I’m almost afraid to post this report, I don’t want to let the secret out!!
My husband and I wanted a quick weekend trip. Criteria to be met: direct flight from Phx, 2 hours or less flight time, somewhere not too crowded, not more than an hour drive from the airport, and plenty to do without blowing the budget. We enjoy wine and thought about heading to Napa/Sonoma areas, but we’ve been before and knew it would be over an hour drive from whatever airport we flew into. I started looking at Sacramento as an alternate to SFO or Oakland and looked at alternate wine areas to explore. I came across Amador County and decided they had plenty of area wineries, we’d give it a shot.
Booked the flights Thursday, booked the Inn on Friday and flew up Saturday morning! I took a little time to research some wineries and went prepared with a list of must sees, a map, and that’s about it!
Arrived at Sacramento airport by 9:00am. Nice, small airport, took shuttle to pick up our rental car and headed east toward Plymouth. An easy and pleasant drive in the light rain, we knew we were getting close and I saw a sign for Tanis winery, which was on my list. We turned around and made it our first stop at 10:00am, right when they were opening the tasting room. Friendly owner, nice wines, very pretty setting. He has a great story behind the logo on their labels. Enjoyed this as our first stop and he recommended we try Convergence for our second stop.
We found Convergence within minutes. Again, beautiful setting. We quickly learned that unlike Napa, Amador County wineries allow you to sample a much, much bigger variety of wines, and usually do not charge a tasting fee. Enjoyed talking with the owner at Convergence, walked out with a couple bottles of their wine The Italian Job, and made our way into the town of Plymouth for lunch.
Some sort of festival/arts & crafts/antiques/flea market going on, so the main street was closed to traffic. We parked and walked around in the rain, finding a nice sandwich shop. Amador Vintage Market. A delicious turkey sandwich, a ham sandwich, potato salad and two root beers later, we were happily fed and ready to find more wine!
We started up at Story. Beautiful setting, friendly tasting room, but we arrived right after a limo group pulled up so it was crowded and we were getting pushed aside. Luckily the limo group didn’t follow us down to the barrel sampling, which was delicious and fun. We were ready to buy them out right there!
Then on to Karly, I wasn’t a fan of the reds but the Orange Muscat was enough for me to fork over the cash and take a bottle home. Next was Amador Cellars, friendly dog and great tasting room. They were also doing barrel sampling of two wines.
On a suggestion from the ladies at Story, we did the Steiner Rd. wineries, stopping at Deaver, where they had delicious wines, and two great pourers…Sue and Armando, or Timmy, or whatever their true names were! Lots of fun there and a few more bottles to bring home.
Next stop was Dobra Zemlja. Loved their tasting room, the bar is in the cave where they used to do all production. This is where we got into some trouble – of the good kind! ALL their wines were delicious. The staff was so much fun as well. Ended up joining the wine club and taking a few bottles with us that day. Really delicious wines and they have fun with themselves, which seemed to be the attitude of the entire area. Such a breath of fresh air from Napa snootiness. Dobra also had beautiful grounds…would have loved to visit on a non-rainy day. A LOT of great picnic spots on this wine tour!
By this time, I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry, I took full advantage of the spit buckets. I know at first it is awkward to spit the wine out, but trust me they are not offended!! That is what the buckets are there for! Also, everyone was more than happy to offer us water. Another thing I loved about the Amador Country wineries is not only do they want you to sample their ports, they happily give you chocolate to accompany it. Hershey Kisses were everywhere!
Ok, next stop was Sobon Estate. Again, all fantastic reds, very, very delicious port. Friendly and fun pourers and a few bottles to take home.
We also stopped at Cooper, where I have noted “Great Whites!”. It was crowded in their tasting room – another limo – so we didn’t stay long.
We decided to leave some wineries for the following day and headed down to Sutter Creek, where we were booked at The Foxes Inn for the night. We found Foxes immediately and were able to park right out front. We checked in, placed our orders for breakfast, were shown to our room (WOW!) and headed across the street to The Sutter Creek Palace for dinner. The bar is in the front with the dining room in the back. The dining area walls are painted with sort of an old Italian village street scene. We ordered a bottle of wine (as if we needed it!) and an appetizer of cheese quesadillas. They were out of the wine we ordered. We tried another, out again. They had our third selection and we placed our orders for dinner. I had beef stroganoff and my husband had pork chops. The food was delicious. His pork chops where HUGE! I stole his cinnamon apples, they are my favorite. Too full for dessert…and exhausted from the long day, we headed back across the street for the night.
We were the last ones to check in that night, so we had last pick of breakfast time slots. Breakfast is served to your room, where each room has a dining table for two. This is nice for those of us that who don’t particularly enjoy getting up and having to be sociable at a communal table first thing in the morning. Our breakfast was delivered at 9:15. Everything was beautifully presented, delicious, fresh, and exactly as ordered (food allergies taken into consideration). Fresh fruit cup, french toast with sausage, swiss eggs with ham, coffee, herbal tea. All fantastic. Shortly after breakfast, we checked out. The staff mentioned a few times to please stop by the office upon checking out as the owners like to meet the guests, so we stopped by and met Monique and Mike. They were just as warm and gracious as we had expected, given the nature of the Inn. They were full of suggestions for our next visit to the area, and yes, we definitely plan on going back!! The Inn was absolutely beautiful, down to every detail. Rooms were large, nice, bright bathrooms, great linens, every amenity and detail thought of…perfect!
We walked up and down the length of the main drag in Sutter Creek. Didn’t have much room to spare in the overnight bag, so no shopping for us. But fun window shopping and checking out the great historical buildings. Felt very ‘back in time’.
We headed back up the highway and stopped at another suggestion, at Drytown Cellars. We were met by and played fetch with their dogs and sampled a few wines. Of course the one we fell in love with was sold out!!!! But we did go home with a bottle of sauvignon blanc. That will be delicious this weekend by the pool.
Up to the bigger wineries we’d saved for today. First stop was Montevina/Terra de’ Oro in the pouring rain! Great tasting room, big counter and also a gift store. We are convinced they just don’t make a bad wine. Enjoyed everything and are glad we can buy a decent variety of their wines here locally. But we still walked out with two bottles of Moscato, just in case.
Also stopped by Renwood. Complimentary tasting of 4 wines on their list. They also offered reserve tastings for $5. Nice facility.
Next stop was Bantam Cellars, we had the place to ourselves for a while. Enjoyed all the wines here. After tasting all the different varieties over the weekend, I was surprised that I enjoyed simply the red table wine the most, and purchased a bottle to take home.
As we were finishing up, a group walked in and we compared a list of our favorites, they insisted we go to Toogood for our last stop. Well, they insisted…so off we went.
It was a bit of a drive to get there, considering the others are so close together. Driving thru the rolling green hills and huge old trees, I told my husband it was like driving thru the set of Little House on the Prairie. I just wanted to get out and run down a hill (forgive me, we live in the desert). Eventually we found Toogood and into the cave we went! I love when they hold the tastings amongst the barrels. The aroma cannot be beat. Toogood had great atmosphere, great pourers and delicious wines. They were also offering barrel samplings and wow…they have a barbera port coming out that is the best I’ve ever had. Delicious!! We walked out with a few bottles and a wine club membership. They do charge $5 per tasting, but you keep the souvenir glass. Tastings are free for members, of course.
Not sure where we were on the map anymore, we programmed the nav system for Sacramento airport and headed out of the fantastic wine region extremely pleased with our spur of the moment choice for a great weekend getaway! I would absolutely recommend this area to anyone wanting a fun, relaxing and enjoyable wine tasting experience. The countryside is picture perfect, even in the rain.