Gold Country Wineries

You are in a great place when it is the site of the California Gold Rush

The discovery of gold in 1848 led to the establishment of hundreds of instant mining towns along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most mining camps were nothing more than temporary encampments established where a section of a creek was panned or sluiced until the gold ran out. Permanent towns developed in areas where more extensive operations spent decades tunneling deep into the hills. Many of these historic and picturesque towns still exist, linked by California Highway 49, the Gold Rush Trail.

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The original mining-era buildings in these towns are now home to unique shops—but my interest lay elsewhere, in the gold mining history of these towns and the robust wines of the region.

Angels Camp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in these foothills is the unique wine district of Gold Country. Touring the unique wineries along historical Highway 49 took us back in time. The majority of the area still looks stuck in gold rush times, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t produce sophisticated wines perfect for the modern-day wine enthusiast.

Jackson Rancheria RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using Far Horizon 49er Village RV Resort in Plymouth and Jackson Rancheria RV Resort in Jackson as our home bases, we explored the Gold Rush Trail and Gold Country wineries along California Highway 49.

Gold country has always been audacious and rip-roaring. No surprise—its wines are too. Most wines need time to rest, relax, and mature. And really, don’t we all?

For most of the above, we recently embarked on a tasting getaway in the foothills of Amador, El Dorado, and Calaveras counties where some vines date to the late 1800s and all the wines seem amplified with a flavorful dose of the American West.

Amador Flower Farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most common adjectives for the area’s potent reds are big and robust—zinfandels, syrahs, and barberas that howl at the moon. Roughly 40 wineries in Amador County alone offer sips.

Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amador County’s major wine area is the Shenandoah Valley in the northern part of the county near the small town of Plymouth. Stylistically, zinfandels from the Shenandoah Valley tend to be fuller, riper, and earthier with a characteristic dusty, dark berry fruit character, hints of cedar, anise and clove spice, and scents of raisin and chocolate.

Borjón Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amador may have developed its reputation around Zinfandel, but Shenandoah Valley winemakers have branched out over the past 20 years and now produce wines from grape varietals originating in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, offering red, white, and rosé wines as well as excellent ports and dessert wines.

Cooper Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wineries within five or 10 minutes of Plymouth include Bella Piazza Winery, Terra d’Oro, Borjón Winery, Helwig Winery, and Cooper Vineyards, one of California’s most charming family wineries and a personal favorite.

Placerville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

El Dorado County’s Grace Patriot Wines, a family-run business, provides not only award-winning wine, but history to the area. Their scenic property lies a few miles east of Placerville in an area known as Apple Hill for the abundant apple orchards scattered across the landscape. 

Grace Patriot Wines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The winery and adjacent vineyards sit at an elevation of 3,000 feet, with an amazing eastward view over the Sierra Foothills and onwards toward the High Sierras on the far horizon. The tasting room looks out on to the patio and frames the timeless scene through its windows and the grand double doors through which visitors enter.

Grace Patriot Wines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our visit to the winery was memorable, as we had the opportunity to taste through their portfolio of wines. We took three of our favorite Grace Patriot wines back to our motorhome to enjoy during the winter.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the heart of Calaveras County’s wine country is an old-school Main Street with a new-world vibe. Unique to any other wine region, Murphys is a wine-lover’s dream with delightful tasting rooms and excellent restaurants in an historic downtown.  You can literally do wine country on foot in Murphys. There are over 25 wineries here and 20 of them have tasting rooms within walking distance from one another along Murphy’s Historic Main Street.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picturesque vineyards and destination wineries are nestled in the rolling hills throughout the county.

Worth Pondering…

Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words,

―Plautus

Farewell My Summer Love

The RV lifestyle allows those of us who travel in our coach or towable to visit wineries in many different locations

As summer comes to a close, it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming change in seasons. What better way to end an amazing summer than to dive into a wine country extravaganza? We’ve handpicked 4 unique wine country regions that we think will make the perfect final getaway to end your summer with a bang! So, grab a glass of vino and cheers to another amazing summer getaway.

Michael David, Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lodi, California

Lying at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta, the Lodi Wine Region enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate of warm days and cool evenings, ideal for growing wine grapes.

With a grape-growing history that dates back to the 1850s, the Lodi Appellation boasts over 750 growers and is home to more than 85 wineries (65 of which boast boutique tasting rooms) specializing in small-lot, handmade wines.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With more than 100 varieties currently being cultivated, Lodi offers a diverse portfolio of wines. While long renowned for its high-quality Zinfandel production, including an estimated 2,000 acres of pre-Prohibition vines, the area also produces award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Chardonnay.

Van Ruiten Vineyards, Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine enthusiasts will enjoy a warm welcome and a friendly face as they travel Lodi Wine Country and enjoy a diverse range of wines, delicious foods, and great hospitality. 

