As waterlogged as many of us might be feeling this April, there are a number of special wine-tasting events planned over the next several weeks to finally give us cause to celebrate spring.
The one upside of all the rain and snow this year is an extended season of beautiful green hillsides along with abundant and diverse wildflowers. Here are some good reasons to meander up and down Highway 49 and check out a few new wine events along with the fifth year of one of our region’s biggest wine and food happenings.
On April 7, Wine on 49, a collaboration of winery tasting rooms in downtown Sutter Creek, hosts an afternoon of wine tasting, gourmet bites, live music and goods from vendors throughout Amador County. Now home to 12 tasting rooms, this downtown collective continues to grow and so does the popularity of the easy stroll to each tasting venue. This event celebrates the wildflower season with artists and vendors on the streets, offering experiences such as painting demonstrations and the creation of crowns of flowers. Local vendors include the organic Upcountry Farms selling produce, and the Amador Flower Co-op with flowers and botanical crowns. Also present will be the California Native Plant Society, a local goat soap maker and Made in Amador. Made in Amador is the forefront of the artisan maker movement in Amador County.
Feist Wines serves farm-to-fork, wood-fired pizza and chocolate cherry brownies made by Amador County pastry chef Ingrid Fraser. Miller Wines will feature a menu of dried pears on grapefruit crisps and beef short ribs with loganberry and horseradish. Yorba Wines will collaborate with local chef Lucy Spangler Gore, who creates street tacos for the day. There will be bands scattered throughout the tasting rooms with varied compositions of blues, jazz, Americana, classical guitar, folk and rock music.
Wine on 49’s goal is to present fine wines, ambitious foods and great music, all set to the background of a historically and architecturally dynamic small town. Tickets are $45 – or $20 for designated drivers – in advance at wineon49.com.
On the following weekend, head to Steiner Road in the Shenandoah Valley outside Plymouth on April 13 for Spring Into Zin, hosted by Start on Steiner-member wineries. With Amador County being home to some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in the country, a number of Steiner Road wineries use old vines to produce acclaimed wines. For Spring Into Zin, each of the eight wineries features two different Zinfandel selections, ranging from old vines to blends to library releases, that will be exquisitely paired at most locations with unique small bites. This will be a true celebration of Zin. The wineries encourage folks to explore the wineries of Steiner Road and discover the finesse, elegance and diversity of this unique terroir.
The event is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 13 and features Bella Grace Vineyards and Wine Cave, Charles Spinetta Winery, Deaver Vineyards, Dillian Wines, Dobra Zemlja Winery, Driven Cellars, Iron Hub Winery and Shenandoah Vineyards. Tickets are $20 and include a Start on Steiner wineglass, food pairings at most of the wineries and exclusive wine purchase specials. Purchase tickets at startonsteiner.ticketspice.com/spring-into-zin. Designated driver tickets are available at each winery for $5. All attendees must be age 21 or older.
On Highway 108 near Jamestown in Tuolumne County, Hurst Ranch hosts its annual Barn Party from 1 to 4 p.m. April 13. The event features local products from Hurst Ranch Vineyards, Bear Tent Brewing Co, Gianelli Vineyards, Inner Sanctum Cellars, Indigeny Reserve, Yosemite Cellars, Arthur Michael Vineyards and Rawhide Sausage, and local cheeses, along with live music by Frank Monte Junior and his band. Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 in advance at Hurst Ranch or from one of the participating wineries. Two food trucks will also be on-site selling wood-fired pizza and smoked meat sandwiches.
One of the Sierra foothills’ premier events is less than a month away. The Amador Four Fires Festival celebrates its fifth year of paying homage to open-flame cooking. It happens at the Amador County Fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 4. Not only will folks see local professionals sharing their open-flame approaches to cooking favorites, they also have the opportunity to celebrate regional flavors with a glass of Amador wines to match.
The concept brings together the flavors of four zones, with each representing a wine region: South of France (Rhone), Italy; Spain/Portugal (Iberia); and Heritage California (claiming Zinfandel and Mission). Within each zone, chefs prepare dishes grilled over flames. Musicians play regional melodies and winery representatives pour wines that honor particular regions of the world.
In addition to stellar foods and wines, attendees can participate in abundant activities, including seminars covering topics from wine tasting to sustainable farming, cooking demonstrations, listen to live music and enjoy exceptional offerings from more than 30 area artists and crafters.
General admission tickets include wine tasting with choices of more than 200 wines from more than 40 wineries, the open-flame food pairings, educational seminars, cooking demonstrations, interactive experiences, shopping and music.
New this year is Amador Distillery, on hand sampling its locally distilled spirits. And instead of an “Information Tent,” the festival will have “A4F Ambassadors,” specially trained helpers with all aspects of the event who are available throughout the event to answer questions and help attendees to make the most of their Amador Four Fires experience. VIPs get early access to the event at 10 a.m. and, rather than just get access to the VIP Zone, all wineries will be ready for tasting, allowing VIPs to avoid the crowds.
Ticket prices are a discounted to $80 if purchased before April 15 at amadorfourfires.com. Special VIP tickets are $125 in advance, including all general admission offerings, reserved parking, 10 a.m. admission, exclusive gourmet bites prepared by students in the culinary program at American River College, access to the VIP Zone with private seating, one-on-one experiences with acclaimed winemakers, private seminars and exclusive wine tastings. There is a Designated Driver pass for $40 that includes all general admission offerings sans the wine.
So say goodbye to the wet winter blues by making your way to one of these wonderful springtime events. It’s a great time of the year to enjoy wine tasting – especially red wines – knowing that the summer heat is just around the corner.