Reds, Whites, & Brews: Your Guide to the Region's Best Beer and Wine
9 TRENDS TO TAKE NOTE OF
1) Get excited for effervescence.
“Styles of wines are constantly changing, as well as the way consumers perceive the different types of varietals. For example, when the movie Sideways was released, consumers viewed Merlot and Pinot Noir completely differently than they did before, and the wine industry saw major changes in the production of both of those varietals. As far as the newest trend, I’m noticing that there are more sparkling wines being produced, which was previously few and far between. As a bubbles lover, this makes me really excited!” —Ashlee Cuneo, General Manager and Certified Sommelier, Miraflores Winery, 2120 Four Springs Trail, Placerville, 530-647-8505, mirafloreswinery.com
2) Unique, warm-weather varietals are about to heat up.
“Mediterranean varietals that do well in warmer regions, such as Tempranillo, Monastrell, Verdejo, Albariño, Alvarinho, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah are making a big splash in the region. Additionally, there are some great Italian varietals becoming popular, such as Barbera, Sangiovese, and the lesser-known Charbono. Likewise, French varietals that aren’t as well-known as their Bordeaux cousins—such as Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre, and Grenache—are also present here in the Sierra Foothill region.”—Teena and Craig Wilkins, Co-Owners, Vina Castellano, 4590 Bell Road, Auburn, 530-889-2855, vinacastellano.com
3) Easy-drinking IPAs are here, and you’re going to love them. (Yes, even you.)
“For more than a decade, the style of choice in California has been, and continues to be, IPAs. We saw growth of New England-style (hazy) IPAs, but there are two other beers I see garnering attention: brut IPAs and India pale lagers—beers you can load with hop flavors but deliver on a lighter, low-bodied base that makes them easier to drink.” —Paul Schilling, Co-Founder, Crooked Lane Brewing Company, 536 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn, 530-878-5232, crookedlanebrewing.com
4) Brut IPAs are about to make a sudsy splash.
“Sour beers and hazy IPAs have been popular for a while now, but in the last few months, something new has arisen: brut IPAs. They’re brewed similar to a traditional imperial IPA, but an enzyme is used to dry out the beer more than usual, hence the name brut—it’s like a very dry sparkling wine. They have a big aroma like a traditional IPA [with] a lighter mouthfeel and a nice, dry, easy finish. They’re incredibly easy to drink and are bound to bring non-IPA drinkers into the loop.” —Lauren Zehnder, General Manager, Mraz Brewing Company, 2222 Francisco Drive, Suite 510, El Dorado Hills, 916-934-0744, mrazbrewingcompany.com
5) We’re going to rosé all day again this year.
“With warmer temperatures upon us, rosé is hot! Pink wine used to have a stigma after years of sweet white Zinfandel, but classic rosé—in a crisp, dry, and refreshing style—is on everyone’s minds and lips right now.”—Jody Bogle, Owner and Director of Public Relations, Bogle Vineyards, 37783 County Road 144, Clarksburg, 916-744-1092, boglewinery.com
6) We’re going to try to drink more beer but get less drunk.
“There seems to be a push toward more session-style beers (4.5 percent ABV and under), like pilsner and other light lagers, which is exciting.”—Erik Schmid, Owner and General Manager, Red Bus Brewing Company, 802 Reading Street, Suite A, Folsom, 916-467-7790, redbusbrew.com
7) We’re also going to try to drink more wine but get less drunk.
“Winemakers are going back to producing balanced wines that aren’t too fruity, too oaky, or too alcoholic—the alcohol bomb is out and producing approachable wines is in.”—Jill Osur, President/Owner, 1850 Wine Cellars and Mediterranean Vineyards, 3 Randolph Street, Sutter Creek, 209-267-8114, goldlinebrands.com/1850; 7449 Fairplay Road, Somerset, 530-497-0175, facebook.com/medivineyards.
8) Less (sulfites) is more.
“More winemakers [are producing bottles with] lower levels of sulfites (the chemical compound many people ‘think’ they’re allergic to). For small producers whose fruit quality is excellent, there’s rarely a need to overdo the sulfur dioxide.” —Zane Dobson, Vintner and Owner, PaZa Estate Winery, 3357 Ayres Holmes Road, Auburn, 916-834-0565, pazawines.com
9) Natural and sustainable practices are in—and Merlot is cool again.
