Wine & Travel

Snooth User: napagirl68

Amador County this weekend!

Posted by napagirl68, Aug 30, 2012.

Well, I am headed back up to Amador County (plymouth, ca)  for wine tasting after several years.  It is not my first choice in wine regions, but a friend wants to visit.   I see, that in my absence, that several new wineries have popped up there.... and it is not still all Zin and Viogner.  I was doing some research, and it appears there are more producers of Tempranillo, Barbera, (which did exist there in the past) and some newer additions of the Rhones as well (Mourvedre, Carignan, Roussanne).   I am hoping to find some winners, and not overripe, overdone offerings.   I will post pix and notes when I get back.  Any suggestions?   Some of the newer wineries  I have not yet visited are Andis, Convergence, Helwig, and Wilderotter.  I am going to try to get to these, as well as some old favs, namely Easton/Terre Rouge, CG di Airie, and Dobra Zemlja.


Reply by JonDerry, Aug 30, 2012.

Awesome NG, apparently this is a region not to be ignored, so I'll look forward to your report.

I hear more and more about Amador...signed up for the Keplinger mailing list a while back and am now ready to buy a couple bottles of her wine sourced from Amador County (Sierra Foothills).

Also, from that pic OT posted regarding that 2012 Mourvedre from Amador...something tells me I'll definitely be buying some that in a couple years.

Reply by outthere, Aug 30, 2012.

Turley recently bought Karly Wines up in Plymouth. Not sure if the tasting room will be done in time for your visit though?

Reply by EMark, Aug 30, 2012.

i am looking forward to your report, Napagirl.  There are not too many people who call Gold Country their favorite wine region, but as Jon indicates the wine and the pricing cannot be ignored. 

I am unfamiliar with many of the wineries you mentioned, and one, in particular, intrigues me, Dobra Zemlja.  You do don't see much Slavic in California winery names.  Grgich-Hills and what else?  If you do visit them, I, very much, look forward to that report.

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 31, 2012.

@ Outthere-  wow, didn't know that about karly.. will investigate further.


@ EMark...Dobra Zemlja has been a fav of ours for more than 10+years.   I was also surprised to find their wine in the Wine Garage in Calistoga, CA about 7yrs ago.  I was told that the owner of Wine Garage (Todd) was a fan, and had visited Dobra.   I have found Dobra to be amazing at times and less pleasing at times.  His red blend typically ROCKS... and you can refill jugs. :-)  But can be hit or miss.  Syrah has rocked in the past.... will let you know what is like now. 

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 31, 2012.

Easton/Terre Rouge is on my list to visit--love their wines and have emailed them for a while. 

What about Sobon? A real pioneer in the area. 

CG di Arie sells a lot of wine at Wine Mine, or did in the past.  The founder often comes down to the store to put on tastings.  They have gotten on the map now and I see the wines in other stores and on resto lists now.  You spotted them early.

I'm going to wine country myself, but to visit family, so I don't think I'll be doing any tastings.  But I do plan to see a fellow Snoother and pick up a few bottles he's got for me.


Reply by EMark, Aug 31, 2012.

"I'm going to Amador County, this weekend." 

" I'm going to wine country myself, this weekend."

Blah, blah blah.

I'm painting my mom's house, this weekend.

Of course, you realize it does take a certain skill and talent to paint walls properly.  Not just anybody can do it.  No, no, don't start begging, I can't allow anybody to just go in and do it for me.

Love C.G. Di Arie wines--very good wines at very reasonable prices.  I suspect that most people on this board are aware of my Zinfandel prejudice, and, while I like the Di Arie Zin, I was really blown away by their Barbera and Petite Sirah.  

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 31, 2012.

EMark, I spent quite a bit of time last weekend painting my back door that was replaced after the house was broken into a while back.  Then my younger daughter asked if she could do it, and, boy, was my aching back relieved!

Keep in mind that when I make my trip to wine country, I'm going to be in OT's backyard (perhaps literally) because that lucky man lives and works right in the middle of the best wine growing area in the States, if not the world.  Jealousy is unattractive but sometimes unavoidable.

