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3 Days in Amador County: Where to Eat, Drink, and Stay

Just one hour from Sacramento, Amador County is known for its rich Gold Rush Country and even richer reds


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Historic Route 16 snakes its way deep into Northern California’s historic Gold Country. Once dominated by miners looking to strike it rich, these low-slung foothills are turning into a hideaway for a new group of prospectors panning for spunky New World reds and fine zinfandels. Here’s how to spend a weekend among the Amador County vines.

 

Day One:

Morning:

Check in at Sutter Creek’s newly restored Hanford House Inn. Founded in 1846, Sutter Creek served as the epicenter of California’s Gold Rush. Its Old West facades have transformed into charming shops, old-timey saloons, and urban tasting rooms. Start the day off with a visit to Bella Grace Vineyards, a converted Victorian cottage that offers nearly 30 varietals and an in-house olive oil shop. A raised patio overlooks the gardens, encouraging visitors to curl up with a glass.

Bella Grace Vineyards

Afternoon:

Join the lunch rush at Gold Dust Pizza, a casual joint serving up crusty pies like the Motherlode Meat, loaded with salami, pepperoni, ham, linguica, bacon, and sausage.

Evening:

After lunch, head across the street to Feist Wines, a rustic outpost that was once the town saloon. Now a vine-covered tasting room, Feist offers small-batch wines alongside artisanal cheese and charcuterie boards. Sample their daily flights for $5, and don’t miss the Noble Ranch Cabernet.

 

Day Two:

Morning:

Fuel up at Element, a breakfast joint with global influences located on the ground floor of the Hanford House. With a warm cup of Sacramento’s Temple Coffee, consider carbo-loading on the Autumn Hash and the Apple Fritter Waffle, a deep-fried waffle flavored with maple bourbon brown butter and topped with roasted pecans.

Element

Afternoon:

With your designated driver at the wheel, head 20 miles north toward Shenandoah Road, which boasts the highest concentration of vineyards in Amador County—over 40 in all. Enjoy the rustic vistas and rolling hills as you approach your first stop: Turley Wine Cellars. This organic winery specializes in old-vine zinfandel, and is currently pouring their 2014–15 harvest. Continue up the road to Cooper Vineyards, whose 148-year-old vines churn out some of the best barbera in the valley. Sip as you wander the grounds, and don’t forget a bottle to take home. Soak up some more vino at Terre Rouge and Easton Wines. Their Vin Gris D’Amador earned an impressive 92 points from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Evening:

As the sun sets, head back to Highway 49 toward Amador Brewing Company, a gathering spot for off-duty wine makers in Plymouth. Enjoy a rotating selection of local food trucks that serve everything from lobster bisque to barbecue. Then stay the night at the historic Imperial Hotel, originally built for wealthy miners.

Imperial Hotel

 

Day Three:

Morning:

Head to a Gold Country favorite, Andrae’s Bakery. This cozy spot is known for their French Morning Roll. We suggest getting up early to snag one fresh from the oven.

Afternoon:

On your way back to Shenandoah Road, make a pit stop at 24 BRIX Wines, an organic winery that harvests without fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides, offering oenophiles a more complex, natural wine. Hang out with the winemaker while sipping on their famed sauvignon blanc or adventurous Winemakers Red Blend. Continuing north, stop at Villa Toscano for more wine and lunch. The Tuscan-style tasting room is home to a casual bistro that offers handmade pizzas and hearty sandwiches. Dare to sample their white barbera, which boasts fresh aromas of apple, nectarine, and apricot.

Evening:

For dinner, stop at Taste in Plymouth. This warm and inviting bistro serves up seasonally driven upscale fare sourced straight from the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, with dishes like quail with bacon marmalade and grilled halloumi cheese.

 

Wine Guide

Amador Cheat Sheet

Imperial Hotel

The Sierra Foothills have the ideal climate for growing Old World–style wines. Here’s your cheat sheet to swirl, sip, and savor all that California’s Shenandoah Valley has to offer.

Zinfandel: Amador’s oldest hillside vines produce robust, full-bodied, spicy zinfandels with notes of ripe blackberry and plum fruit, cedar, clove, and anise.

Barbera: It’s Italy’s most popular red wine, and Amador’s version flourishes on the western-facing slopes, producing a delicious red with lush black cherry and plum fruit.

Syrah: This is a rising star in Amador; the warmer region produces wines that boast a riper black fruit and spice aromas, with rich flavors and supple tannins.

Sauvignon Blanc: This medium-bodied white wine thrives in the warmer temps of Amador, yielding bottles with a more herbal tone, and brighter citrus and melon notes than the average SB.

Viognier: Traditionally grown in the Rhône Valley, this powerful white is highly aromatic and fruit forward in Amador.

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