Helwig Winery, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amador County, California

The beautiful Shenandoah Valley is the heart of Amador Wine Country. The valley offers country roads with breathtaking views, charming postcard-perfect farms, unique tasting rooms, and relaxing environments. This undiscovered California gem features rolling, golden hills studded with majestic oaks and rolling vineyards producing exceptional full-bodied wines.

Cooper Vineyards, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah Valley produces some of the most interesting wines due to its terroir, a unique combination of rocky soil and warm temperatures that gives the wines their distinctive flavor.

Amador may have developed its reputation around Zinfandel, but Amador winemakers have branched out over the past 20 years and now produce wines from grape varietals originating in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Moon Crusher Vineyards, Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape growing region and boasts 131 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals. 

Hester Creek Winery, Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From world-class operations to family-run boutique vineyards, Okanagan wineries are rich with character and consistently ranked among the world’s best at International competitions. 

Tinhorn Vineyards, Okanagan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the most notable wineries are Mission Hill, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Burrowing Owl, Hester Creek, and Nk’Mip Cellars, Quails Gate Estate, and Tinhorn Creek. If you’re pressed for time the Penticton Wine Shop pours just about every wine made in the Okanagan.

Murphys, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Calaveras County, California

At the heart of Calaveras County’s wine country is an old-school Main Street with a new-world vibe. Unique to any other wine region, Murphys is a wine-lover’s dream with numerous tasting rooms and many excellent restaurants in an historic downtown.

Ironside Vineyards, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Murphys was one of the Gold Country’s richest diggins. The picturesque village is known today for its many natural attractions including caverns, a charming Main Street, unique shops including art galleries, and spectacular wineries. You can literally do wine country on foot in Murphys. There are over 25 wineries here and 20 of them have tasting rooms within walking distance from one another along Murphy’s Historic Main Street.

Four Winds Cellar, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picturesque vineyards and destination wineries are nestled in the rolling hills throughout the county.

Worth Pondering…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time. Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event.

―David Hyde Pierce

Sip Wine in the Gold Country

Over 100 wineries and Gold Rush history to savor in the Sierra foothills

The roots of old zinfandel grapevines run deep in the Gold Country with winemaking here dating back to the Gold Rush days of the 1850s.

Now, an explosion of wineries, wine tours, tasting rooms, and restaurants specializing in wine country cuisine has added a jolt of grape-fueled energy to the Sierra foothills where more than 100 wineries now produce a wide range of varietals, most notably zinfandel, but also an intriguing variety of other varietals.

Gold Country winery Tuscany style © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gold country has always been audacious and rip-roaring. No surprise—its wines are too. Most wines need time to rest, relax, and mature. And really, don’t we all?

Using Far Horizon 49er Village RV Resort in Plymouth and Jackson Rancheria RV Resort in Jackson as our home bases, we explored the Gold Rush Trail and Gold Country wineries along California Highway 49.

Cooper Vineyard, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To sample the new boom, we headed to tiny Plymouth for surprisingly trendy tasting rooms and sleek restaurants like Taste—a magnet for savvy foodies. Here we used Far Horizon 49er Village RV Resort as our home base while we explored the historic and picturesque towns and unique wineries in Amador and El Dorado counties.

Helwig Winery, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amador is old vine country; nearly 600 acres of the county’s vines are at least 60 years old, while several vineyards date to the 19th century. The most common adjectives for the area’s potent reds are big and robust—zinfandels, syrahs, and barberas that howl at the moon. Roughly 40 wineries in Amador County alone offer sips.

Bojon Winery, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region’s Shenandoah Valley, in the northern part of the county near the small town of Plymouth, is a great place to experience the influx of new mixed with the old. Stylistically, zinfandels from the Shenandoah Valley tend to be fuller, riper, and earthier with a characteristic dusty, dark berry fruit character, hints of cedar, anise and clove spice, and scents of raisin and chocolate.

Bella Piazza Winery, Amador County

Amador may have developed its reputation around zinfandel, but Shenandoah Valley winemakers have branched out over the past 20 years and now produce wines from grape varietals originating in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, offering red, white, and rosé wines as well as excellent ports and dessert wines.

Helwig Winery, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wineries within five or 10 minutes of Plymouth include Bella Piazza Winery, Terra d’Oro, Borjón Winery, Helwig Winery, and Cooper Vineyards, one of California’s most charming family wineries and a personal favorite.

El Dorado County Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

El Dorado sits at the north end of California’s famed Mother Lode, the 120-mile gold vein discovered in the late 1840s which became the site of the Gold Rush. Today, the region is better known for its visitor attractions, agriculture, and old-vine zinfandel. Winemaking at a higher level, the Sierra foothills range from 1,200 to 3,500 feet and hundreds of microclimates perfect for nearly 50 grape varieties. And their artisan winemakers have a passion for experimenting and for this place. That’s what sets El Dorado apart.

