There's Gold in them hills and not just the shiny kind. We're referring to the type that hangs off the vines in Amador County. While steeped in Mediterranean winemaking tradition, for Wineries and Home Winemakers alike, Amador represents terrior where wine grapes reign supreme.
The following content can be found on www.amadorwine.com an excellent resource for information on Amador, its wines, wineries, and vines.
Head for the Hills
Located in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California, Amador County boasts 2,700 acres of wine grapes - - a high percentage of which are farmed organically - - and 25 wineries. The majority are in the northern part of the county in the Shenandoah Valley and Fiddletown appellations, near the town of Plymouth.
In these areas, vines are planted almost exclusively on rolling, oak-studded hillsides, ranging from 1,200 to 2,000 feet in elevation, in Sierra Series soils - - primarily sandy clay loam derived from decomposed granite. These friable, moderately dense soils effectively retain Amador's 36 to 38 inches of annual rainfall, enabling most growers to dry-farm their vineyards.
Dry-farming, and the fact most vines are planted on their own roots or on self-regulating rootstocks like St. George, results in low crop yields averaging four tons per acre. These small yields, the vines' sparse canopies (allowing excellent sunlight penetration into the vine), and Amador's high solar radiance - - what the French call luminosity - - insure complete maturation of the fruit.
Amador's warm climate also promotes full ripening of the grapes. Classified as a high Region 3 in the UC Davis heat summation scale, Amador is comparable to St. Helena - - but cooler than Calistoga - - in northern Napa Valley. While Amador heats up earlier in the day than those appellations, it rarely exceeds 100 degrees, a frequent occurrence in St. Helena and Calistoga. Equally important, temperatures typically drop 30-35 degrees in the evening as breezes cascade down from the Sierras. This rapid cooling helps the grapes retain the acidity essential to balanced wines.
Amador's production of robust, intensely flavored red wines also is attributable to its high percentage of old vines: roughly 600 acres out of a total of 2,700 are 60 years or older, including several vineyards dating to the 19th century. These deeply rooted, head-trained vines, primarily zinfandel, found in vineyards such as Deaver, Fox, Ferrero, Esola and Lubenko, produce tiny crops of small-berried grapes which produce the heady zinfandels for which Amador County is renowned.
For more information on Amador, its wines and grapes, or to look into planning a trip to Amador, please visit Amador Wine Country - www.amadorwine.com or Amador County Wine Grape Growers Association, Inc. - www.amadorwinegrapes.com