Another good Amador winery, but much bigger and I suspect owned by some corporate entity, is Montevina.  They, too, make Zin, but again it's the Barbera--cheaper than Italy, and very tasty--that I really like.  I suspect that sangiovese, barbera, and maybe dolcetto would all do well in parts of Amador County and the Sierra foothills. 

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 31, 2012.

Another Amador County winery I've recently heard good things about is Skinner

Kind of reminds me of Jaffurs - Recognized by a legit publication (ST) in this case, with ratings hovering around 90 and with very reasonable pricing.

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 31, 2012.

Thanks everyone and THANKS JD!  I am hitting skinner for sure....  a bit up the road, but will have to try to get there for sure.

EMark... I love painting.  I do all of our interior painting.  The only thing I don't do well, and make hubby do, is the taping off.   LOL...  if you gave me wine, I would paint!  I paint best with wine!  Last spring, I painted my fireplace great room 3 times!  It was a challenging room light exposure-wise, and I was unhappy with the first two colors.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 1, 2012.

JD thanks for that reco on Skinner.  When stuff calms down from your big event, come up here and we can road trip that direction.  I see lots of Mourvedre in my future, maybe yours.  I ought to get to know Grenache Blanc a bit more, too. 

Reply by JonDerry, Sep 1, 2012.

Sounds like a plan Fox, yes that Skinner estate Mourvedre caught my eye in particular...looking forward to your findings NG!

Reply by EMark, Sep 1, 2012.

You're sweet, NG.  I would be happy to trade wine for labor, but it sounds like you have a much more critical eye than I need, here.  The plan is to repair some walls and slap some paint on them.  The color is going to be something very close to white.

Have a good weekend.  We are all very enthusiastic about getting your report back.

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 4, 2012.

Hi all,

Here is my report on Amador tasting... trying to bring it all together here before turning in for the night.

Amador County has never been 'high" on my list of favorite regions.  I am a RRV/ Sonoma pinot/ sauv blanc girl, and Amador is typically huge zins and barberas, which tend to be "anti" everything I like.  But I also can usually find wine I love in almost every region, and thought I need to stop being so Pinot-centric!

So off I went with a friend or two in tow.  I do have historical faves in the area, but wanted to see the newcomers as well.   I was hopeful on the mourvedre, but did not find any of a style I like (more cool weather, white pepper is to my taste- Anglim is my fav).

We ended up skipping a few old faves, like Terre Rouge/Easton, because of time (too bad for me!).  But the good news is I did discover some new favorites, and even made it up to Skinner ( in Fairplay, CA, about 15-20min northeast of Amador).  Only one disappointment:  Helwig vineyards.  The outside grounds were nicely done and attractive, but tasting room was like a square dancing hoe-down.  Servers were distracted and not informed when asked questions.  Wines were pedestrian... I mean really? fruit from Suisun Valley (aka Fairfield area) with so much potential in Amador/El Dorado?  I got a weird vibe here.  No purchases here on my part.

All the Amador wines were moderate to high in ETOH... ~ 14-15% (no surprise).  But this did not detract from wine quality with proper winemaking.  I think I still favor Paso Robles for Zins/Syrahs/ Rhone varietals over Amador.  But there were some good showings, and we had a great time.

Wilderotter Winery-



Nice tasting list here, many whites and many reds.  Very friendly service.  Also a few wines from Napa/RRV on the list.  My faves at Wilderotter- wines I bought:

2010 Estate Viognier-$25.95

Pricey IMO for a Viognier. Not as floral as most viogniers, but still exhibiting honeysuckle, pear, and citrus.  More amicable to pairing with food than othe rCalifornia viogniers I've tasted.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc - $17.95
This hits me with flavors of lemon custard or lemon verbena creme brulee (think lemon with a teeny bit of toastiness and burnt caramel).  Nice, and a bit different than most SBs you'll encounter. Not overdone on the grapefruit.  Almost reminds me of some of the CA central inland coastal Chardonnays..

