Napa Valley is famous for its wines, wine tasting tours, pleasant rolling hills and vineyard landscapes, restaurants, and quaint B&Bs scattered throughout the county. It is considered one of premier wine regions in the world and spending the weekend touring some of its 300 wineries is a luxury desired by most wine-drinking Californians. Besides touring by car, the area is also popular with bicyclists, motorcyclists, and just about any other conveyance including hot air balloons.
But wait. Could there be another valley in California that could rival Napa wines? As a matter of fact, the Shenandoah Valley in Amador County may not be as vast or well known as Napa, nor have as many vineyards, restaurants and day spas, but it holds its own in beauty and extremely good wines.
Who knew that the Sierra Nevada Foothill Gold Country could harbor such a beautiful and prolific wine producing region. During the Gold Rush of the 1850s, amid the many fortune seekers flocking to the Sierras to prospect for gold, some found that another bounty could be derived from the Mother Lode. Within a few decades over 100 wineries were established in the Mother Lode area. Some of the vines planted during that era still survive. With the decline of gold mining and then followed by Prohibition in 1920, the wine community in the Gold Country was devastated. In the late 1960s a new generation of vintners were drawn to the area that is ideal for producing top-quality wine grapes and Shenandoah became known for its robustly flavored, full bodied wines, especially zinfandel. While zinfandel remains the signature variety, today there are forty wineries producing a more diverse variety of wines.
Shenandoah Valley is located near the small town of Plymouth on historic Highway 49. Before making the turn onto Shenandoah Road off of Highway 49, stop in Plymouth to pick up a picnic lunch to take with you on your tour. Most of the larger wineries provide picnic tables for a leisurely lunch or snack as you make your way through the region. Signs point the way to the wineries on Shenandoah Road, Shenandoah School Road, and other smaller roads that stem out from Shenandoah Road.
While there, visiting the Amador Flower Farm on Shenandoah School Road with its huge selection of daylilies is also a must. In the fall, the requisite pumpkin patch and corn maze is a fun stop for the kids. And speaking of the fall, the wide variety of grapes allow for a spectacular showing of fall colors that would cause most photographers to salivate.
Next door to Shenandoah Valley is the quaint community of Fiddletown. Some call it a ghost town, but there are farms and ranches surrounding the town with an active community center and historic preservation society. Fiddletown has several buildings dating back to the 1850s, including a Chinese gambling house, Wells Fargo office, and a blacksmith shop.
The second time I travelled to the area was with a friend, so I felt a little more daring in exploring some of the outlying areas. We luckily noticed the Retiredice Alpaca farm on Mt. Aukum Road in Sommerset as we passed it and quickly made a U-turn to visit those lovely animals.
We of course had to do a little shopping as well and purchased some very comfy socks and scarves, with the idea of some day returning to do more damage to the pocket book! I am also planning a return for more Alpaca portraits.
The drive through the Gold Country is always interesting and this particular area is no exception.