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So now we go on to the third winery we visited: Miraflores in Placerville. Come with me, Ethel, Barb and Wayne as we visit this winery!

Again, as with our adventure to the other wineries, the road was winding and scenic.

We see alpacas on the way

When we came upon the alpaca farm, which had to have had about 50 of these beautiful creatures, Barb asked if we should stop. I told the group that if we did, I would have to buy something, which led to stories from both Barb and Ethel about what they bought because they stopped! From what I heard, it would be well worth the stop…and we continued on.

We found Miraflores, and drove up the narrow road to the winery. The road is a little rough to the winery, so if you make the trip, take your time. As we approached the winery we found ourselves below the tasting room.

Coming upon Miraflores Winery

Miraflores is one of the small producers in El Dorado County. But the place is grand as are their wines! We headed into the tasting room, which is a new building for them. The previous building held their tanks and barrels. Once in the tasting room we realized that they were really busy!

We sidled up to the tasting room bar. Having been to this winery before, I was on the hunt for the Pinot Grigio, which I had bought on my last visit. I was looking forward to this wine, and was told that unfortunately the wine was no longer available, which taught me a lesson, and one that I will share with you. If you find a wine that you really love, buy it, and buy more than one bottle, otherwise if you go looking for it on your next visit, you might not be able to get it! Even thought I was disappointed, I do look forward to their next release of this wine!

They have an impressive flight of wines. A flight, is the listing of wines that you will be able to try in their tasting room. I stepped back from the bar with a taste of their 2009 Barbera. I marveled at the grandeur of their tasting room.

Inside the Miraflores Tasting Room

Standing back from the crowd, I let the flavors of the Barbera roll around my mouth. This is typically an acidic wine that goes well with any food that has acid, like a dish that includes tomato sauce. Their Barbera was lively and crisp and would definitely hold up to a tomato based dish.

The next wine that I tried was the 2007 Zinfandel, which was rated by Wine Enthusiast Magazine with a score of 92! And this was a most impressive wine! I generally try wines and make my own determination as to whether I like the wine or not. I rarely rely on ratings from reviewers and magazines as what I may like another person may not, so “judge for yourself” is my motto!

I strolled outside to their back patio. The wind was whipping up and I wished that I had worn a jacket. I looked at the beautiful stonework, and what captured my eye was the centerpiece of the area:

Back patio at Miraflores

As I rolled the wine over my tongue, the flavors exploded, and I was picturing what I could pair this wine with. Roast beef and vegetables came to mind! But I could also see this wine with a lovely roast duck too! I headed back in to the tasting room. Barb and Wayne were trying other wines, and Ethel found a wonderful goat cheese with a pesto sauce that was available for all to try.

My last pick was the Principe dessert wine. Here is where I found a piece of heaven on earth! This lovely dessert wine is a port style wine. I closed my eyes and was picturing in my mind how well that this wine would pair with a rich chocolate mousse cake! The grapes used for this wine are a Touriga Nacional and a Tinto Cao. This wine was loaded with smooth plum flavors, and rich chocolate notes! This wine had to come home with me!

Before leaving I ventured to take some photos of their vineyards that not only surround the winery, but flow up the hills rising above them.

Miraflores' vineyards

Behind the pines are more vineyards

Next, we head on over to the tasting room of a very new winery in the Placerville area: Chateau Davell!

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Not everyone who came to the Sierra Foothills looking for gold found it in nuggets. Those who were searching for gold here in the Foothills were thirsty for alcohol and it was in 1856 that Swiss immigrant Adam Uhlinger planted the first grape vines for wine making in Amador County. Once production of wine took off here in the Foothills, others joined in looking for new places to grow grapes and make their wine, and a new “gold rush” took off!

In the newly formed town of El Dorado, a fellow by the name of Fossati-Lombardo planted the first vines here in El Dorado county. That was in 1860. When the gold rush was in full force, there were approximately 100 wineries in the region. The predominant grape grown was the Zinfandel.

Zinfandel Grapes

Towards the end of the 1800’s wine growing regions in most of California suffered from an infestation of Phylloxera Louse, which killed the vines. With the Foothills growing region being so separated from the rest of the grape growing regions, they escaped the devastation. By this time, mining for gold was winding down and prohibition became the law. The wineries were shut down. However Fossati-Lombardo was able to continue to produce wine for use in the local churches, until it too had to shut its doors.

After prohibition, wineries in the valley slowly returned. In the Foothills in 1973, in the town of Placerville, Greg Boeger purchased the Fossati-Lombardo Winery. This became the first post-prohibition winery in Sierra Foothills. Since that time, wineries started to pop up here again in the Foothills and have become a major attraction for those who enjoy wine!

