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The Sierra Foothills region, located in historic Gold Country northeast of San Francisco, is rather like Napa or Sonoma 50 years ago. The area is still unpolished and eccentric in character, but the wines offer an authentic sense of place. And while many of them are of ordinary quality, there is a small but influential group of wineries that are raising the bar.

Please note that prices, hours of operation and wine availability can often change, and we recommend that you call ahead before you go.

For more wineries worldwide, see our Winery Search database.

Terra d'Oro Winery
20680 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, CA 95669
Telephone: (209) 245-6942
Open: Daily, 10-4:30; Tours Fri-Sun at 12 and 2

Tasting Fee: Free

This massive, modern $12 million production facility, constructed to look like a barn from the outside, houses a sizable tasting room that sells wines, gourmet cheeses and meats and the latest gadgets for opening and sealing bottles. At least 21 wines are poured in the tasting room, including Zinfandel, rosé and Pinot Grigio.

Sobon Estate
14430 Shenandoah Road
Plymouth, CA 95669
Telephone: (209) 245-6554
Open: Daily, 9:30-5
Tasting Fee: $5

Sobon was founded in 1856, not long after California's gold rush began, and it's one of the country's oldest wineries (originally named D'Agostini Winery). Visitors can learn more about the area's rich history by stopping by the museum that's housed in the original winery building; artifacts include early gold rush furniture and tools, a brass bell and photographs from the nearby one-room schoolhouse. The winery's enormous 150-year-old white oak tanks, made from trees taken from the property, still have their wax seals. Among the varieties produced here is good to very good Zinfandel.

Ironstone Vineyards
1894 Six Mile Road
Murphys, CA 95247
Telephone: (209) 728-1251
Open: Daily, 11-5; Tours, Sat-Sun, 11:30 and 1:30

Tasting Fee: Free

The Kautz family has long grown grapes and other crops, but Ironstone wasn't founded until 1988. In the tasting room, visitors can sample a collection of new releases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. The grounds also comprise a giant picnic area, and sandwiches on homemade breads, fresh salad and homemade pastries are all sold at the winery's deli. After lunch, explore the property's museum housing artifacts from the area's 19th century gold-mining rush, including the largest Crystalline Gold Leaf specimen in the world, photographs of miners in the field and mining maps.

Terre Rouge-Easton
10801 Dickson Road
Plymouth, CA 95669
Telephone: (209) 245-4277
Open: 11-4, Friday to Monday

Tasting Fee: Free

One of the earliest advocates of Syrah in the foothills, Bill Easton is a character in the best sense of the word: passionate, iconoclastic and devoted to bringing out the true personality of his vineyards. Under the Terre Rouge label, he has produced Rhône varietals since 1985, and in 1991, he launched the Easton label for non-Rhône varieties such as Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. All his wines are loaded with intensity and personality but are never over-the-top in style or overripe. The best wine under the Terre Rouge label is a Syrah called Ascent, while the Easton Zinfandels from Fiddletown and the estate bottling are impressive. Because the wines are tightly wound in their youth, Easton is usually a vintage or two behind the pack in terms of release. The tasting room is situated in a handsome cottage beside the winery.

Boeger Winery
1709 Carson Road
Placerville, CA 95667
Telephone: (530) 622-8094; (800) 655-2634
Open: Daily, 10-5; Tours by appointment only

Tasting Fee: Free

Open for more than 30 years, Boeger is the most recent winery to occupy a site where wine has been made for more than a century. Today the original 19th century winery can be rented out for private parties or other events. The newer, more modern winery houses a tasting room serving around 20 wines, including current releases of Barbera, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. Plan to picnic out back, in the shade of redwood trees; the nearby Dedrick's Main Street Cheese sells an assortment of French cheeses, fresh caper berries and crusty bread.

Cedarville Vineyard
6320 Marestail Road
Fair Play, CA 95684
Telephone: (530) 620-9463
Open: Daily, by appointment only

Tasting Fee: Free

You'll get personal attention when you visit this tiny, family-run winery. Armed with enology degrees from the University of California at Davis, Jonathan Lachs and Susan Marks have flown by the seat of their pants to build their business, which they started in 1995; their first wines came from the 1998 vintage and they're now producing some of the best Zinfandels in the area. Situated at an elevation of 2,500 feet in the Fair Play region, the modest winery produces 2,200 cases annually from 15 acres of estate vineyards. Lachs and Marks show visitors around personally, pouring tastes during the tour of the winery and caves.

C.G. Di Arie
19919 Shenandoah School Rd.
Plymouth, CA 95669
Telephone: (209) 245-4700
Open: 10-4:30, Thursday to Monday

Tasting Fee: Free

An inventor and food scientist, Chaim Gur-Arieh helped develop well-known products such as Cap'n Crunch cereal, Power Bars and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. The Turkey-born Gur-Arieh and his wife, Elisheva, turned to winemaking late in life, opening a winery in Shenandoah Valley in 2002. The winery itself is generally not accessible to the public, but a stylish tasting salon was opened a few miles away in 2007. It's a solid collection of wines, but the standouts are the Zinfandels, along with the Barbera and the Southern Exposure Syrah.

Miraflores Winery
2120 Four Springs Trail
Placerville, CA 95667
Telephone: (530) 647-8505
Open: 10-5, daily

Tasting Fee: Free

This is a winery to watch. Owner Victor Alvarez is a successful pathologist and, along with his wife, Cheryl, has the resources and passion to make Miraflores a top estate. Winemaker Marco Cappelli spent most of his career at Swanson in Napa Valley, and even though he's now working with vineyards that have only been producing fruit since 2004, the results are impressive and promising, particularly the Zinfandel and Syrah. The estate's 39 acres are hidden among tall pines in the El Dorado region, and the tasting room has a chic, country-estate atmosphere.


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