By Kimberly Horg •
The rich history of El Dorado County can be seen while driving around Placerville, witnessing firsthand the architecture from the 1800s standing in full form or taking a scenic drive through the countryside. The bountiful crops are scattered throughout the three wine regions in the county: Apple Hill, Pleasant Valley and Fair Play.
Located in Placerville, the heart of El Dorado County is Miraflores Winery, that’s vineyards were planted in 1998 by owner Victor Alvarez. The first vintage was in 2003 with the elegant tasting room opening in 2007. The high elevation of 2,500 to 3,000 feet, cool nights by air descending from higher elevations and well-drained granitic soils make for a unique environment.
“Miraflores is unique in its Mediterranean design coupled with antiquities of the historical Sierra Foothills. Its sweeping patio overlooking our vineyards has a stunning view and induces a relaxing way to enjoy a bottle of wine,” Matricia Haigood, Tasting Room and Events Manager, said.
She says the Zinfandels are their flagship wines, which have consistently received high scores from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. The Zins are affordable, packing a well-balanced and concentrated flavor punch without being overly jammy.
The tasting room will be releasing a new 2013 Barbera in May.
Wine produced in years past by the Padres in the late 1700s and 1800s (which is the oldest known continuously producing vineyard in the United States) will soon be released by Maraflores; Mission 1853. “It is an honor for Miraflores to be given the opportunity to work with these treasured grapes and to participate in producing the oldest of the Californian wines,” Haigood said.
Miraflores is also launching “100 Barrels.” The winery has reached a landmark in the production and cellaring of its Mission Grape Angelica with 100 barrels, starting with the first 2006 vintage. Miraflores hopes to provide increasingly complex bottling of the Angelica wine through the years. Every year the winery will incorporate the new vintage to continue to keep 100 blended barrels of Angelica in stock.
“This will allow us to create a unique wine with complexity through the incorporation of different vintage years; we expect that eventually a single bottle will contain greater than 60 or 100 vintages. The ‘100 Barrel’ commitment was designed for the legacy of Miraflores and to share with our patrons,” she said.
The approachable handcrafted wines of Miraflores can be found any day of the week on the hilltop at 2120 Four Springs Trail in Placerville from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call (530) 647-8505 or visit mirafloreswinery.com.
Chateau Davell, Apple Hill
Perfectly situated at a 1,200-foot elevation, above French Creek in Shingle Springs is Chateau Davell, which is also home to winemaker/owner Eric Hays. Hays does not have a formal background in wine making but has developed a passion for wine and learned winemaking skills as an assistant winemaker at a local winery. His wife, Emily, brings sustainability to the vineyard and business operations whereas his mom Davell (the namesake of the winery) adds gardening skills.
Chateau Davell Vineyard and micro-farm offers full-bodied wines that are artfully designed in small lots using ancient techniques. The family focuses on healthy farming and sustainable practices including green manuring, cover cropping and animal husbandry.
The earth friendly micro winery is solar powered, using organic practice, sourcing organic grapes and using recycled bottles as well as labels. No pesticides or conventional fertilizers are used. And although the wine is made with organic grapes, it is not sulfite free, though according to Hays that step may be taken in the future.
The Hays have been farming on their five acres since 2007 but opened the tasting room five years ago. The couple has nine different varietals planted with Syrah doing exceptionally well in the climate.
“We are trying to create a balance in mother-nature,” he said. On the vineyard one can see nine chickens, nine baby-doll sheep and one duck running amongst the vines, helping to not only manage weeds but also produce high nutrient manure.
The winemaker is also an artist who makes the labels which is on their flagship red blend, the 2011 cuvee imperial de Charlotte. The label features an oil painting of his daughter Charlotte Hays. The blend has a garnet hue and a mix of cinnamon, seasoned oak and French Roast coffee. Flavors of cherry and black truffle lead into dark chocolate ganache.
The winery started out making 250 cases a year and now is up to 1600 cases with a goal of reaching 1800.
The tasting room is located in Apple Hill at 3550 Carson Road, Suite E in the town of Camino. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (530) 644-2016 or go to chateaudavell.com to find out more.
Mount Aukum Winery, Fair Play
At 2,615 in altitude, Mount Aukum Winery is perched on top of the hill sub-appellation of Fair Play at 6781 Tower Road in Somerset. A region infamous for Zinfandel, is now gaining a name for the cultivation of Rhone and Italian varietals.
Mount Aukum Winery opened in May of 2004. Their flagship wines include a wonderful Petite Sirah, boasting a deep ruby color it’s a full-flavored, big red.
Their new releases include the 2008 Les Trios Rouge (Rhone Blend of Grenache, Mouvedre, and Petite Sirah), 2009 Dessert Wine (Zinfandel/Petite Sirah), 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Fair Play/El Dorado, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Indian Hill Vineyards, 2011 Sangiovese, 2014 Viognier and 2014 Roussanne.
“French-style Michel use to say wines have bouquet, taste, and most importantly feel,” Terrie Y. Prod’hon, owner of Aukum Mount Winery, said. Winemaker Michel Prod’hon, recently passed away. He was a native of France who fulfilled his dream of becoming a winemaker and running Mount Aukum Winery.
The exquisite wines and staggering view make for an incredible experience according to Prod’hon. The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For further details call (530) 620-1675 or visit mountaukum.com.
The Independent Restaurant and Bar, Placerville
After a long day of tasting, travelers can enjoy a meal at The Independent Restaurant and Bar, smack dab in the middle of Placerville on 629 Main Street. It opened in the fall of 2011, to bring foodies American fusion. Whether one is in the mood for a Classic Independent Burger, Pan Seared Ahi or a Balsamic Rosemary Lamb Rack, it is prepared full of flavor. The full bar and modern casual atmosphere can set the tone for any occasion. Check out their website for complete information and menu at independentplacerville.com. For reservations call (530) 344-7645.
The Historic Cary House
A full day of fun deserves a good night’s rest at this conveniently located historic hotel just down Main Street. The Cary House has been in operation since 1857.
“You can go find a new, brand-name hotel anywhere in America. But not too many hotels have been running since 1857,” said Chester Webb, The Historic Cary House Hotel General Manager.
He says Placerville has a rich history corresponding with the gold rush time dating back to 1847 and mostly everyone that works there is from the area and knows the history. The hotel runs like the old days, the bellmen dresses in uniform and in the lobby’s historic pictures and artifacts are displayed throughout. And on certain weekends the “Hang-town Marshalls” are out in front shooting it out.
The Cary House is located on 300 Main Street; within walking distance of restaurants, bars, shopping and wine tasting. To book a room call (530) 622-4271 or visit caryhouse.com.
Featured Image above: The beautiful and lively tasting room at Miraflores Winery. Photo courtesy of Miraflores Winery.