By Linda J. Bottjer

Ah… Amador. The mere mention of the county’s wine has oenophiles salivating. Known primarily for its big flavored Zinfandels and Barberas, the wines are grown and produced by mainly small family-run operations. Over 30 wineries can be found mostly in the rolling hills and valleys of the Shenandoah Valley, near the town of Plymouth. Easy-to-follow road signs mark the way to an Amador County wine adventure.

(credit: deavervineyard.com)

Deaver Vineyards
12455 Steiner Road
Plymouth, CA
(209) 245-4099
Hours: Daily 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m
www.deavervineyard.com

Bucolic perfectly describes this winery’s setting. Amazing is the word for their wines. Complete with picturesque barns, a tree lined pond and a quaint B&B a wine tasting here is a classic Northern California experience. Knowledgeable staff, with a smile, pours a diversity of wines ranging from the Rhône Valley inspired tropical fruit-tanged Viognier to the big reds. Their Barbera’s cherried flavor is matched by a leathery and mineral depth of flavor while pangs of pepper dance on the tongue of the Old Vine Zinfandel. Gnarled and twisted vines, planted by Ken Deaver’s ancestors in 1855, still produce quality wines.

(credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

Villa Toscano
10600 Shenandoah Road
Plymouth, CA
(209) 245-3800
Hours: Daily 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
www.villatoscano.com

Can’t afford a Tuscan vacation this year? Villa Toscano will take you there in wine and atmosphere. Their tasting room is grandiose with High vaulted arched ceilings, massive floral displays and a lush mural of Siena. Shenandoah Valley Old Vine Zin is a favorite to buy by the glass and enjoy it al fresco with a meal bought at the winery’s bistro.

(credit: Sobon Family Wines)

Sobon Estate
14430 Shenandoah Road
Plymouth, CA
(209) 245-4455
Open 9:30am – 5:00pm
www.sobonwine.com

Located on the former D’Agostini Winery a visit here features both fantastic wine sampling and time travel to Amador County’s gloried wine history. Their Cougar Hill Zinfandel delivers a hit of menthol atop huge blackberry jam flavor. From grapes grown in Fiddletown the Old Vine Zin massive stone fruit tastes tango with spicy notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. A separate museum houses three centuries of wine making artifacts including the original stone wine cellar created by Adam Uhlinger, a Swiss immigrant in the late 1850s. The Sobon family’s other winery – Shenandoah Vineyards is located nearby.

(credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

Cooper Wine and Vineyards
21365 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, CA
(209) 245-6181
Open: Thursday – Monday 11:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.
www.cooperwines.com

The Rhône Valley meets the Italian Piedmont with dedicated Californian expertise. Their Roussanne has refreshing citrus spikes perfect for shrimp and grits or chicken alfredo. Despite the density of flavors, from dark chocolate to cheeried and berried with savory spikes of vanilla never, is their Sangiovese is never chewy. It glides from tongue to gullet delivering pleasure all the way. Barbera is what Cooper is known for. Your nose will receive the first delight from the scent of black cheery that soon explode in the mouth with layers of nutmeg, blueberries and cocoa.

(credit: Terra D'Oro Winery)

Terra D’ Oro Winery
20680 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, CA
(209) 245-6942
Open: Daily 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
terradorowinery.com

Terra d’ oro means “land of gold” and there is wealth of wines here. Their Forte “Super Tuscan” blend is not for the feeble. Napa grown Cabernet Sauvignon coupled with Sangiovese grown in Amador County delivers a lush flavor of candied fruit with big cherry tastes and layered throughout with black pepper and spices like nutmeg. Six Zins are highlighted including the Deaver Vineyard 100 Year Old Vines. Dense flavors from summer to stone fruits to the dulcet tones of oak are the hallmarks of the wine. A stop here delivers two wineries at one location. Montevina Winery’s range of fermented grape offerings include Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio to Barbera and Merlot.

Linda Bottjer is a full time writer whose love of California wine leads her to many grape adventures. Her work can be found at www.words4sail.com.

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