“One trend we’re really happy about is a return to ‘natural’ wines. We have always made our wines in this style—minimal outside intervention, unfiltered, unfined, and using sustainable practices. We also anticipate a comeback for Merlot in the near future.” —Emily Hays, Owner, Chateau Davell Boutique Winery, 3020 Vista Tierra Drive, Camino, 530-644-2016, chateaudavell.com
7 FUN FACTS
1) If not for the Gold Rush, perhaps there wouldn’t be California wine as we know it today. European immigrants with winemaking in their blood came for the gold but realized a shinier opportunity: selling wine to homesick miners. The first grapes in Placer County were planted in 1848 by miner Claude Chana, a French immigrant.
2) The Sierra Foothills covers 2.6 million acres and contains vines planted throughout eight counties.
3) The foothills housed more than 100 wineries by the end of the 19th century, more than any other region in California, but the decline of gold mining and Prohibition put a cork in things until the late 1960s, when a new generation of pioneers took over.
4) The Bogle family was well-known in the ’50s and ’60s for farming row crops, predominantly corn. In 1968, Warren Bogle decided to try something he wouldn’t need to replant every year, so he put in a few acres of potatoes, all of which promptly died. A consultant advised Warren to plant wine grapes, so he planted 10 acres of Petite Sirah and 10 acres of Chenin Blanc. It was good advice: 50 years later, Bogle wines are sold in all 50 states and nearly 40 countries.
5) Crooked Lane Brewing Company was originally built in 1980 as a duplex movie theater, and in the ’90s, it became a car dealership. Today, thirsty patrons reminisce about how they had their first kiss in the building—or bought their first car there!
6) Beer was also a preferred libation during the Gold Rush, of course, with Galena Brewery opening in 1849, about 100 yards from Sutter’s Fort. The first beers were brewed and sold for 25 cents a glass (about $10 today).
7) When Erik Schmid was creating Red Bus Brewing Company, he bought its iconic red bus—a ’68 Volkswagen—with the intention of using it to shuttle customers from Sutter Street to the brewery and back. The insurance company wasn’t too keen on the liability, so now the bus is just the logo—and arguably one of the best bar accessories in town.
A SIP OF HISTORY
9 ORIGINAL TASTING ROOMS
1) Boeger Winery
1709 Carson Road, Placerville, 530-622-8094, boegerwinery.com
The first post-Prohibition winery in the El Dorado American Viticultural Area (AVA), this local staple pioneered a lengthy list of underdog varietals—including Barbera, which has helped the winery scoop up hundreds of awards over the years. Today, the bustling spot hosts first Sunday bluegrass jams, yoga, and pet-friendly vineyard excursions.
2) Sierra Vista Winery
4560 Cabernet Way, Placerville, 530-622-7221, sierravistawinery.com
Early adopters of the rebirth of mountain viticulture, owners John and Barbara MacCready bought land in 1972, planted some grapevines, and never looked back. A study revealed that the climate closely mirrors France’s northern Rhone Valley, which was the determining factor in deciding how to plant across the 28 acres of mountain vineyards. All of the wines, with the exception of the Sauvignon Blanc, are estate grown.
3) Madroña Vineyards
2560 High Hill Road, Camino, 530-644-5948, madronavineyards.com
These estate wines exhibit the best characteristics of Rhone and Bordeaux varietals, thanks to the ideal 3,000-foot mountain elevation. Evolution and calculated refining result in big beauties like the 2017 Dry Riesling, a bright and lush whirlpool of peaches and apples, and the spicy and earthy 2015 Malbec. Complimentary tastings of rotating selections take place daily.
4) Lava Cap Winery
2221 Fruitridge Road, Placerville, 530-621-0175, lavacap.com
Named for the lingering volcanic soil of million-year-old eruptions, this winery has been dedicated to producing estate-grown wines since 1986. Pack a picnic, pop in the tasting room, and take your favorite bottle to the stunning gardens that overlook the vineyards. Insider tip: Try the 2014 Syrah, bursting with deep blackberry and blueberry notes and a gentle finish. The vineyard’s southwest-facing slope grants the grapes a longer hang-time, yielding more depth and intensity in the glass.
