Friday, March 18, 2011

225 Sierra & Its Foothills Wineries: Growing in Numbers and Thriving via Quality

In the summer of 2010, I spent months on the mountain roads of the Sierra and its Foothills, visiting 40-50 of the 225 wineries there.  People are always astounded at those numbers -- even those in the wine business who ought to understand the economics and allure of vinifera-friendly land that doesn't cost a fortune (um, Napa and Sonoma come to mind...). 

In the process, I met wonderful people who are truly dedicated to grapegrowing at altitude, and who are producing Mountain wines that are incredible: intense, unique, sometimes even experimental in terms of blends and varietals.  It's certainly not about the numbers here in the Sierra, but in case you are interested, let me answer, to the best of my ability, the most frequently asked question:

So what's the current count?

In alphabetical order by county:
48    Amador
39    Calaveras
74    El Dorado ..   oops, 75
6      Mariposa
20    Nevada
23    Placer
1      Sutter
5      Tuolumne
6      Yuba
3 - Washoe County

So the number is currently 226... and additions are being made all the time.  Let me know of the newcomers, please!

For example, just yesterday, I was talking to Doug Noble, Food and Wine Writer for the Mountain Democrat Newspaper, which circulates widely in El Dorado County.  He was raving about a dinner he'd had recently that featured wines from Nello Olivo.  Don't know how I missed that one, but that raised the El Dorado County winery number to 75.   The new Nello Olivo Wine Tasting Room opened fairly recently.   It is in the historic cellar of the Sequoia Restaurant (the restored Bee-Bennett Victorian mansion) in downtown Placerville.  The Winery is located in Cameron Park. They produce Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Claret, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Toscanello (a blend that is primarily Sangiovese), and a Super Tuscan.

More about the winery: (a few remarks cribbed from their website,
The Olivos have chosen to grow old-world style grapes—particularly those common to regions of Italy, Nello's ancestral home—which flourish in the California Sierra Foothills terroir and climate.

"A lifelong dream of mine," says Nello, "has been to grow my own grapes and produce my own wine. That's exactly what my grandfather did who came from the old country. It's a passion in me. It's probably in my blood. When I'm doing that, I feel like a happy little kid!"

Rancho Olivo Vineyards is a true boutique winery, producing less than 100 cases of each varietal annually. This makes Nello Olivo wines true sought-after treasures by those who have discovered its qualities.


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