***image1** Roughly half-way between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento, surrounding California’s historic Highway 50, lies a virtually undiscovered wine region known as El Dorado.
Here, the towns have welcoming names such as Pleasant Valley, Fairplay and Somerset, and several of the winery names borrow from the area’s topography and history: Gold Hill Vineyard, Perry Creek, Granite Springs, Oakstone and Sierra Vista.
What sets El Dorado apart from other California wine regions is its unique combination of soils and mountain climate. As a result, the varietal mix is diverse, and the terroir lends distinct characteristics to the various wine grapes grown.
The wineries of El Dorado are sprinkled across the base of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains, where the green foothills meet steep granite slopes. Virtually every estate is a candidate for a postcard, and visitors enjoy the less hurried pace that once defined the more famous Napa Valley to the west.
The freshness of spring in El Dorado is reflected in budding vines, verdant hillsides and carpets of delicate wildflowers. This is when most of the wineries unveil their new vintages, emptying the tanks and barrels for another harvest season ahead.
El Dorado Zinfandel has achieved near-cult status among wine insiders, but the area also is known for its rich Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as an array of Rhone and Italian varieties.
The region provides limitless venues and opportunities for picnics during the summer months, and then when fall arrives, it’s harvest festival time. El Dorado hosts a number of events dedicated to the grape as well as the region’s other star crop: apples.
But regardless of the season, El Dorado vintners are warm and welcoming, and when you visit a tasting room, don’t be surprised if the person pouring the wine happens to be the person who crafted it.