5) Scott Harvey Wines
10861 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, 209-245-3670, scottharveywines.com
Often credited with putting Amador County on the wine map, Scott Harvey helped develop the crowd favorite Ménage à Trois wines. Following his success, Scott decided to go out on his own, with the help of his wife, wine industry pro Jana. If it’s your first foray into Scott Harvey, we suggest treating yourself with the vineyard’s Zinfandel—it basically garners an award every time the winery releases a new bottle.
6) Mt. Vernon Winery
10850 Mt. Vernon Road, Auburn, 530-823-1111, mtvernonwinery.com
The largest winery in Placer County, this charm-filled destination boasts a gorgeous tasting room in a restored 1950s milk house. Buy a bottle to enjoy in the umbrella-shrouded picnic area, and don’t miss a photo op with the lush vineyard and meticulously maintained garden backdrop. Mt. Vernon also has another focus: finding a cure for breast cancer. When you purchase one of their breast cancer research wines, 12.5 percent of the proceeds are donated to the cause.
7) Bonitata Boutique Wine
291 Auburn Folsom Road, Auburn, 530-305-0449, bonitataboutiquewine.com
A sweet slice of history, this winery lives inside the Bernhard Museum, home of the original Bernhard Winery founded in 1874. The historic building functions as a natural wine cellar: partially buried into the hillside with stone walls that are two feet thick, creating the ideal dark, cool environment. Hailed for its estate grape, Zinfandel, the winery also produces a variety of other red, white, and sweet wines—including a deliciously indulgent Syrah Port.
8) River City Brewing Company
6241 Fair Oaks Boulevard, Suite G, Carmichael, 916-550-5093, rivercitybrewing.net
The second incarnation of a long-standing Sacramento tradition, River City migrated to Carmichael in 2015 after nearly two decades of being a downtown watering hole—the oldest brewpub in town. If you can’t choose from the 16 taps, try the award-winning flagship amber lager, Vienna, or straw-colored Cap City IPA. Meanwhile, the kitchen blends locally sourced ingredients with classic pub grub picks, like French dip sandwiches and pulled pork sliders, plus a few inventive wild cards (Reuben rolls, anyone?). With $5 pints and apps during happy hour, River City is exactly what a brewpub should be.
9) Ruhstaller Beer
726 K Street, Sacramento, 916-447-1881, ruhstallerbeer.com
Captain Frank Ruhstaller, the leading brewer in the Sacramento region during its hop heyday in the late 1880s, is the namesake behind the capital city’s first premium craft brewery. Of course, Prohibition shut production down, but in 2011, they made their comeback. Priding themselves on using locally grown hops to make bona fide Sac brews like their flagship golden lager, Gilt Edge, the brewery also offers a hands-on hop school, plus a recently opened basement tasting room in Downtown Sacramento.
NEW IN TOWN
13 UP-AND-COMING WINERIES AND BREWERIES
1) Dueling Dogs Brewing Company
3030 Barrett Park Lane, Lincoln, 916-434-8141, duelingdogsbrewing.com
Made with hand-picked ingredients from their own orchards, vineyards, and hop fields, this watering hole is pioneering a pasture-to-pint movement. More than just a brewery, Dueling Dogs also serves up mead, cider, and something you probably can’t find at most spots: cyser, which is a slightly sweet, super crisp fusion of the two. If you’re more of a traditionalist, fear not: You’ll also find a pilsner, chocolate porter, mandarin wit, pale ale, and IPA on draft.
2) Red Bus Brewing Company
802 Reading Street, Suite A, Folsom, 916-467-7790, redbusbrew.com
It’s like a cozy clubhouse (think red leather couches, foosball tables, and tic-tac-toe) with an undeniably hip factor (a bright red ’68 Volkswagen bus), and it’s also the first brewery to tap into the Folsom beer scene since the 1880s. A labor of love for veteran homebrewer Erik Schmid, the tap house has offered traditional brews like Type III, a pale ale, as well as more creative efforts, like Dank Brut, a champagne-style IPA. One notable thing about the clubhouse? There are no secret passwords, or even secrets at all. The recipes and production process are an open book—just ask.
3) New Glory Eatery and Taproom
5540 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 140-150, Granite Bay. 916-451-9355, newglorybeer.com
A comprehensive lineup of nuanced IPAs with complex tasting notes and adventurous, cheeky stouts including Plentiful Pastries, an American imperial stout brewed with powdered maple sugar and maple donuts) are this brewery’s claim to fame. If the beer itself isn’t enough to inspire you to build a shrine on your shelf, perhaps you’ll be swayed by the funky and hypnotic cans, which are works of art in their own right. These hop gurus are branching out from their Sacramento roots and bringing their craft to Granite Bay, with a seasonal and locally sourced menu to boot.
