Wine Country Itinerary: Amador County

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By Robert P. Farmer

Forty-five minutes east of Sacramento is Amador County, where once upon a time people rushed in for gold, but today they slow down for wine. Amador County, part of California's Gold Country foothills, has emerged as an important wine-producing region, a reputation rooted largely in zinfandel and more specifically in the old-vine style of the varietal. Of the more than two dozen wineries located along Highway 49 between highways 50 and 88, most are family-owned and operated and all offer casual, friendly atmospheres for getting to know their wines. Amador wineries do not charge for tastings, but many are only open a few days a week--usually Fri-Sun. Call ahead to confirm.
Stop 1: Amador Cellars
The winery facility itself is an interesting story at Amador Cellars. Built in 2003, the simplicity of the barnlike structure belies a building technique that employed rice straw and concrete to impart its of-the-earth look and feel. Indeed the very heart of the winery--stainless steel vats and oak barrels--comprise the décor of the tasting room, placing visitors in close proximity to the wines they are tasting; an array of zippy zins and some solid chards.
Tasting Room: Open Fri-Sun noon-5pm., 11093 Shenandoah Rd, Plymouth; 209-245-6150
Tasting Fee: None

Stop 2: Shenandoah Vineyardss
Established in 1977 by the Sobon family with the goal of making the finest of wines from the grapes that grow best in the foothills. All grapes are 100% estate and organically grown, and are produced and bottled on the premises. These medal-winning wines are recognized nationwide for their quality and affordability. A professional art gallery on the premises features contemporary art and ceramics. Come and meet the family and their knowledgeable, friendly staff.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10am-5pm, 12300 Steiner Rd, Plymouth; 209-245-4455
Tasting Fee: None

Stop 3: Cooper Vineyards
One of the must-stops in Amador, Cooper vineyards is a wine-appreciators Valhalla, because the full operation can be observed in a single visit. The cozy tasting room is small enough to allow visitors to see from vineyards to one side and winemaking equipment to the other--all from the perch at the tasting counter. Cooper's friendly, small-time charm is counter to its ambition, bottling some 15 varietals--including award winning zinfandel, and an impressive cabernet along with such inventive surprises as orange Muscat.
Tasting Room: Open Fri-Sun, 11am-5pm, 21365 Shenandoah School Rd, Plymouth, 209-245-6181
Tasting Fee: None

Stop 4: Montevina Vineyards
Fridays to Sundays at harvest time, Montevina Vineyards offers tours of the vineyards and production facilities twice a day that last about a half hour each and usually include about 15 people. It's a hands-on experience, allowing guests to take part in everything from picking fruit to tossing into the hopper for crush. Located at the ridge to Shenandoah Valley, the winery's signature zins remain the claim to Montevina fame, but several other varietals produced here are worth exploring and can be discovered in the friendly tasting room. If it's being poured, be sure not to miss the limited-release Terra d'Oro zinfandel, whose grapes are from hundred-year-old vines.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10am-4:30pm, 20680 Shenandoah School Rd, Plymouth, 209-245-6942
Tasting Fee: None

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Great tourest area lots to do and see with the new winerys and all in the Plymouth, Amador County area

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