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.:Sierra Foothills:.

Do you wonder why most California wines are named for their primary grape variety, while most European wines are named for their place of origin?  It’s because U.S. wine drinkers and marketers have associated wine quality with particular grape varieties (like Cabernet Sauvignon) since Prohibition ended.  More recently, we have started giving due recognition to the fact that in wine, as in real estate, location is critically important.  The Europeans have been at this wine making business longer than we have, and they understand the importance of growing grape varieties in their ideal settings.  This concept of terroir teaches us that the place is the thing, so read on and find out why our unique location makes our wines special.

The Sierra Nevada mountains form a wall running north-south along the eastern edge of California.  Over eons, Pacific storms hit the wall from the west and dropped precipitation on the western slopes, eroding that side to form piedmonts, or alluvial fans.  What this geo-history means for wine aficionados is that US label authorities have recognized the unique character of wines from the region and designated it as the Sierra Foothills AVA (American Viticultural Area).

Wine styles from this region vary considerably depending on the elevation of the vineyard location. At high elevations, say over 1,500 feet where many El Dorado County vineyards lie, the weather is cool, there is more rain and some snow, and less topsoil. Wines from these districts generally have more acid, less alcohol, less body, and more delicate aromatics in the nose. By contrast, below 600 feet is technically the Central Valley, not the Sierra Foothills.

Between 600 feet and 1,500 feet is the historic band of Sierra Foothills wine growing. Settlers drawn by the Gold Rush recognized the Mediterranean climate of the region and planted vineyards and olive trees as they had in their native lands. Now our scientific studies have affirmed that the Sierra Foothills environment, with its decomposed granite soils, and warm days relieved by cool nights, is ideal for grape varieties such as Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Here the wines tend to be more dense and full-flavored than many of their high country relatives, more deeply colored, and given to riper aromas. In comparison with their neighbors from Lodi or the Sacramento River Delta, Sierra Foothills wines often show more complexity and flavor dimensions, and a firmer structure.

Ophir Valley, lying within this last region, has its own microclimate that is enhanced by the cooling influences of the Auburn Ravine (small river) and several creeks running through it. Our Green Ravine Vineyard lies a hundred yards from the ravine, while our Gold Blossom Vineyard sits alongside one of the area’s creeks. After each warm day, the vines are revitalized as the flowing water circulates cool night air through the vineyards.

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