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Discover The Sierra Foothills Wine Country

Like stepping out a time capsule from the Gold Rush of the 1850s, many of the very best things about the Sierra Foothills have stayed just the way they are.

Charming little 19th century towns still line the mountainous roads, Highway 49 still remains one of the most scenic drives of California, and wine is still a plenty. With copious amounts of adventure at every corner, these mountains are a haven for lovers of the outdoors. Whatever it is you fancy, visiting the Sierra Foothills is a promise of a grand ole hoot of a time!

What to Do In Gold Country

During the hot and sunny days of summer, locals and visitors make their way to the crystal clear waters of the South Yuba River. Like an aquatic playground, an entire day of fun can be had with the natural waterslides and underwater tunnels formed by the smooth granite boulders.   For those who’d prefer to stay on land, the majestic sight of the Sierra Buttes along the north end of Highway 49 is certainly

Rough and Ready California - Historic Gold Mining Town in the Sierra Nevada region

Rough and Ready California

one for the books. During the winter, its snowcapped craggy peaks gorgeously reflect over the glacially formed lake beneath it. Several hiking trails and serene waterfalls can be found surrounding the mountain. For the folks that want a little taste of the Gold Rush, a visit to the iconic town of Rough and Ready can offer the perfect fix. Honored as a California Historic Landmark, Rough and Ready visitors can explore some of the original structures like the blacksmith shop or the old toll house. And for even more cultural learning, visitors can experience the Cornish heritage of Grass Valley. For those that are in the area during December can also enjoy the Cornish Christmas Celebration every Friday night.

Also along the historic Hwy 49 between Auburn and Placerville is Colma, a piece of California Gold Rush history. Here a very fortunate sawmill employee named James Marshall first discovered this precious metal in the river’s silt. Visit the  Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park where you will find an interesting Gold Discovery Museum, and you can even try your hand at gold-panning.

Sierra Foothills Terrior

And to make this area even more exciting, there is wine! Not long after the California Gold Rush began, the locals realized that the miners needed something they could drink and wine grapes were introduced to the foothills. Now there are over 100 wineries here that continue to make utterly delicious wine!

Sierra Foothills Wine Regions of California map

Sierra Foothills Wine Regions of California

The designated wine AVAs are primarily divided throughout four counties. El Dorado County supplies the majority of the region’s wines. With vineyard sites up to 3,000 feet in altitude, international varieties take the reigns here including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Amador County is home to the prestigious AVAs of Shenandoah and Fiddletown which has some of California’s oldest plantings of Zinfandel. Some smaller productions of wine also take place in Nevada County to the north and Calaveras County to the south.

It is a well-known fact that when it comes to wines of the Sierras, the true king is Zinfandel. What many may not know is that this region is also nicknamed the “Piedmont” of California due to its great successes with Italian varietals such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, and even some Sangiovese. Some winemakers have also produced spectacular wines with northern and southern Rhone grape varietals such as Syrah, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Grenache.

The land is layered with soils of sandy clay loam and decomposed granite and receives an extremely low amount of rainfall. With incredibly wide diurnal temperate variations, sunny days can be as hot as the mid-90s and then drop down to as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night-time. The long ripening days that are cooled by the chilly night air result in wines that are ripe and tannic while retaining much of the grapes’ natural acidity. Hence why this area produces some of the most complex Zinfandel that can be found anywhere in the US!

Top Tasting Rooms: Gold Country

Renwood Winery –   12225 Steiner Road, Plymouth, California 95669

Stop by and visit this quaint tasting room in the heart of Amador County. Open seven days a week from 11:00am to 6:00pm, the tasting room offers several different flights of their wines to taste. While Zinfandel is Renwood’s flagship, the winery also features delicious white wines, Italian varietals, and dessert wines.

Solune Winery –   16303 Jewett Lane, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Located in the backyard of the charming and historic town of Grass Valley, Solune Winery is a perfect place for a sunny weekend. Open Saturday and Sunday from 12:00-5:00pm, the property has a peaceful picnic area for you to bring your lunch and enjoy some tasty wines!

