It is said that one can grow wine in any location where a weed can grow (think of the Gruet, a wonderful sparkling wine from New Mexico), but in California, it just seems too easy. Holly’s mother in Santa Cruz has pear trees, persimmon trees and lemon trees that just seem to thrive without much attention.
Her brother’s house is blessed with huge bushes of rosemary everywhere. (Break out the lamb and a bottle of Cabernet!) At Price Chopper we have to pay $2.99 for a half dozen sprigs of rosemary in a plastic container. At her nephew’s former home in San Jose, the back yard was a foot deep in decaying oranges from a tree behind his house. What a pity that he didn’t like that delicious fruit.
Wines also do very nicely in California and not just in the well-known areas such as Sonoma and Napa. Question: Have you ever heard of any of the following wineries? Busby Cellars, Cantiga, Perry Creek, Single Leaf Vineyards, Skinner Vineyards or Windwalker Vineyards. Well neither had I until Holly’s brother took us on a tasting excursion through El Dorado County on our recent California trip. For the geographically curious, Placerville, the county seat of El Dorado County, is located about 40 miles east of Sacramento and most of the wineries are some 5 to 20 miles from Placerville in the surrounding hills. All of the wineries mentioned above are located in a zip code called Fair Play, which evokes the image of a mediocre theatrical performance or maybe just an inspirational American locale to call home, like Pleasantville or Cheerful Acres. All told there are well over 30 wineries in the county, located in Placerville, Camino, Somerset, plus the aforementioned Fair Play. The countryside is lush and verdant with rolling hills flanking both sides of the winding two lane roads. This makes for an exciting ride home after a day of tasting wines. On prior visits we had sampled the wines at Boeger (excellent Zins), Lava Cap (more great Zins) and Miraflores (award winning Zins and a terrific Syrah). On this trip we visited Perry Creek, a winery that produces most of the major varietals, including very nice Zins and Barberas that I ended up buying.
We also stopped at the modestly named Too Good Winery, that was actually not too bad, where we enjoyed our lunch washed down with a bottle of the winery’s tasty Zinfandel. The panoramic view from the winery’s hillside setting was lovely on this sunny and mild day.
Blessed with good soil, lots of sunshine and cool evenings, El Dorado County will see more wineries coming on line in the near future. Keep these wines on your radar, especially if you are a lover of Zinfandels.