2009 Estate Barbera - $27.95  Big cherry on this Barbera, along with mocha, an earthiness, and  a very light spice finish.  I liked this Barbera very much, but it was not my fav Barbera of the day.

2008 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $35.95
Yes, I said Napa.  The fruit is from Rutherford, and how interesting to get the spin of an Amador Cty winemaker on Napa fruit!  Vanilla, dust, toast, deep black fruit, and give it a few seconds, more nuances come forth... some deep red fruit, tobacco, and minerality.  YES, I bought a Napa Cab in Amador... sue me!!!!

C.G. DiArie winery:

A previous  fav for us... they pour only a few of their wines for tastings now, so I think we did not experience the full potential of this winery, as we had in the past.  Fortunately they had the Verdelho opened and let me try it... yum!  CG di Arie has lovely picnic grounds (see pix above) with a nice pond that is not well seen in the photo.  Winemaker/owner Chaim Gur-Arieh is an inventor of popular flavors, and holds the patent on several trademark faves such as Captain Crunch!  Again, the list of wines available was much bigger than what was to offer, or perhaps I would have liked more wines.

This is what I liked/bought:

2009 Verdelho, Shenandoah Valley, CA  $18   I LOVE this Verdelho, and of the limited tasting I had here on this occasion, I rate it the best white of the day.  It is floral on the nose, with layers of pineapple, melon, all the while exhibiting a dryness and acidity that balances the fruit superbly.  Minerality rounds this wine out.  I could do this as a sipping wine, sans food, or pair with food.  This wine has nice structure.

2008 Sierra Legend, Estate - $35   This is a blend of Syrah, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, and Primitivo (zin).  I get coffee first, followed by ripe, cooked berry.  Earthiness rounds this wine out nicely.  I find this to be a lush, smooth, easy drinking wine with lots of character.  Excellent food wine.  Best red blend of the day.

Andis Wines:


So overall, I loved Andis wines best of day.  The Barbera was my fave of all the wineries I visited overall.  The sauv blanc is in the style that I am used to.  Very modern building- some of the older wineries call it the "airplane hanger" LOL!  The airplaine hanger is doing a good job.

Here's what I bought:

2011 Sauvignon Blanc - $19
This Sauv Blanc matched my palate-style more than any other.  Big white stonefruit upfront, a bit of apple and orange blossom.  And a nice acidic finish.  Scored 93pts on Wine Enthusiast.

2010 Cooper Ranch Barbara - $28  In California's Barbera country, this Barbera was my favorite overall.  Of course, because one of the flavors I got was white pepper. Along with red currant, cherries, and a bit of mocha and floral to round out.  LOVE, LOVE this Barbera.  Bought mucho!


Helwig  winery.... as I said, not happy with the wine or experience, but here are some pix of the outside, which I found nicely done.  My buddy is in one pix, enjoying his time in Amador...




After Helwig, we decided to leave Amador and go up to Skinner in Fairplay, which had highly recommended wines.  The property is GORGEOUS, and I could have just come here and spent the day on the deck drinking and noshing.  The wines were very good....but  my palate was fading from too many tastings, so I am hesitant  to say I didn't like certain wines. But I did not go crazy for the Mourvedre :-(..    Tasting room experience very pleasureable, and deck was killer.  Grenache ruled here :-)...

Skinner Winery (Fairplay, CA):


2009 El Dorado Grenache - $26
This was the best Grenache tasted on this trip.  Baked cherry and big spice (ground coriander, cardamom, nutmeg) were the players here.  And this was a complex wine, does not finish quickly- Layers of flavors here.  Highly recommend.

Shenandoah Vineyards (Sobon Family Vineyard collection):  An old fav... Shenandoah Vineyards and Sobon Estates are owned by the same family and share the same winemaker, Paul Sobon.  I do like to visit Sobon, but also like the Shendandoah tasting room... there is a tiny gallery to enjoy, and the wines poured here are different from Sobon.  I believe there are more ports at Sobon, and a farm equipment museum. 

Here were my favs....

