Sunday, March 15, 2009

El Dorado County Wine Tasting

Last Saturday, a former coworker breezed into town. Though we'd been experiencing endless rainstorms, this Saturday morning the clouds parted, the sun shone, and the average daytime temperature increased about 15 degrees. This former coworker friend has an interesting childlike appreciation for natural beauty, and so all of us were bemused that nature would oblige him so sincerely.

We had previously determined that we would go wine-tasting in Napa, but our driver, another coworker who graciously offered to play chauffeur, decided that a shorter ride up to El Dorado Hills would be better suited to the day. Having never been wine-tasting in Placerville Wine Country, and having spent a fair amount of time in Napa, I was amenable to the change of plans.

We had lunch in downtown Placerville at a moderately fancy restaurant masquerading as a cantina, where I indulged in brocheta-- grilled steak with bacon and onions served with cilantro rice, beans with queso fresca, and salad, and the obligatory tortillas (I always choose corn). It was quite tasty and everyone seemed to enjoy their meal.

From the cantina we headed to our first winery, Boeger Winery. Boeger has lovely grounds and a well-appointed tasting room. The complimentary tasting flight offers a choice of five tastes from a reasonable selection of whites, reds, dessert and rose wines. I sampled the Sauvignon Blanc, Primitivo, Vin Rose, Hangtown Red, Muscat and one of their Zinfandels. All were decent, but none blew me away. I can't help but wonder whether my lunch was interfering with my ability to appreciate the wine, because I was fairly receptive to the wines (not to mention the presentation) at the next spot we hit: Madrona Vineyards.

Madrona's tasting room is overseen by a regal black cat named Theo, who will bite you if you hover too long or he simply isn't in the mood. Madrona's tasting room is a wooden box, cozy with a pot-bellied stove in the corner, next to Theo's throne. Apparently, this vineyard is also home to the largest Madrone tree (pictured). Madrona offers an extensive and generously poured complimentary tasting flight (and a nominally priced reserve flight too) presided over by a very very knowledgeable and deservedly proud staff. I very much enjoyed most of the Madrona wines, but the Shiraz/Cab and Dry Riesling were good enough for me to part with my hard-earned credit dollar.

Our last stop was per my request, the well-decorated Lava Cap Winery. I've sampled Lava Cap at various locations about town and recently heard good things about their wine club, and so I was curious to sample their oeuvre. Unfortunately, and confidential to the people who pour the tastes at Lava Cap, it takes more than a little splash to actually taste the wine. It's barely enough to get a flavor on the tongue, and not sufficient to get a sense of aroma and bouquet. Even so, I purchased a bottle of the 2005 Reserve Cabernet Franc.

I was pleasantly surprised by the bevy of great local wineries just east of Sacramento. It is truly a wonderful thing to live in this place, surrounded by mountains, lakes, rivers, farms and of course, wineries. A trip to any number of wine countries (Lodi, Amador, El Dorado, etc.) awaits!

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