The SOMM Journal

October / November 2016

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Page 48 of 132

48 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2016 { foothills country } Do you consider yourself a student of California wine? If so, it may be time to give credit where credit is due to wineries like Terra d'Oro, which has been leading the recent renais- sance of Amador County wines ever since its founding in 1970, as Monteviña Winery. Amador County is a cradle of California wine, with a history of grapes going back to the Forty-Niners and the Gold Rush. It is where the Deaver family still cultivates blocks of Mission vines planted in 1853. California's oldest Zinfandel plantings (the Original Grandpère and Rinaldi-Eschen, dating back to 1865) are found in Amador. Terra d'Oro's oldest single- vineyard Zinfandel comes from a 23-acre Deaver Vineyard block, planted in 1881. When Cary Gott and his father-in-law Walter Field started Monteviña 46 years ago, it was the first new winery established in Amador County since Prohibition. Today there are over 40 wineries in the county, producing wine from about 3,700 acres of planted vines— a drop in a bucket compared to Napa Valley (43,000 acres) or Lodi (over 100,000 acres). Jeff Meyers, Terra d'Oro's current Vice President and General Manager, who first came to work for Gott and Field in 1981, explains why Amador County remains such a tiny region: "This is Foothills country. There are only about 13 square miles, between 1,200 and 2,000- foot elevations, suitable to grapes. Even within this narrow band, only about 60 percent is plantable. We own 800 acres—one of Shenandoah Valley's biggest properties—but with 500 acres of vineyards, we're pretty much planted out. We have low spots with rich loamy soils and high spots that are essentially pure-rock lava cap. But our best grapes come off slopes with red hued DG [decomposed granite soils] that are relatively thin, rocky, heavy on mineral content, with bits of iron floating around it—classic Foothills soils." Chris Leamy, who came aboard as Meyers's winemaking assistant in 2000 and was elevated to Winemaker in 2004, adds, "It's the limitations of winegrowing here that has kept Amador County small, and big corporations out." Yet it's precisely these disadvantages that give the world wines like the Terra d'Oro 2014 Amador County Zinfandel, a balanced, buoyant, velvety yet zesty style of the varietal, teeming with blueberry-cherry pie fruit tinged with mace/cardamom/allspice notes commonly recognized as "Shenandoah spice." Terra d'Oro estate Zinfandel plantings. Terra d'Oro's Amador Classics The Terra d'Oro winery. A CULMINATION OF 46 YEARS OF WINEGROWING story and photos by Randy Caparoso

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