California Sierra Nevada Foothills Wine Region

Sierra Foothills Wine Region

While many rush to Napa Valley and its world-renown labels, the Sierra Foothill Wine Region has been quietly making wine since the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. Boom towns across the Sierra Nevada range popped up nearly overnight. Soon thereafter higher altitude vineyards were planted with Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah, Viognier and even some Grenache grapes in granite and volcanic rock. The region is characterized by mining and lumber towns, four seasons, vineyard elevations of 1,500-3,000 ft. and art enthusiasts.

While Napa and Sonoma Wine Regions were approved as appellations years before, the Foothill region was accepted as a sub appellation in the 1970s. The area can be easily reached from Sacramento (1 hour) or even San Francisco (2 1/2 hours); restaurants and wineries in the Foothill area already provide a good alternative to the many nationally known super stars of Napa Valley.

Zinfandel grapes were first grown in the Shenandoah Valley since Gold Rush days. Over 100 wineries sprouted by the mid 1840-50s and operated until the mid 1880s when the destruction of old-growth forests and riverbeds brought legislation to end those practices. Shortly thereafter, as thirsty gold miners and forestry personal left the area, winemaking in the foothills declined.

While winemaking continued even through Prohibition, the region has been known for value-wines until the rebirth of the industry in the 1970s. However, the late 1990s brought new life to the region as cult and boutique wineries have sprouted bringing high quality wine to the region.

Sierra Nevada Foothills Wine Region is a wine and vacation destination just like the Napa Valley or Central Coast. The Foothill region spans from Sonora in the south to Jackson and Plymouth to Placerville and Auburn in the north. The quaint villages, their restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfast establishments are well suited to the historic trails. And the history of Gold Rush country is well worth revisiting.

This is one of three California focus wine regions for Tales of the Cork. The other two are Central Valley Wine Region and the Central Coast Wine Region. All are within a day trip of my home base of Fresno, Calif. and account for many of America’s most promising wineries and winemakers.

Explore Tales of the Cork with me. Read about the growth and influence of California’s winemakers, merchants and chefs. My goal is to find and develop relationships with them; my hope is to uncover and retell their untold stories. Be sure to leave a comment after each story; share your wine, winemaker or food experience.


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