4) E16 Winery
8085 Perry Creek Road, Somerset, 530-620-6200, e16winery.com
Following in his winemaker grandfather’s footsteps, founder Robert Jones channels his pride for the region into the bottle, showcasing his sustainable vineyard’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The 2014 Pinot Noir is bursting with lush, dark fruits and black cherry notes, signature to Anderson Valley, while the Russian River Valley’s 2016 Chardonnay is a silky daydream of pineapple, golden apple, honey, and spice. Visit the tasting room or book a private cave tasting for a subterranean sipping experience.
5) Black Vette Winery
4984 Bell Road, Auburn, 916-444-5338, blackvettewinery.com
Named after the owner’s 1966 black Chevy Corvette that she’s owned and coveted since ’81, Black Vette Vineyards’ first harvest happened in 2017 with bottling taking place just last month. The second harvest, slated for this fall, will include Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Montelpulciano, and Primitivo. Eager beavers will have to be patient though: The winery’s tasting room and bottles won’t be available till 2019.
6) Mount Saint Joseph Wines
(Vin Uva Tasting Room)
8629 Auburn Folsom Road, Granite Bay, 916-784-9463, mountsaintjosephwines.com
The idea for Mount Saint Joseph Wines—whose tasting room, Vin Uva, opened last month—originated in January 2015 during a conversation between nationally recognized Napa winemaker Peter Story and Father Matthew Spencer of Saint Joseph Marello Catholic Church (hence the winery’s moniker). Their goal was simple: beautify the property of the Oblates of Saint Joseph—an order of priests who have had their novitiate and seminary on the 20-acre grounds in Loomis for almost 70 years—with vineyards and provide lease income to support the Oblates seminary and youth service missions. Three years later and they have a well-established wine club, 1,800 cases of red and white varietals and blends (with much more on the way), and a popular presence at numerous local restaurants.
7) Hillenbrand Farmhaus Brewery
5100 Virginiatown Road, Newcastle, 818-714-0078, hillenbrandbrewery.com
This barn-turned-brewery offers a pastoral view to enjoy with your pint. Seating for the lofty, wood-filled space overflows outside, where you can sit by the pond or sprawl out at picnic tables. Naturally, it’s a picturesque wedding venue and also hosts offbeat events worth driving out of town for, like sushi and beer pairings and comedy nights. A small but mighty menu checks all the boxes: a fruity IPA (we recommend trying it with the Dole Whip for a refreshing summer sipper), spicy and citrusy saison, passionfruit sour, dessert-inspired stout, and classic blonde ale.
8) Rucksack Cellars
3030 Carson Road, Placerville, 530-647-2113, rucksackcellars.com
Think of Rucksack Cellars as the spirit of the Sierra Foothills swirled in a glass. Rucksack’s sister winery, Madroña Vineyards, produces 100 percent estate wines (wine that is made from start to finish at a winery’s property, including grape sourcing), but Rucksack has sought out to shop at neighboring vineyards to create complex fruit expressions that only this region can produce. Look for the Seco, a rich and berry-forward wine that pairs beautifully with spicy foods, or the Barbera Rosé, a vibrant raspberry summer sipper.
9) Moksa Brewing Company
5860 Pacific Street, Rocklin, 916-824-1366, moksabrewing.com
Everything at Moksa is, frankly, huge. There’s the 3,000-square-foot space, which can accommodate up to 120 hopheads on any given day. Then there’s the beer list, which is a perpetual rotation of 24 different brews. Then, of course, there’s the booze factor—expect 9.9 percent triple IPAs, 17 percent barley wines, and 10.4 percent imperial stouts. You can bring your own grub but check online first: Local food trucks roll in most days.
10) Out of Bounds Craft Kitchen and Biergarten
13407 Folsom Boulevard, Folsom, 916-357-5250, outofboundsbrewing.com/folsom.html
This rustic-chic biergarten boasts plush leather couches, a lengthy bar, and a patio for spirited socializing. Expect playful IPAs, unique blonde ales, and seasonal stouts, plus artisanal guest ciders. Tip: Grab a table that’ll be big enough for all the food you’ll want to order, because Out of Bounds is one of the few breweries with a full kitchen, offering swanky spins on pub grub like mahi-mahi tacos, towering BLTs topped with salmon filets, and grilled brie.
