Posts Tagged ‘gold rush’

Today’s trip is to Skinner Winery located in Fairplay.  This winery has a history that begins in the 1800’s.  James Skinner, an engineer from Glasgow, came to California in 1842 seeking his fortune.  He mined for gold for a while and as the gold rush was dying down, he discovered that there were other ways to seek his fortune.  He began by acquiring a bit of land and planting grape vines.  Today the Skinner family still maintains vineyards and a beautiful winery.

The way to Skinner Winery takes you through some glorious regions.  Here and there you can find old hay barns

An old hay barn

and hillsides dotted with houses.  Grape vines are grown everywhere!

A house at the edge of a vineyard

As we head on up to the winery we discover that the winery will be using goats to help clear out the unwanted greenery that pops up after the rains. The goats were most curious, and this one I call “The Nose.”

The Nose

Our first sight of the winery was of the building that houses their wine making operation.

The Skinner Winery Facility

Going a bit further up the hillside we come to their new tasting room. Now this structure has character as do their wines!


Skinner Tasting Room

Not only does the old style of the tasting room draw your attention, but it is the view that is spectacular!

Looking out off the deck at Skinner

We venture into the tasting room and are greeted by Jeff Renfro who immediately pours us some wine.

Jeff Renfro our tasting room guide

We start off our tasting experience with the white wines. Barb and Wayne fell in love with both the white wines: The first called 7 Generations, which is a blend of 5 different grapes. The predominant being Roussanne, followed by Marsanne. The wine was similar in style to a Chardonnay, with slight oak notes and a clean finish. The next white that is poured for us is 100% Roussanne. The wine was a bit cloudy, but that certainly did not detract from the smoky oak, and lovely light fruit.

Inside the Skinner tasting room

Barb and Wayne went on to other wines and I sampled the Rose. This wine is a lovely combination of Grenache and Mourvedre. The wine is light and lively! But my favorite of the day is the wine called Eighteen Sixty One. This red blend is comprised of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. This wine is bold and explodes in your mouth with wonderful rich berry flavors reminiscent of a Southern Rhone wine! Just lovely!

If you are planning to picnic, bring your lunch, buy a bottle of wine, and enjoy the view.  Seating is comfortable, and they have a magnificent patio with a fireplace.

The patio at Skinner where they host events

Check out the panoramic view.  If you click on the photo you will see it a bit better.  This photo is made up of 5 photos stitched together.

I headed back up the stairs from the patio and found my friends waiting to go on to the next place.

Wayne, Barb and Ethel give a greeting from Skinner

Next we will be stopping by Miraflores Winery to sample their fare!

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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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