Ups and Downs in Amador Wine Country


Written by:

Joe Becerra

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We recently spent a couple of days in the Amador wine country. We make this trip once a year, so we have a very good perspective of this lovely wine country area. This wine region is in a transitional period. There are many older wineries that are small, with simple yet inviting tasting rooms. Within the last three years, new wineries have opened that are lavish and quite a contrast to the older set of wineries.

amador wine country
Shenandoah Valley in Amador wine country

We packed a lot of activities into our two days and here are the highs and lows of our Amador wine country getaway.

The Highs in Amador Wine Country

Hanford House Inn
The newly-remodeled inn in Sutter Creek adds much to what has always been a great lodging experience. The owners, Bob and Athena Gordon, do a masterful job of hosting their guests. Please read our previous post on the marvelous Hanford House Inn.

Andrae’s Bakery

Daily baked bread
Daily baked bread

If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Amador City, make a stop at Andrae’s Bakery. On weekends there will be line out the door. Patrons are there to feed on freshly baked bread, pastries and desserts. There is also a good selection of prepared sandwiches that you can pack to many a nearby winery for a fantastic picnic in the vineyards.

Vino Noceto Winery
Vino Noceto is one of Amador’s signature wineries. Family owned, small, quaint, and focused on estate wines, especially Sangiovese. How often does one find the person working the tasting room to be the owner? It was Jim Gullet pouring wines to customers and loving every minute of it. Jim and his wife Suzy started the winery in 1987. The wines are good and reasonably priced.

Yorba Tasting Room in Sutter Creek
The Yorba label belongs to the renowned vineyard grower Ann Kraemer. Her nearby Shake Ridge Ranch provides grapes for many small but upscale wineries, many of which are in the Napa Valley. When we visited the Yorba tasting room, we asked if Ann Kraemer was there and, before the answer, Ann stepped out of her office to greet us. She is a delight and loves to talk about her vineyards and wines. She is a master vineyard manager and, for her Yorba label, has selected small plots on her ranch for fine tuning the vines that go into the Yorba label. The Yorba Tempranillo is amazing!

Quaint Yorba tasting room on Main St. in Sutter Creek
Quaint Yorba tasting room on Main St. in Sutter Creek

Amador Vintage Market

Picnic delights
Picnic delights

The Amador Vintage Market in Plymouth is another wonderful deli and a hangout for many of the locals in the wine industry. We always call ahead with our order and pick up our lunches on the way to the wineries. The place is usually packed and you could end up spending a good 30 to 45 minutes waiting for your order. It is best to call at least an hour before. You will not be disappointed.

Hotel Sutter Restaurant
New owners took over the old American Alliance Hotel a year ago. They have completely renovated the hotel and restaurant. We enjoyed our dinner there very much. It was Valentine’s Day so the restaurant was very crowded. There are a few kinks to be worked out but, on the whole, our dining experience was quite enjoyable.

The Lows in Amador Wine Country

Turley Cellars
Turley purchased the old Karly winery a year ago and has opened a tasting room on Shenandoah Road. The plan is to focus on high-end Zinfandel from the Karly old vines. The Turley wines are big and bold with prices at the higher end for this area. We love the wines, no doubt, but it is just it little off to see part of Napa Valley invade the Sierra Foothills.

Andis Winery

Andis Winery
Modern and industrial

Since the Andis winery opened some three years ago, we have stopped by just to sample the Sauvignon Blanc and the Semillon. These wines are very delicious. Many folks up here do not like the modern and industrial look to the winery or even the young hip crowds that hang out here.

When we visited, the winemaker was the only one in the Andis tasting room. That should be a good thing, right? He was very unenthusiastic. And we were disappointed that we could not taste the recently-released 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion. He said: “I think they are even better than last year. Sorry but we will not pour those in the tasting room until the wine club shipment goes out.” Huh!

Borjon Winery
Borjon is a Mexican-owned winery that is gaining a rapid reputation for the quality of its wine. For the second year in a row, I have tried to connect with this winery so I could interview the owners or winemaker and do a blog posting. This year I left two email messages and voice mail. We never heard back from Borjon. What is up with that? Perhaps if I were Robert Parker or a writer from the Wine Spectator, I may have had a chance.

Overall the Amador wine country remains a relatively-undiscovered wine region of California. If you have not been to this wine region, plan a trip sometime in 2014. It will offer some really fun experiences for the wine country traveler.

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

2 thoughts on “Ups and Downs in Amador Wine Country”

  1. My wife and I have been visiting Amador for about 7 years and I have to agree with you on Andis and Borjon, and other “big new” places – they spend money on architecture but their prices are not representative of the area and quality is no better, and sometimes worse. We love Wilderotter, Dillian, Il Gioiello – great wine, great price points, fun environment. To you newbies – leave the attitude in Napa

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your ideas. Just to let you know, my local Safeway has been selling a ton of Il Gioiello Zinfandel. Currently, they have 2009 Amador Zin in the Burlingame store for $8.98 if you buy six, mix or match. A week ago they had the Morse Mourvedre for $12. I do very much like the Andis Semellion but I can easily do without all the rest of the atmosphere.

      Thanks, Joe

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