11) Ol’ Republic Brewery
11151 Trade Center Drive, Suite 104, Rancho Cordova, 916-215-8702, olrepublicbrewery.com
This Nevada City native offers a palate cleanser to the region’s hop-heavy suds, with a long list of easy-sipping lagers and refreshing pilsners, in addition to the usual IPA and stout offerings. Do your taste buds a favor and join the Barrel Club for a swig of “Project X,” a creative side gig starring limited production brews that usually flow straight to the bottle, like Chocolypto, a chocolate oatmeal stout, or Darkest Matter, a black scotch ale.
12) Outbreak Brewing Company
640 Main Street, Placerville, 530-748-3258, outbreakbrewing.com
From home brewers Tim Daniel, Dustin Russell, and Kris Zabish come this no-frills brew depot, outfitted with laid-back picnic tables and concrete floors. The small-batch brewery focuses on bold and sassy ales, IPAs, and sours, plus house-made root beer for the kiddos and designated drivers. Bring your chops on Thursdays for open mic, or if live music is more of a spectator event for you, stop by to catch a local band.
13) Element 79 Vineyards
7350 Fairplay Road, Somerset, 530-479-0750, element79vineyards.com
Hailing from North Dakota with farming in their blood, owners Les and Sharon Heinsen fell in love with El Dorado County during their annual hunts for the perfect Christmas tree. Years later, they married their loves of wine and rurality with Element 79, named as a nod to the Gold Rush (gold is the 79th element on the periodic table) and their wedding year. Try the hard-to-find Viognier, an aromatic and unique white, and the 2013 Alloy, the winery’s signature Zinfandel-based blend at the tasting room—the rustic-chic space offers stunning picture windows of the scenic vineyard, as well as a comfortable patio
6 LABELS WE LOVE
Mraz Brewing Company
2222 Francisco Drive, Suite 510, El Dorado Hills, 916-934-0744, mrazbrewingcompany.com
If Mraz has a signature style, it would best be described as “fun.” Just like its sudsy content, the artwork on every can is vastly different, ranging from sassy puns to gothic vibes and nostalgic cartoons to revived memes.
Chateau Davell Boutique Winery
3020 Vista Tierra Drive, Camino, 530-644-2016, chateaudavell.com
Chateau Davell’s first wine was named Charlotte, a tribute to co-owners Emily and Eric Hays’ daughter. To go along with the name, Eric painted her portrait. The pair loved the idea of each wine being named for someone close to them so much that they continued with the theme.
Lone Buffalo Vineyards
7505 Wise Road, Auburn 530-823-1159, lonebuffalovineyards.com
As a nod to Native American culture, each label at Lone Buffalo includes a unique symbol—just like the Natives used in their own artwork to express ideas and emotions—from a thunderbird (messenger of the Gods) on their 2015 Thunder Beast Zinfandel to buffalo horns (success) on their 2015 Tatonka Tempranillo.
Loomis, 916-768-7643, facebook.com/popiewines, popiewines.com
Auburn-based artist Jan Kapple Klein is the talent behind Popie’s family-focused label, which is inspired by the winemaker’s father, Richard “Popie” Duarte, who farmed and grew grapes in Napa Valley.
New Glory Craft Brewery
New Glory Craft Brewery, 8251 Alpine Avenue, Sacramento, 916-451-9355; New Glory Eatery & Taproom, 5540 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 140-150, Granite Bay. 916-451-9355, newglorybeer.com
Erica Lux, the wife of brewery owner Julien Lux, is the designer behind most of New Glory’s lovely labels that are oftentimes abstract and sometimes straightforward but always colorful, eye-popping, and fun.
Loomis Basin Brewing Company
3277 Swetzer Road, Loomis, 916-259-2739, loomisbasinbrewing.com
The majority of Loomis Basin’s labels, especially their flagship beers like Vindicator IPA, are based off of vintage fruit packaging labels from around the area.
By Luna Anona
New in Town photos by: Dante Fontana
THAT'S NOT ALL! FOR EVEN MORE NEW TASTING ROOMS AND FOR A ROUNDUP OF
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