Regions on the Verge: 5 California Wine Areas to Watch
California wine is all about exploration. Nothing against our most famous regions - Napa Valley's global allure is like the Yosemite of wine, for sure - but what separates the Golden State's wine prowess is the ability to always have something new on the horizon. If 15 years ago the Santa Lucia Highlands seemed like undiscovered country, now we might be looking to the extreme Sonoma Coast...
El Dorado County: The Sierra foothills are always struggling to gain attention, seeing as the coast gets most of the attention and the visitors - unless you happen to be heading up to Tahoe.
About 130 years after an experimental vineyard was planted near the Amador County town of Jackson, the foothills are still sorting out what their pathway to greatness might be.
But El Dorado in particular has lately discovered its sweet spot. Everything is grown here, from Pinot Gris to Nebbiolo, but the real traction can be found in a range of Rhone-native varieties like Grenache and Viognier, plus a handful of oddities like Gamay Noir.
The high elevations, dry summer heat and granite and volcanic soils give distinction and ripeness to the grapes, without depriving them of acidity or structure. As a new era of more ambitious winemakers turn to the foothills ( sfg.ly/TfbVXi), it will be worth tracking the wines coming down from the mountains. For in an era when distinctive California wines can be spendy, El Dorado still offers a lot of value.