CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I have long been a fan of wines made from grapes grown in the Sierra foothills of California, particularly bottles produced from vineyards in Amador County.
The Sierra Foothills American Viticultural Area is made up of five counties in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe and about two hours east of Napa Valley.
More than 100 wineries are located in the AVA, and I am particularly fond of zinfandel grown in Amador County. Without giving away my advanced age, I still have a couple of bottles of Sutter Home Amador County zin I purchased in the 1970s.
Surprisingly, those old bottles have held up well, morphing into wines with similar taste characteristics to mature Bordeaux. I'm sure that comparison is considered heresy by wine traditionalists (can you say "snobs"?) who put zinfandel in that category of beverages fit only for the unwashed masses.
Well, consider me filthy, because I dearly love that plebian beverage!
But the Sierra foothills are no one-trick pony when it comes to producing delicious bottles of wine. Over the past few decades, the area has also developed an excellent coterie of both whites and reds with particular emphasis on Rhone varietals.
Among the most consistently excellent wineries in the Sierra foothills are Easton and its Rhone-style sister winery, Terre Rouge. Just recently, I attended a tasting of Easton/Terre Rouge wines hosted by the Wine Shop at Capitol Market.
Bill Easton, a California native and lover of Rhone wines, founded his eponymous winery in 1985 after spending years in wine retailing in the San Francisco Bay Area. He chose Amador County and the Sierra foothills because the region seemed to have many of the same geologic and climatic conditions of France's Southern Rhone Valley.
It is not uncommon now to find wines such as Grenache, syrah, mourvèdre (reds) along with marsanne, Grenache blanc and viognier (whites) along side the traditional zinfandel, sauvignon blanc and barbera on wine shop shelves.