Grace Patriot Wines, El Dorado County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

El Dorado County’s Grace Patriot Wines, a family-run business, provides not only award-winning wine, but history to the area. Their scenic property lies a few miles east of Placerville in an area known as Apple Hill for the abundant apple orchards scattered across the landscape.

Calaveras County Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mark Twain gave Calaveras County its claim to fame with his bestselling story “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this famous Gold Rush location still maintains its 19th-century charm, including Murphy’s Historic Hotel, in operation since 1856. Twain was just one of its famous guests.

Murphys tasting room © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are over 30 wineries in Calaveras and more than 20 of them have tasting rooms within walking distance from one another along Murphys’ Historic Main Street. That means you can literally do wine country on foot.  But don’t miss the chance to hop in your car to hit up a few of the operational wineries that are mere minutes from downtown and offer the authentic winery experience complete with wine caves, and stunning views.

Ironside Winery, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beautiful scenery pairs well with a glass of wine. Famous attractions like Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe offer breathtaking examples of the state’s natural abundance, while just a short drive away.

Worth Pondering…

Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.

—Dick Cooper, 1966

Murphys: Charming Queen of the Sierra

Its nine miles up Highway 4 from Angels Camp to the neighboring mining town of Murphys, founded in 1848 by John and Daniel Murphy

Murphys’ rich and colorful past came alive in 1848 when John and Daniel Murphy established a trading post and gold mining operation in the area that is now their namesake. They were part of the first immigrant party (Stephens-Townsend-Murphy) to successfully bring wagons over the Sierra in 1844, paving the way for westward migration.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It is reported that the brothers took two million dollars in gold ore from the Murphys Diggins in one year’s time, making them millionaires before the age of 25.

During the first year, 50 tents, several lean-tos, and two blockhouses were erected, and by 1850, the camp had a population of 1,200. In 1852 there were 3,000 people, close to the present-day population.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Murphys was one of California’s richest diggins. During one winter, five million dollars worth of gold was taken from a four-acre placer area, and the town grew prosperous despite the usual cycle of devastating fires and rebuilding.

Once a hodgepodge of miners’ tents and lean-tos, Murphys has aged well.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The picturesque village is known today for its many natural attractions including caverns for public viewing, a charming Main Street with friendly merchants and unique shops, spectacular wineries, and art galleries.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A stroll down tree-lined Main Street transports visitors back to the mid-1800s with buildings bearing thick stoned walls, iron shutters, and pastoral gardens. Its leafy streets are lined with white picket fences, oaks and sycamores, eateries, and tasting rooms.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Sperry & Perry Hotel—now known as Murphys Historic Hotel & Lodge—opened to guests in 1855. Ulysses S. Grant slept here; so did Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, and Charles Bolton, aka Black Bart, the poetry-writing bandit who successfully robbed 28 Wells Fargo stagecoaches before his arrest in 1883. Locals line up along the saloon’s bar. In the morning, follow the divine smells across the street to Biga Murphys Bakery.

Unique from any other wine region, you can literally do wine country on foot in Murphys. There are over 25 wineries here and 20 of them have tasting rooms within walking distance from one another along Murphy’s historic downtown. Picturesque vineyards and destination wineries are nestled in the nearby rolling hills.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ironstone Vineyards, on the outskirts of Murphys, attracts visitors year-round with wine tastings and events such as the daffodil festival in the spring. Explore the seven-level winery, its extensive wine caves, museum, and outdoor mining exhibit, before you grab lunch at the deli and picnic on the grounds.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Then, belly up to the elegant 1907 bar to sample Ironstone’s Obsession Red Blend, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel. You can see a fully restored 769-pipe theater organ, originally made in 1927 for Sacramento’s now-defunct Alhambra Theater.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Don’t miss the 44-pound specimen of crystalline gold leaf, which, its sign claims, is the “largest single piece of gold mined in North America.” Ironstone also has weekend gold panning, concerts, and fly-fishing classes.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For a more intimate tasting, drive a few miles north of Murphys on Sheep Ranch Road to bucolic Stevenot Winery. In the tasting room, buy a bottle of Tempranillo, a medium-bodied red wine, and assorted chocolates in the gourmet section.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Also on Sheep Ranch Road is Mercer Caverns. It has all the awesome cave accessories: stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, and columns. It’s 161 feet, down several flights of stairs, to the bottom. When you emerge from this dark hole in the ground, consider a visit to something soaring high above ground—the giant sequoias.

Ironstone Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You’ll find them 14 miles up Highway 4 from Murphys in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. It’s both humbling and thrilling to prowl among the planet’s largest living things. Tourists from around the world follow the well-trampled trails through the North Grove.

Worth Pondering…

My travels led me to where I am today. Sometimes these steps have felt painful, difficult, but led me to greater happiness and opportunities.
—Diana Ross