As the weather starts to warm up and the grape vines start to push, which means that the leaf buds appear, I plan on taking you on a number of trips to some of the Foothill wineries! I invite you to come and join me!

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Abram Peter Turner Elder was responsible for some more Sierra Foothill’s lore and history. A native of Middletown, Rhode Island, his main occupation was that of a publisher. Some accounts have him owning a Boston newspaper and building the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Neither could be verified, and the Sir Francis Drake makes no mention of an A.P.T. Elder on the history section of their website. Sounds as though he must have spun a good yarn to some folks.

One of the books he was working on was promoted at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. While at the exposition he noticed and took a fancy to the Michigan Building. This was the State of Michigan’s pavilion at the exposition. At the close of the exposition he purchased the Michigan building, had it dismantled, and moved to a 350 acre parcel he owned in El Dorado County, CA. He named his parcel Deer View. The Photo below shows a portion of the Deer View Lodge building in the left side foreground.

Deer ViewvLodge - Thanks to SierraNevadaAdventures.com

The building was reassembled at Deer View and turned into a lodge around 1918. Mr. Elder’s envisioned the area as a retreat, an area that would invigorate, an area which should be used to enjoy all aspects of nature as well as hunting nature. After completing the Deer View Lodge he started his next adventure, the 250 room Hotel Bret Harte, located next to the lodge.

Hotel-Bret-HartA1 - Thanks to SierraNevadaAdventures.com

Hotel Bret Harte was to be revolutionary for the times, and location. Each room was to have its own bath with hot water, outdoor swimming pools, promenade paths on the grounds to wander through orchards while picking wild berries, a virtual Eden for guests. Natural springs provided water, and power to generate electricity. One has to remember that there were no paved roads at the time. There were barely even roads. The hotel was approximately 16 miles northeast of Placerville. It was a three to four hour journey by automobile from there. Even today it would take about an hour, on a good day and with a high clearance vehicle. The road from Placerville wasn’t paved until 1943. I think it is still that 1943 original pavement that covers the original dirt road to this day.

The road was known as the Placerville-Soapweed Road, today it is called Mosquito Road. Besides several miles of twists and turns, with several 180 degree switchbacks, and thousands of bumps, the road traverses the South Fork of the American River over the oldest, still in use, suspension bridge in California.

Now known as Mosquito Bridge it has looked the same since its 1867 construction. (In 1863 El Dorado County funded the road to Mosquito, hence the bridge being built. I have found articles which indicate the bridge being constructed anywhere from 1858 to 1867.) It is still an eight foot wide, wooden bridge. The photo, below, is from 1914. The photo that follows is 95 years later. The bridge looks the almost the same except with paint!

Mosquito Bridge 1914 - Thanks to the CA State Library

Mosquito Bridge 2009

Depending on what you read, and not knowing what is actual fact, the hotel had anywhere from 500,000 to 5 million board feet of lumber used in its construction. Foundations were either made by local craftsmen or by timbers taken from old train trestles. Plumbers began plumbing the fourth floor while carpenters were still working on the first and second floors. The three story fireplace, along with the additional chimney, took over 410 tons of stone for their construction. Sadly there are too many versions to know what is what, but all make for a good story.

Before the Hotel Bret Harte was completed Mr. Elder died. (Again dates vary anywhere from 1924 on some websites to 1930 on the Library of Congress site).  His death halted the completion of the hotel. As his heirs where on the east coast, and as they did not share the same vision of Deer View as did Mr. Elder, they opted to sell what they could and leave the remainder. So the abandoned buildings were left to nature and vandals. Nature reined her heaviest toll in 1936 when a very unusual amount of snow fell on the area, leaving approximately 8.5 feet. The weight of the snow, and the poor condition of the abandoned building, caused the left side to collapse. Below is a photo showing the collapsed area.

Deerview-collapse 1937 - Photo by El Dorado County Historical Museum

Further accounts indicate the remainder of the building was razed in 1941. Today only the rock foundation walls and steps leading to the front of the building remain. Nature is slowly reclaiming her land. The area of Deer View is shown on the topographical map below. US Forest Road marker 12N60H should mark the area to stop and hike the mile or so to the site of the once grand building.

As a final note, if you do decide to visit the area, please remember:

** The area is located within US Forest boundaries but is privately owned.
** Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.
** This a season dependent adventure, don’t bother in the winter.
** There are no services (gas, food, etc.) in the forest.
** Bring water and good boots.

****

I hope that you enjoyed this article as much as I did. In the later part of summer this year we will be visiting the Deer View site to harvest some of the pears from the orchard there, and share some photos with you of what it looks like today!

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