I am pleased to bring you a three-part series on the (largely) undiscovered joys of the growing wine industry of El Dorado County. No one disputes the importance and glamour of Napa and Sonoma for putting California on the worldwide map in terms of top quality wine production. With their fertile soil, soft ocean breezes and protected valley floors, the pioneers of Napa and Sonoma raised California to a winemaking competitor equal to France and Germany in a relatively short time.
Yet, there is always room for more fabulous wine! El Dorado County is among the young wine making areas popping up all over the world.
What makes El Dorado wines so unique and exciting? El Dorado County is literally California’s Gold Country. As the crow flies, it lies directly to the west of Lake Tahoe near Placerville, and is the stuff of legend. Gold and silver rushers, Native Americans, hot springs and 19th century bandits and celebrities all contributed to the history of this unique area. (One of El Dorado’s four wine areas is called “Fair Play.” Some day I’ll get to the story behind that one!) Today El Dorado is one of the fastest growing counties in California, and for good reason.
First of all, it isn’t your typical terroir. El Dorado stands tall, at elevations ranging from 1,200 to 3,500 feet. Vineyards are often terraced on steep slopes, reminiscent of German river wineries, but without the ubiquitous damp mists. The extreme dry heats and cold winters are perfect for strengthening grape plants in El Dorado, and thousands of microclimates and soil types create wines that are so varied and so delightfully unique, it’s almost like tasting wine from different countries only a short drive away!
Because of its relatively recent entry into the wonderful world of wine, El Dorado vintners and winery managers incorporate the latest science and farming techniques without expensive retrofits or redesigns. One growing technique used is called “quartering,” where vines are trained in four directions, filling out a more rounded space, versus being trained on a flat trellis row.
Over the next few weeks, join me for an in depth tour of the four El Dorado Wine Appellations: Fair Play, Pleasant Valley, Greater El Dorado and Apple Hill/Camino.
If you have a chance to drive up to Fair Play this weekend, they’re having their annual Fair Play Festival, with all kinds of wines to sample.
If you are familiar with El Dorado County wines, please share your experiences here.