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Sierra Foothills: Wine roads of California

Sierra Foothills: Wine roads of California

California has many wine regions, including some of the world’s most famous destinations. But hidden among even the high-profile appellations are the wine roads less traveled featuring stunning rural scenery, delicious wines and, often, fewer visitors. To help consumers discover new wines and wineries this summer, Wine Institute’s California Wine Country Back Roads series highlights off-the-beaten path wine roads and regions.

The Sierra Foothills have more than 200 wineries where visitors can find mountain vineyards and a diverse range of wine varieties grown near historic Gold Rush towns and spectacular national parks and wilderness areas. Photo credit Lava Cap Vineyard.

The Sierra Foothills have more than 200 wineries where visitors can find mountain vineyards and a diverse range of wine varieties grown near historic Gold Rush towns and spectacular national parks and wilderness areas. Photo credit Lava Cap Vineyard.

Sierra Foothills Wine Region
The California Gold Rush from 1848-1855 occurred in the heart of the Sierra Foothills wine region which covers 2.6 million acres of rolling hills, old mining towns and several of the coolest and highest elevation vineyards in the state. The region is a haven for small, family-run wineries known for their rich history, 100-plus-year old grapevines and full-bodied red wines, located throughout eight counties—Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Tuolumne and Yuba. Here, visitors can enjoy pairing the latest vintages with some of California’s spectacular scenery, as this wine region has three national parks and 20 wilderness areas that include Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.

TASTE: The Sierra Foothills region is home to more than 200 wineries and a diverse range of grape varieties. Amador County, tucked into the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, includes more than 40 wineries—many specializing in Zinfandel, Barbera and Rhône-style wines. In Calaveras County, where Mark Twain gave the county its claim to fame with his bestselling story “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” there are more than 25 tasting rooms on the charming Main Street of Murphys. El Dorado County, with its mountain vineyards perched high above the valley, features 70 wineries producing everything from Cabernet-based varietals to wines made from Rhône, German, Italian and Spanish grape varieties. Back-road gems can also be found in Nevada County, Placer County and Yuba County. For a taste of several sub-regions, take a scenic excursion up historic Highway 49. The road begins in Oakhurst, then winds its way north through several winery-rich counties, including Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Nevada and more.

TOUR: Celebrate local wine, food and agriculture June 20-21 during the Placer Wine Trail’s Grape Days of Summer, a self-guided tour that features food, music and educational experiences at every stop in Placer County. Amador County’s annual Barbera Festival in September during California Wine Month offers tastes from more than 50 local wineries, plus fabulous food, live music and artisan vendors. Also in September is the WineDerLust Renegade Wine Festival in Placerville, a wine bazaar and concert showcasing the best of El Dorado wines.

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