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Like Wine, Each Vine Has Its Time

Vines change color by grape variety. Here’s an example. The photograph of Zinfandel grape leaves, seen below, is rated as Patchy to Peak in the amount of fall color seen. Whereas, less than a mile east on the same road at C G DiArie Vineyard (video), vines vary between Peak and Past Peak. 

Zinfandel, Wilderotter Vineyard, Plymouth Amador County (10/20/18) John Poimiroo

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Wine and Fall Color Pairing

Helwig Winery (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Iron Hub Winery, Shenandoah Valley (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Bella Piazza Winery, Shenandoah Valley  (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Unless you’re a club member of one of California’s largest wineries, the welcome is often less than enthusiastic.

Not so in the Sierra Foothills. The wineries there are so lightly visited that the welcome is genuine and warm, and the tasting is often free.

Their hospitality, some extraordinarily exceptional wines and lovely fall color from late-October to mid-November

Counoise, Holly’s Hill (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

Maple, Holly’s Hill (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

make them a great choice.

Today, East Bay color spotter Darrell Sano and I visited the Sierra Foothill AVA, independently. He toured Shenandoah Valley vineyards in Amador County while I stopped in El Dorado County’s Pleasant Valley.

There, Holly’s Hill was holding a wine and cheese pairing, with cheese from an artisan cheese shop in nearby Placerville, which used to be called “Hangtown” for all the hangings that occurred there (the El Dorado County seat) in the late 1800s. Today, all that hangs there are sausages in the cheese shop.

Newtown Rd., Placerville (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

Bigleaf maple (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

At this time of year, Newtown Road, between Placerville and Pleasant Valley, is over hanging with bright yellow  bigleaf maple and orange black oak.

It’s the kind of scenic route that Darrell searches for among “the lofty hills and gentle curves in this somewhat hidden area” of California.

 

Shenandoah Vineyards (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Turley Vineyards (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Despite a late start from Oakland, he found “the morning light was still something to behold, illuminating the hills, intensifying the color.”

That’s why John Muir preferred to call the Sierra Nevada “the range of light.”

Darrell says that one thing he finds wonderful about fall is that “The quality of light at 1 p.m. is like 7 p.m. in summer… intensifying clarity and structure.”

He adds that though the Sierra foothills are peaking, its wine tasting “is never past peak.”

What Darrell enjoys most about tasting in Amador and El Dorado Counties are their  “bucolic hills, traffic-less roads, and no limos!”

You’re not likely to encounter backups as people pose for pictures beside their cars or with their girlfriends. You’ll have the road mostly to yourself, except for an occasional rancher, local or fellow oenophile.

As you motor, craggy Sierra peaks spray-painted white with fresh snow are glimpsed to the east, while the western horizon undulates with layers of purple foothills, scored by rows of vines.

It amazes me how many of California’s most famous labels grow zinfandel, syrah, mourvedre, grenache and viognier in the Sierra. It’s not something they brag about doing – “We grow our grapes in the Sierra!” – but they do.

Fiddletown (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Farnham House hidden by fall color (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Then, you sweep past workers picking olives, apples or pears. Harvest is still coming in, even if the grapes have long-since been picked. Darrell stopped and spent a moment talking to the olive harvesters and “relished the moment.”

In places you’ll find fall color surrounding 1855 Victorian structures, like the Farnham House in Fiddletown.

Soon after gold was found nearby, it got so busy that six stage coaches would stop there, each day.

“Today, Darrell was one of the few who stopped during his trip to pair fall color with wine tasting.

Sierra Foothills – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Poetry Past Peak

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

There’s poetry in the progression of peak color. At least, when Darrell Sano describes it.

He traveled to Amador County and its Shenandoah Valley near Plymouth this past weekend to pick up a wine club order from one of its great wineries.

Tip: Put the Sierra Foothills wineries on your next wine tasting excursion, as the wineries of El Dorado and Amador Counties are exceptional and many provide tastings without charge.

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

Shenandoah Rd., Amador County (11/20/16) Darrell Sano

I had discouraged his optimism, stating I thought Darrell’s trip would be fruitless, other than for the wine tasting, as fall color in the Sierra Foothills was mostly past peak.

After seeing it, he agreed.  The Sierra Foothills are past peak, but countered, “like Napa and other wine regions, the leaves are still there, though more rustic, leathery, with an ochre-rust color. But these leaves past peak display texture, character, and perhaps a glimpse of time constantly in motion.

“The rains have now created areas of highly saturated grass, and the green grass against warm leaves is spectacular. Perhaps the vines are past peak, but the rains have created peak grass!”

Good photographers are never disappointed by the weather. They find beauty in it, as did Darrell.

He reported the stormy sky to be “interesting,” providing “a different feel for photography” with “diffused light without the harsh contrasts found on a sunny day.

“It felt very much like a typical fall color day, and I enjoyed the vistas from the various wineries perched on hills on Shenandoah Road. These photos are all from that road, and enjoyed tasting the great wines from this unique region,” he reported.

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Camanche Colorizes Calaveras County

Lake Camanche (10/17/16) Terry Willard

Lake Camanche (10/17/16) Terry Willard

Lake Camanche (10/17/16) Terry Willard

Lake Camanche (10/17/16) Terry Willard

Lake Camanche (10/17/16) Terry Willard

Lake Camanche (10/17/16) Terry Willard

… and Amador and San Joaquin counties, too, because Lake Camanche sits astride all three counties.

South of Ione and east of Lodi, Lake Camanche – managed by East Bay Municipal Utilities District – is famous for fishing (record largemouth bass inhabit its waters), camping, boating, horseback riding and picnicking. Though in autumn, it earns kudos for its native and exotic trees that cast their reflections in its still waters.

Lake Camanche color spotter Terry Willard sent these photos of color emerging there, today.  Surrounding Lake Camanche is California’s vast Central Valley. It is one of last large areas in the state to peak.

To Lake Camanche’s south is Stockton (University of the Pacific) and Modesto (American Graffiti); to its east is Lodi and its many vineyards and tasting rooms; to its west is the Gold Country with autumn color filling more vineyards and historic 1850s towns; and to its north are Sacramento with its urban forest of towering chartreuse-colored London Plane trees (sycamore) and miles upon miles of walnut orchards along CA-99.

The color at Lake Camanche should peak in two to three weeks, in time with peaks in these other locations, making Lake Camanche a central and inexpensive place to base when exploring autumn scenes throughout the region.

Lake Camanche – Patchy (10-50%)

 

 

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Amador County Looks/Tastes Delicious

Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Grape leaf, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Grape leaf, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Amador County – Color spotter Dotty Molt forwards these lovely photos taken in the vineyards of Amador County and reports that thanks to Robin Bray of Bray Vineyards, Dotty was allowed to “wander in and around beautiful multi-colored vines.”  She adds, “The colors are at peak, and if you’re headed that way, try to get there soon as the weather is changing.  And make sure you stop in for a tasting. Yum!”

Grape Leaves. Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Grape Leaves. Bray Vineyards, Amador County (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Oaks, Gold Country (11/10/13) Dotty Molt

Oaks, Gold Country (11/10/13) Dotty Molt