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.
What began as Mike Owen's small winemaking venture in a private basement in 1981 blossomed into a full-scale commercial operation by 2000. Under the name Crystal Basin Cellars, Mike and the team have continued to rely on the principles that helped them grow: they source all their grapes from local vineyards, and work with a team of part-time but dedicated wine enthusiasts. Their efforts have won them numerous accolades at the California State Fair, including a double-gold award for Best Syrah in 2013.
Just next door to the independent winery, unassumingly housed inside a former Chevron gas station, is Crystal Basin Bistro. Warm, earth-toned interiors surround patrons with quirky design elements such as a giant metal spoon, spatula, and whisk hung from the ceiling, and an outdoor patio lets them soak up the sun or practice bald-eagle calls. Internationally influenced shared plates such as carnitas tacos, Russian cheese bread, and Asian-style pork dumplings pair with the winery's renowned private-label and bistro wines, some with names inspired by jazz-age references in pop culture. Regularly, the bistro and winery explode with live-music events such as the summer concert series. From May to October, the lawn fills with music from local and nationally recognized acts such as Laurie Morvan, Ronnie Montrose Band Remembered, and the Styx tribute band Renegade Rocks.
Within the idyllic Garden Valley pastures gorgeously flanked by forested hills and rippling freshwater lakes, the Lacey family has created a picturesque haven for horses and their owners, offering comfortable boarding options, disease inoculations, premium grooming services, and riding lessons. The Laceys are themselves accomplished riders, carrying on the tradition of the family matriarch and original ranch owner Murrel Lacey, who held many national championships and equestrian accolades. They pass on this collective wisdom during private lessons and intensive one-week riding camps, where they and their skilled instructors introduce budding riders to a pantheon of styles—including Western Pleasure, Reining, English, and Country Pleasure—atop Sport, Friesian, and Arabian horses.
Wofford Acres Vineyards is a small family estate winery in the Sierra foothills near Placerville (member of the Apple Hill Growers Association). We opened the Sales Room for business in October 2003 and each year brings a new set of challenges and rewards to winery ownership. Paul Wofford is our winemaker, with 36 years in
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.