Andis Wines –   11000 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, CA 95669

For a bit more of a glamorous wine experience, visit this 17,000 square foot state-of-the-art winery with a tasting room of large windows overlooking the vineyards. Visit this gorgeous facility any day of the week from 11:00am to 4:30pm.

Jodar Winery –   3405 Carson Court, Placerville, CA 95667

Amidst a breathtaking scene of pine trees and oak trees, Jodar offers tastings of their delightful wines including Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Italian reds, and much more! Stop by Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00am to 5:00pm.

Top Wine Picks: Sierra Foothills

Renwood Winery – 2011 Premier Old Vine Zinfandel   – Amador County –   $19.99

Winner of Gold at the 2015 SF Chronicle Tasting, it’s not hard to see why with this delicious bottle of wine. Dark berries pair well with the essences of mocha in a seamlessly bold Zin with a rich texture and hints of dusty minerality.

Sierra Vista Winery – 2013 Estate Viognier – El Dorado County –   $27.50

A very pretty yet hearty white wine. Blossoms of honeysuckle and rose rise from the glass while bright notes of apricots and orange blossoms decorate the palate alongside the wine’s round structure and vibrant acidity.

 Mountain View Winery – 2011 Clockspring Vineyard Zinfandel –   Amador County – $13

A perfect pairing for red meat, this single-vineyard Zinfandel exposes ripe aromas of plum and raspberry while the palate is firmed up with sturdy tannins and hints of baking spices, tobacco, and smoke.

 Avanguardia Wines – 2010 Premiato – Nevada County – $24

An elegant red blend of two Italian varietals, the Barbera gives the wine its plump red berries, soft texture, and lively acidity while the Dolcetto beefs up the tannins and offers notes of darker fruit. Avanguardia wines can be enjoyed at their tasting room in Grass Valley.

Where To Stay in Gold Country

 Outside Inn – 575 East Broad Street, Nevada City, CA 95959

A charming boutique hotel in a quiet neighborhood of Nevada City that features uniquely themed guestrooms.

Cary House Historic Hotel – 300 Main Street, Placerville, CA 95667

Centered in downtown Placerville, this mid-19th century hotel has hosted famous guests such as Mark Twain and Elvis Presley.

Shenandoah Inn –   17674 Village Drive, Plymouth, California, CA 95669

Offering luxurious rooms, swimming pool, and beautiful views of the soft rolling hills of the Sierra Foothills.

The Holbrooke Hotel –   212 West Main Street, Grass Valley, CA 95945

This landmark hotel was built in 1851 to accommodate eager gold miners and even hosted several US presidents such as Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, James A. Garfield, and Grover Cleveland.

Where to Eat In Gold Country


 Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co –   211 Commercial Street, Nevada City, CA 95959

A perfect brunch spot serving craft beer from their on-site brewhouse, local wines, artisan breads, and freshly prepared bites.

Cirino’s at Main Street –   213 West Main Street, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Enjoy a lovely dinner featuring Mediterranean fare made from fresh local ingredients.

The Independent – 629 Main Street, Placerville, CA 95667

A delicious dining destination featuring American fusion and handcrafted specialty cocktails.

Taste Restaurant –   9402 Main Street, Plymouth, CA 95669

Offering fine dining that features a seasonal menu and an exquisite list of both domestic and international wines.

Cafe Mahjaic – 1006 Lotus Rd, Lotus, CA 95651

A local favorite with all food, sauces and breads are made from scratch using naturally raised organic meats and grains. They also feature some local wineries. Highly rated…

No matter if you chose our “top picks” or you find some of your own, the Sierra Nevada Foothills and Gold Country will fill you full of fresh air, please the palate and tantalize your wine taste buds.

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About The Author
Julie Albin
Julie Albin is a wine and spirits writer based in San Francisco and is currently the Editor-in-Chief for Drink Me Magazine. Her work has also been published in Whisky Advocate, Grape Collective, SOMA Magazine, Wine Geographic, Connoisseur Magazine, 2Paragraphs, etc. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine and has also completed her WSET Diploma. To further her expertise in the industry, Julie has spent much time in Europe meeting with winemakers and distillers to learn about their stories.

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