El Dorado County benefits from hundreds of microclimates, from 1,200 to 3,500 feet, nearly 50 varieties of grapes, and dozens of artisan winemakers with a passion for experimenting. The mountain vineyards, with their warm summer days and cool nights, give El Dorado wines their intense flavours and deep colours. Cooling breezes off the Sierra Nevada and the mountainous topography creates a diversity of microclimates and growing conditions not found in other valley regions. The top varieties grown are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Petite Syrah.
This is one of California’s oldest wine-producing areas, with vineyards and wineries flourishing during the Gold Rush era, and then a renaissance in the growth of premium vineyards began a century later in the 1970’s.
Boeger Winery. Producing wine since 1972, Boeger is committed to quality and pushing the boundaries of winemaking. Greg Boeger was one of the state’s first producers of a varietal Merlot when it was virtually unheard of in California. Today he is a pioneer of innovative blends, drawing from over 30 varieties of grapes grown on the estate. Greg & Sue Boeger’s son Justin is the winemaker, and daughter Lexi designs the wine labels as well as teaching yarn spinning on site. If she’s around you can take a look inside the studio, and there’s also a blacksmith next door who creates art and home accessories. There’s complementary wine tasting in the beautiful tasting room. The grounds include patios, a redwood grove, stream, pond, park and a historic 1872 wine cellar. Open daily 10-5. 1709 Carson Road, Placerville www.boegerwinery.com
Lava Cap Winery.Owned and run by the Jones family since 1981, the vineyards are situated on volcanic soil, hence the name. The soil grows fine wine grapes with smooth character and elegant textures. Since its start in 1981, Lava Cap has been owned and run by the Jones family. David and Jeanne Jones recruited sons Tom and Charlie to join in with turning an old pear orchard into a new winery. They use sustainable practices, Charlie manages the growth of the vines, and Tom is the artisan winemaker. Tasting room open daily. 2221 Fruitridge Road. www.lavacap.com
Madroña. This is a family owned and operated winery that has always been very environmentally forward thinking, and the Bush family make wines that are a pure and balanced expression of the land and of the varietals deliberately selected to thrive on the three vineyard properties. The mountain elevation of the vineyards offers perfect growing conditions for the wide range of Rhone and Bordeaux varietals grown here. Well-drained soil and mild temperatures all year round produces grapes with mild acidity and optimal maturity. The winery and tasting room sits in the shade of cedar and pine trees, with views of the Coastal Range to the west and the Sierra Nevada’s Crystal Range to the east. Visitors may walk around the vineyards, so take a walk down to the Madrona tree after which the winery is named. Winemaker Paul Bush has a skill for pairing wines with obscure food dishes – for example the Dry Reisling goes well with BBQ scallop wrapped in bacon. Madrona also produces some excellent New World Port. Tasting room open daily, tours by appointment. 2560 High Hill Road. Tel.: +1 530 644 5948. www.madronavineyards.com
Boa Vista Orchards. A fourth generation family farm, and the Apple Barn and Bakery is open all year round. Try the fresh apple turnovers and some apple wine, and there’s also fresh fruit, vegetables, bakery, apple cider, red wines, port, honey, olives, picnic area, deli, arts and crafts. The picnic area has great views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Open daily 9-5. 2952 Carson Road.
Miraflores Winery. The winery is situated between 2,500 and 3,000 feet and of the 254 acre estate, only 40 acres are planted with grapes, with the majority of the property left alone to maintain the natural beauty of pine trees, native California oaks and wild flowers. Winemaker Marco Cappelli is both artist and technician, utilising new and old school practices. The credo at Miraflores is ‘Allow the terroir to express itself’, and the wines are well-balanced, varietally expressive and reflect the unique terroir of the vineyards. Nestled in a quiet canyon, the Mediterranean-inspired tasting room overlooking the estate vineyards is inspired by 16th century Provencal countryside. Miraflores crafts balanced new world wines including an excellent and refreshing Pinot Grigio, and a delicate and floral Viognier. The 2008 Zinfandel and 2005 Syrah are also exceptional. Open daily. 2120 Four Springs Trail, Placerville www.mirafloreswinery.com
Saluti Cellars. Distinctive hand-crafted wines surrounded by the beautifully landscaped grounds. If possible, take a tour inside the cave. The new tasting room is open Fri-Sun or by appointment. 7505 Grizzly Flat Road, Somerset. www.saluticellars.com
Gold Vine Grill. Upscale wine country restaurant serving fine Californian cuisine and locally grown organic produce. Dishes are imaginative and flavourful, including an excellent starter of sesame crusted seared Ahi tuna, and an entree of macadamia crusted mahi mahi. The wine list specialises in local foothill wines. 6028 Grizzly Flat Road, Somerset. Tel.: +1 530 626 4042.www.goldvinegrill.com
Skinner Vineyards & Winery
One of the best views in the Sierra Foothills. The tasting room sits on top of the vineyards at 2,500 feet, with 360 degree views all around. The patio space, complete with outdoor kitchen and pizza oven, is the best place to soak up the sun, or enjoy the fireplaces in winter or cool evenings. The Viognier is fermented and aged in a combination of new, used and stainless steel barrels. It’s a great summer wine, and is bright and refreshing with peach aromas. The red blend Eighteen Sixty-One is excellent, a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah and patterned after the wines of the Southern Rhone. It’s a complex blend, with dark berry aromas and Asian spice. Tasting room open on Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun. 8054 Fairplay Road. www.skinnervineyards.com
Bocconato Trattoria. Authentic North Italian cuisine, customised ‘slow food’ menus using local, seasonal ingredients. It’s not unusual to see the chef walking out of the restaurant to pick herbs. There are no menus, and the food is often made to meet the patron’s individual tastes and can even be made to pair with a wine they have brought. 7915 Fairplay Road. Tel.: +1 530 620 2492. www.bocconato.com