2010 Amador Cty Zingiovese - $16
50/50 Zin/Sangio. I didn't want to like this, but I do. Getting cherry/coffee off the sangio, and a deeper purple fruit off the zin. Chocolate/Mocha seems to be a theme with the reds up here, and that is present in a dark chocolate dusting at the end of this wine. Think black forest cake :-). But a good finish that wraps up quickly, without too much sweetness left behind. A fun wine, not too serious...this is a great BBQ wine.

2009 Amador Cty Rezerve Paul's Vineyard Zinfandel - $24
From vines planted in 1923, this has been my fav zin over the years from Amador Cty.  And as you all may know, I am not a zin person as a rule.  I am never disappointed by the several vintages of Paul's Vineyard that i have had, including one in a large format jeroboam (double magnum).  If you don't know this, larger formats age very nicely... even this big zin did!  

 This old vine zin is loaded with cooked plum, mulberry and chocolate, with a tad bit of pepper to perk up those jammy fruits.  Although zins are thought to be BBQ wines, I would serve this with a step up the food chain.. braised pork shoulder or duck.  It deserves a great pairing.

Dobra Zemlja-

 I have loved Dobra in the past.   My hubby still loves Dobra.  My palate was overloaded at this point,  and not to be relied upon. So I am deferring to hubby's review, which 50% time I disagree with.  Below is his take:

2009 Amador Syrah -  my hubby's description- green/black pepper, blackberries, tad tobacco.  I did not get this myself, but I was overdone.

2009 Amador Zinfandel - again my hubby's description - smoother, cooked blackberry, some pepper, a bit of cooked plum.

Overall, a very fun visit!  I would go back and try some others, old and new.  Sonoma/France is still my fave areas tho...  

Many of the wineries have wisely begun offering food options (in the past, you had to bring).  Pizza, mex food truck, cheeses are to be found now.

Reply by JonDerry, Sep 4, 2012.

Wow, you did a lot...sounds like a great time.

Thanks for the lightning quick report, those alcohol levels seem reasonable for CA.

It's crazy to think two of the most sought after California wines push their alcohol levels routinely towards 16% In that context, 14-15% seems moderate.

also glad Skinner came through for you, I see that Grenache in my future, and the great thing is it won't break the bank ; )

Reply by outthere, Sep 4, 2012.

Nice job NG!  Looks like it was a productive visit. As for Fairfield/Suisun goes that's where Abe Schoener gets the bulk of his fruit for the Scholium Project. Might not be as memorable a location but the fruit is unmistakebly good.

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 4, 2012.

OT- I didn't realize that about Scholium...   maybe says a lot about the talent of the winemaker! LOL!  But seriously, I have tasted some wines from that region, and did not care for them.  Maybe I will have to re-think/re-visit  this.

JD- yes, 14-15% isn't crazy high- many of the paso wines I like are up around 16%, but I don't taste the alcohol.  Many of the pinots and sauv blancs I typically drink are in the 13-13.5% range, so 14-15% seemed a bit high for me (especially on the whites).

Reply by EMark, Sep 5, 2012.

NG, thank you for the report.  Very interesting, and it looks like you found several winners.

I'm still on the painting project.  Totally sucks.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 5, 2012.

I've had a Zin/Sangio blend also called zingiovese from a winery down towards Santa Barbara; it tastes exactly as you think it should, a wine that goes great with barbecue/grilled food.  Seems like a better use for Sangio than most California Sangios, which have ofttimes disappointed me.

I thought those Barbera prices seemed a bit high.  I'm going to try the Grenache at Skinner if I get up there with JD or otherwise, and I'm going to make my own call on that mourvedre.  I'd love to know where Jade Mountain got the mourvedre they used in their wines, both the varietal bottling and the old Provencale blend. Obviously people are growing it up that way, and it's also done very nicely in the blends from Terre Rouge.  I'm evangelizing for the grape on its own and in blends these days--wish there was more of it around.

An ambitious trip, thanks for all the notes. 

Back to Categories

Top Contributors This Month

127503 Snooth User: rckr1951
33 posts
847804 Snooth User: EMark
26 posts
472290 Snooth User: jackwerickson
13 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network