Wine Region: El Dorado County

Like much of California’s wine history, the founding “wine-fathers” of the Sierra Foothills date back to the Gold Rush days. California’s Gold Rush originated in El Dorado County when James Marshall discovered the firsts glimmery nuggets at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. Along with the rush of Americans, Europeans,too, flocked to the area seeking their fortune in gold. Those immigrants brought with them their love and knowledge of grape growing and wine production and by 1870, El Dorado was one of the largest wine producing regions in California.

But by the 1920s, the gold mines had closed and Prohibition kicked in. It wasn’t until the 1970s, alongside Napa’s wine production “comeback” that the Sierra’s, too, found their permanent place on California’s winemaking map. For El Dorado, it was the opening of Boeger Winery in 1973 that gave this Foothill nook it’s status as an important wine region, becoming its own AVA in 1983. Today, El Dorado has over 2,000 acres planted to vines, about 50 wineries, and produces some of the most bold California wines due to their unique place below the Sierra Mountains.

Courtesy of the Eldorado Wine Association

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Miraflores 2014 Estate Viognier

Proprietor Victor Alvarez may have a successful medical practice in Arizona, but that doesn’t stop him from coming to his estate winery in California’s El Dorado County every weekend. And it is this attention to detail that truly defines the Miraflores wines. Alvarez, along with his head winemaker Marco Capelli, practices Old World minimalism in the vineyard and in the winery — keeping each step in the winemaking process as natural as possible, from bud to bottle. 

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Narrow Gate 2012 Dunamis Estate GSM

According to Teena Hildebrand, co-owner and winery chef for Narrow Gate Vineyards, the name Dunamis is Greek, sharing the root word for dynamite. It was the couple’s new found faith in Christianity that provoked them to take the leap from the fashion industry to the wine industry. Teena says they first read the word Dunamis in a Greek translation of the New Testament in reference to “God’s miraculous power.” “We needed a lot of ‘Dunamis’ to get our winery doors open back in 2004, as we didn’t come in heavily capitalized or with an inheritance,” says Teena. “We labored ourselves to plant and build.” A labor of love we can now all enjoy.

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Miraflores 2011 Estate Syrah

Miraflores Winery was founded in 1998 by Dr. Victor Alvarez, a native Columbian whose familial background in cattle and dairy farming was a catalyst for him to start his own winery. Though he’s pursued a successful medical career, his passion lies in the vineyard, and in 1998 he planted his first vines of Syrah and Zinfandel in California’s El Dorado County. Today, the estate boasts 45 acres planted to vines with 16 different grape varieties on the 252 acre property. Alvarez has hands-on involvement both in the vineyard and in the winery, but gives full credit to his winemaker Marco Capelli and the rest of the winemaking team for the success of his passion project. 

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Holly’s Hill 2015 Estate Carignane

Holly and Tom Cooper fell in love with the Rhône Valley and Rhône wines over their first bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape as a married couple during their honeymoon in France. Many years later, Holly had the romantic notion to live on a hill in the country, and the couple moved to the Sierra Foothills, taking up residency on Tom’s family’s cattle ranch. Here, in the Pleasant Valley region of the El Dorado AVA, where the Mediterranean climate mimics that of their beloved Rhône Valley, Tom was able to fulfill his romantic notion of owning a vineyard. In 1998 the couple planted their first 15 acres of Syrah, celebrating their first harvest in 2000. Since that time, the family-owned vineyard and winery has expanded to include Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah, Cinsaut, Picpoul, Mourvedre, Roussanne,Viognier, and Carignane. The 2015 Carignane is the winery’s first single-varietal bottling of this somewhat “obscure” varietal.

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