Amador County
Amador County is a historic part of California in the western foothills of the Sierra Mountains. It is here that the gold rush began in 1848 and by 1870 more than 100 wineries were operating in the area, servicing the miners’ enological needs. Of those 100 wineries, only one has survived through the trials and tribulations of a century of California viticulture.

That winery is now known as Sobon Estate. Luckily, several of the original plantings of Zinfandel fared better than the wineries and are bearing fruit today. Indeed, the Grand-Pere Vineyard, which was planted in 1868 and is currently bottled by Renwood, is reputed to be the oldest vineyard in the state. Since 1973, there has been a new influx of wineries, and the region’s modern day reputation has been staked largely on Zinfandel, which accounts for two-thirds of Amador’s plantings.

Climatically and physically, Amador County is miles away from the coastal appellations of California. It sits on the eastern edge of the great Central Valley, and the cooling influence of the ocean is only present in the form of afternoon breezes. This makes for a very warm climate, which is mitigated largely by planting at the higher elevations of the Sierra foothills. The principal AVA within Amador, the Shenandoah Valley, is planted around the 1,000 foot line, while another, Fiddletown, is between 1,500 and 2,500 feet. Nonetheless, daytime temperatures in the ripening season are consistently between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the resulting fruit tends to gather a great deal of tannin and intensity.

Amador County Zins tend to be big and rustic, often with a distinctive stewed fruit character that has port like overtones. The wines can divide tasters, some of whom find them overwhelming. Traditionalists and Zin fanatics, however, will see the wines’ charms, and vineyard-designated bottlings from some of the historic plantings are rapidly becoming cult items. What can be said with certainty, however, is that Amador County Zinfandel is one of the nation’s most unique and individual styles of wine. (Wine/Appellations)