Diners seated in what used to be the Frasinetti's east cellar sate themselves on handcrafted Italian lunch and dinner dishes, surrounded by huge vats evoking the 112-year-old winery’s storied past. Dinners commence with starters such as crostini slathered in grilled brie and red-pepper chutney ($10) or steamed clams in white-wine sauce ($9). Next, certified non-android servers bring out entrees such as seafood manicotti, a mix of salmon, scallops, and crab packed in pasta ($15). Pine-nut-gorgonzola butter adds a zesty twist to the 12-ounce center-cut prime rib ($25), and the regal Atlantic salmon rests on a bed of mushroom risotto ($19), like an eccentric rice baron.
In high school, Scott Harvey—an exchange student from California living in the Rheinland-Pfalz region of Germany—discovered a new passion: winemaking. The interest soon led him back to Germany to serve as an apprentice, and at the tender age of 23, Scott took over as head winemaker for a vineyard back home. After working at several Californian wineries honing and perfecting his skills, the vintner wunderkind began to craft his own vintages alongside his wife, Jana, also a wine-industry vet. Since 2004, the couple has expanded its portfolio into three collections of namesake wines: Scott Harvey, reflecting the fertile terroir of Amador County; Jana, bottled amid Napa Valley's grape-juice rivers; and InZINerator and One Last Kiss, blends of red and white varietals, respectively.
Two friendly dogs, Bailey and Kali, are the first representatives of Amador Cellars that visitors might encounter. The canines often trot alongside guests from the winery's parking lot to the door of its tasting room. There, members of the Long family take over, pouring glasses of wine crafted from small crops of grapes and aged in oak barrels for up to 20 months. Selections range from a 2009 sangiovese that carries hints of chocolate and cherry to a 2010 barbera with notes of plum and coffee. However, the winery is best known for their annual zinfandel yield, which has earned them awards in the Best of the Bay's Zin Challenge.
The Longs also lead groups on tours of their winery, explaining the unique construction of its 2-foot-thick concrete-and-straw walls, built following blueprints from Edgar Allen Poe's “The Cask of Amontillado.” Intentionally rusted rooftops and views of rolling vineyards enhance the quaint Old-World aesthetic of the grounds.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains don’t just make for beautiful vistas—their lower slopes also play host to some of the region’s best grapes. Winery by the Creek and Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards, nestled in the foothills, harvests the vines and transforms them into nuanced, award winning varietals, such as Black Muscat. The winery plays host to a slew of other regional wines as well, including Splashdown’s Zinfandels and Charles B. Mitchell’s award-winning grand reserve. As Dionysian evangelists, the winery’s staff hosts tasting events, many of which are held on the patio by the creek that overlooks the mountains. For a peek behind the scenes, you can spelunk into the onsite wine cave where the wines are aged. There, you can sip their way through candle-lit futures tastings, sampling up-and-coming wines right from the barrel.
The Sierra Nevada foothills have been tilled since the time of the gold rush, but its thin soil allows only the heartiest grapevines to thrive. But when they grow, the grapes there produce powerful wines full of intense flavors. The staff at Auriga Wine Cellars specialize in reds, which range from the peppery, black cherry notes of their Barbera to a double-gold-award-winning shiraz-and-syrah blend aged for one year in French and American oak. They complement these robust offerings with their small-batch sparkling wine and their sangiovese, which tastes of slightly spicy raspberries and strawberries with a hint of basil, thyme, and sage. They sell their vintages by the bottle, but the shop’s wine club delivers bottles to aficionados three times a year, letting them try out new vintages or spend more frustrating evenings trying to squeeze a model ship inside them.
Jack Russell Brewing's artful brewmasters craft premium ales and lagers inside their English farm–style brewery in the heart of the Apple Hill region. Savor the elegance of Jack Russell’s smooth-drinking brews from the comfort of at-home digs with a portable half-gallon growler filled with 64 ounces of the brewery's signature suds. Tipplers select their inaugural fill-up from a range of brews that, like the slowest county-fair Ferris wheel ever, rotate seasonally, saluting the hoppy bite of the Captain Boomer's IPA, fortifying insides with the hearty oatmeal stout, or choosing from a taster’s choice of cyclical options, which may include Harvest Apple ale, Huntsman lager, and more. Groupon customers can call ahead for forecasts about beers are currently on tap. Each growler arrives branded with the Jack Russell logo and cut from clear glass, allowing customers to admire each beer's color, texture, and bioluminescence.