Wine Tasting in Amador
Amador is by far the favorite region of mine to go wine tasting. Now, there are so many regions in California to choose from, Napa being the most popular. But if you are interested in saving money for wine and not blowing a lot on the tasting fees, The Sierra Foothills are a good place to go.
My experience with Amador wines did not start with expertise. The first time I went was on an anniversary trip with my wife in 2007, our first one to be exact. We did the smart thing by renting a limo to take us to several wineries. We had no idea where to go so we selected, I think, 5 at random. Obviously, you can only go to places that can accommodate limos and busses. Every winery we went to that day was friendly and easy to talk to about their wines. But, not knowing much, I didn’t know what to ask. I knew nothing about swirling, what to smell for, what to look for, and what to experience when tasting. All I knew was that if it tasted REALLY good going down, it must be worth buying a bottle. That day, looking back, because of our inexperience, we didn’t know when our taste buds were shot or when we needed to say “enough is enough”. We only cared about one thing: drinking wine.
After about a year from this trip, we signed up for our first wine club. It was pretty simple, 2 bottles a quarter. The winery had a nice picnic area on a hilltop and would have live music for their member events. We eventually had to cancel our membership because we both were laid off from our jobs and needed to cut unnecessary expenses. We were sad but we knew when we were both employed again that we would be back.
One time while wine tasting in Sutter Creek, there was a winery that served us what seemed like everything they made. We must have tried at least ten wines. We were so impressed by the variety, taste, and overall experience that we signed up to become members. We found out that day that the things they do for their members is quite extraordinary. For our membership, we and 8 other guests can have a winemaker’s dinner with food and wine pairing AT NO COST! What is nice is that they have two tasting rooms, one in Sutter Creek, and the other in Plymouth at the wine cave.
Over the years we kept going back to Amador, trying new wineries, talking with the wine makers, expanding our horizons from just red wines to include whites. Then came our first event: Behind the Cellar Door. This event involves most of the wineries in Amador over a two-day period. You can go to as many wineries as you can handle (please be responsible) with food and live music at most of them. It was such a great time, but I think we only went one day. This happens in the spring in the beginning of March. They give you a wrist band and a commemorative wine glass that you take to the wineries so they know you are part of the event.
Then came our second (or third, depending on how you look at it) wine club. We instantly fell in love with the wines at this small little winery. It was nothing fancy and it didn’t have a big sign or a super elaborate tasting room, but oh my gosh! Their couple of Zins are crazy good! We just had to join. Theirs is a small commitment, just two bottles a quarter, unlike our other wine club at this time of 4 bottles three times a year. We were very excited about this one and felt proud to be expanding our tastes. At the time, they did not charge for tastings, but now, like so many others, the tasting fee is $5 per person (unless you are with a club member or buy a bottle. Just ask, and I will go with you so you can taste for free!).
Then came our next event: The Barbera Festival. In Amador, Barbera is huge! Practically every winery has a Barbera that it makes. Some are great, some are good, and others not so good. At the Barbera festival, you taste wines from 75 wineries. Yes, that is correct. 75! All in one place. The tip to lasting until the end is to take one taste then dump the rest. I didn’t do that the first time and I was hurting the next day. We have been to this event several times.
In 2017 we took part in another event: The Big Crush. This one is held in the fall to celebrate the end of the harvest. Like Behind the Cellar Door, it is a weekend-long event and often has food and live music. We had been to Amador so many times that we thought we had been everywhere. That was not the case. For this big party we decided to try to visit only the wineries we hadn’t been to before. So day one, we stopped at 3 or 4 new ones and then a couple of old ones. Among the bunch, there were a couple that stood out more than the others. One of them we keep debating on whether to become members, but something keeps pulling us away. Not sure what. A characteristic of that winery is that the wines are all smooth. Even the bigger wines like Cabernet Franc and Syrah. On day two we stopped at 2 wineries before the winery that we gravitate toward and go to every time we are there. We didn’t become members that day, but we did a month later. We walked out of there with 6 bottles of wine, something we rarely do, only to follow by another 4 the next month. That weekend we came home with 10 bottles from 5 different wineries.
This year we had the privilege of taking part in Amador Four Fires, their most expensive event. This one has only been around for a few years but is already a huge hit. For this one we went all out and paid for the VIP treatment: brunch and champagne as you first walk in. I have to say, I don’t know what happened, but somehow we overdid it. We probably only visited 70% of the wineries featured. What a shame! But the food was really good and provided for you at no extra cost.
So tell me, what are your wine experiences like? When did you get started? Have you only been to Napa, or have you explored other regions like Amador? I would love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to stay tuned next time for a review on the reader’s choice of wine!