Our team has been making wine in El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills since 2016. We landed here looking for a place to craft interesting wines affordably and sustainably, as well an awesome place to call home. We have experience making and selling wine in a number of other, better known, California regions, but were on a quest for something different.
The mountainous landscape of El Dorado has a diverse selection of microclimates that allow us to grow many different grape varieties. That gives us a naturally broad palette of grapes to choose from when making wines, and room to experiment growing new varietals. We believe El Dorado remains one of the most underappreciated wine regions in the U.S., the perfect place for a renegade winery.
El Dorado is also home to the American River, the El Dorado National Forest, Desolation Wilderness, and Lake Tahoe, making it also a great place for weekend adventures and generally enjoying the outdoors. So, we really like living here, you should visit if you haven’t been!
El Dorado Terroir
Terroir is a fancy French word that means the sum of all of the environmental conditions that affect a growing thing like a grapevine. That includes soil and climate, rainfall, altitude, etc. It really is important for us to make sure grapes are growing in places where they are naturally likely to produce excellent quality wines, otherwise we’d always be fighting an uphill battle, and not just because we live in the mountains! Growing grapes in the right places allows us to use more sustainable practices in the vineyard and less manipulative practices in the winery.
El Dorado is considered a mountain growing region, in comparison to the often-better-known coastal winegrowing regions in California, or lower elevation inland growing regions. Whereas the coastal regions benefit from fog for important cooling effects that prevent overripening, here in the mountains we benefit from the cooling effects that higher elevation brings. Vineyards in El Dorado range from 1,200 feet to 3,500 feet in elevation. It can be quite hot during the day, but not as hot as some regions at lower elevation, and usually cooler in the evening than those regions.
The mountains also provide hillside growing sites with a lot of variation in sun exposure and a variety of soil types. The soils of El Dorado are primarily composed of fine-grained volcanic rock, decomposed granite and fine-grained shale. Varying in elevation and topography, each soil offers good drainage and the nutrients needed to encourage vines to produce rich, perfectly ripened and deeply flavored grapes.
Many of the finest wine regions in the world benefit from proximity to bodies of water, both for watering as well as for the moderating climatic effects they provide. We have that here too, with both the American and the Cosumnes Rivers bordering our AVA (American Viticultural Area). We benefit from existing at the snowline, with the watersheds of the Sierra Foothills feeding our region with snowmelt.
All of this allows this region to grow close to 100 different grape varieties successfully, with microclimates existing that each can thrive in, if you’re lucky enough to select the right site. That gives us a lot to play with!
Not only is El Dorado perfect for the adventurous winemaker, it offers adventures for the outdoor enthusiast and thrill seeker.
There’s kayaking or rafting on the American and Cosumnes Rivers and their tributaries. There’s cycling or running along various mountain trails. There’s hiking and backpacking galore, where you can visit the many remote lakes of the El Dorado National Forest and Desolation Wilderness. There’s skiing or snowboarding in Tahoe and surrounding regions that border El Dorado County on the east. There’s paddleboarding and jet skiing in our various reservoirs and lakes. There’s fishing in numerous ponds, lakes and streams throughout the region.
Our team enjoys all of these adventures at our doorstep! Not to mention just lazy afternoons hanging out by the river and watching the water and wildlife, with a thermos full of wine. Or the sunsets with vineyard views and mountains rolling on forever.
Did you know El Dorado is where the California Gold Rush started in 1848? It started here right on the South banks of the American River when James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill. The historical remnants of that time still exist here, especially in the towns of Coloma and Placerville, but also strewn throughout the region.
In the 1870’s El Dorado was actually one of the largest grape growing regions in California, as the gold rush attracted many other industries to the region along with people.
It is cool to live in a place with a sense of such important history. You can visit the historical sites and see the buildings dating back to the mid 1800’s in places like downtown Placerville and Georgetown.
We like to think we’re in the midst of a new gold rush, discovering what an epic place this is to make wine!