visit this area of the Sierra Foothills there are new wine adventures to be discovered. This time we found a couple of new wineries and revisited some of our old favorites. We always make our home base the town of Sutter Creek and stay at the Hanford House Inn. Even though the town lacks a really good gourmet restaurant, there are several places to dine within walking distance that offer good meals. Most of the wineries are about a 15-minute drive away on the beautiful backroads of the Shenandoah Valley. Almost all the wineries in this area are small family-owned wineries, and rarely do any charge a fee for tasting wine. Napa Valley, take note!
New Kid on the Block – Driven Cellars
We think Driven Cellars is going to be red hot in a couple of more years. The winery is owned by Rudy Chino. His son Chris does the winemaking and his daughter Cathy runs the tasting room. The first vintage was 2005 and the wines are drinking very well now. We liked the Primitivo, Barbera, and the Tempranillo. The Primitivo comes from their estate vineyards. It is very delicious and already has found a place in many restaurants in the Sacramento area. The winery is a work in progress with a new winemaking facility, tasting room, and picnic area in the works. The winery is in a beautiful location on Steiner Road and the eventual picnic area will boast one of the most beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley.
Jeff Runquist Wines
We were very surprised to see this tasting room when we drove by. It wasn’t around on our last trip to this area just a few months ago. Secondly, we had tasted the Jeff Rundquist Petite Sirah at our Vintage Taste Off just a few weeks ago. It is was the favorite of our blind tasting of Petite Sirah wines. It’s all about red wines at Runquist, no white or Rosé wines allowed. We tasted the entire lineup of reds and all were well made and ready to drink. We did not find a single tannic wine in the bunch.
Vino Noceto – The Sangiovese King
Vino Noceto is one of the older wineries in this area of the Shenandoah Valley and has specializied in Sangiovese since it started back in 1984. 70% of its 10,000 cases are Sangiovese. These wines are made in several styles and the tasting flights are set up so you can get a broad spectrum of different Sangiovese wines, as though you were traveling right through Tuscany. The staff is terrific and very knowledgeable. Other pluses include the beautiful vineyards, a picnic area, and two professional Bocce courts.
Young’s Vineyard – Our vote for most spectacular setting
This is the first winery you come to as you leave Plymouth and drive along the Shenandoah Road. Once you see the white fence, watch for the entrance. I have photographed this view on several occasions. I think it is quite beautiful and a photographer’s delight, especially in the evening as the sun is setting. The only white they make is called Jour d’ Ete’ and is perhaps the most unique white wine produced in this area. The 2009 vintage has a blend of 68% Rousanne and 32% Voignier. A good choice in the reds is a delightful Barbera. There are plenty of places to picnic around the vast vineyards at Young’s. Pack your lunch and pick a shady spot to enjoy the beauty of these vineyards, dotted with glorious oak trees.
Sutter Creek Lodging and Dining
We have a complete list of places to stay and dine in the town of Sutter Creek. Believe us, this is the best little town in the Gold Country of Amador County. As mentioned above, our favorite place to stay is the Hanford House. New owners Robert and Athena Gordon have fine tuned this B&B for a terrific stay. Dining’s best spot is 15 minutes away in Plymouth at Taste but we avoid driving, so we strolled over to Susan’s Place Wine Bar & Eatery on Eureka Street in town. The food is good and there is an extensive wine list of local wines with a low markup.