Move over Napa, Amador County has amazing wine at great prices, and for those of living in Sacramento, it’s a convenient way to wine taste, with fewer frills or expense.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Napa and I've written about the gems that can be found in Calistoga, located in the Napa Valley. However, as a Sacramentan, getting to Napa often seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
Enter Amador County. Just one of many of Sacramento’s local wine making regions. Amador County is just forty-five minutes away from Sacramento on Jackson Highway 16 and its dozens of wineries offer a wide selection for you to choose from. And the best part? A lot of the wineries offer complimentary tastings. Complimentary tastings, plus affordable wines you can take home with you? It makes for a great grape escape.
Here’s a convenient map to Amadaor’s 41 winteries: https://amadorwine.com/wineries/location-winery-map/
And since there are so many to choose from, I thought I’d share a few of the ones I have been to and share gorgeous pictures to give you a sense of what the Shenandoah Valley has to offer:
Probably the best back patio in the region is at Karmere. It’s tiered slope looks over the valley, providing great views you can pair with their great wine. Like with most wineries, they have plenty of seating and allow you to bring food so you can picnic while you wine taste. When I was there, they had a singer performing, which just added to the already great ambience.
Hours: 11:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. daily
Cost: Complimentary wine tasting.
If you are looking to add some wine-based furniture to your house, this is the place to go. From high-top bar tables to doggie beds, there is a wide range of wine barrel furniture being sold here.
The Serafina Cellars tasting room is closer to Sacramento than many other wineries on this list making it a great first -- or last stop -- on your trip to the region. It’s tall ceilings and large room gives way to a tasting bar, seating area and game room. Outside there is a good-sized patio with more game options. The staff behind the counter work to make sure you are having a good time and if you are lucky, they might even pour you a bonus beverage to make sure you have a good experience. And if you aren't much into wine, they have a wide selection of ciders for you to taste just in case.
Hours: Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 10:30am – 5:00pm.
Cost: $5 for a tasting.
Tip: Be on the lookout for Groupon deals for this winery.
Story winery proves that good things come in small packages. Probably the least assuming of the tasting rooms on this list, Story winery makes the back patio, with the steep view of the valley, its focal point. The back patio almost feels like you are in someone's back yard, but with a better view. I highly recommend this spot for your afternoon picnic.
While I don’t typically drink Rosé, there’s is definitely worth trying and buying. A lot of the wineries in the valley are located on Shenandoah Road itself. Story is just off the beaten track, but there are signs directing you where to go. You will definitely want to pencil in this fairytale spot on your first - or next - trip to the region.
Hours: Mon–Thur 12–4pm, Fri-Sun 11-5pm
Cost: One set of complimentary offerings and one "upgraded" menu with a fee.
For the more corporate wine tasting experience. Helwig wine tasting room sits atop a huge hill and like many of the wineries, offers some great views for visitors.The wines here are OK, but the overall experience for me wasn’t as relaxed and fun as some of the other wineries in town. The large parking lot fills with cars and tours, making me think this is a must-stop for many visitors. However, if you want to avoid some of the crowds, this might be a winery to skip.
Hours: Open seven days a week from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. They close the Tasting Room early at 3:30pm for Summer Concerts.
Cost: $5 fee, which is waived if you purchase a bottle of wine.
Bask in the tuscan-like sun as you sip on Vino Noceto’s signature Sangiovese wine offerings. Don’t let the large dog statue scare you from stopping at this winery. Ask to have your tasting done outside, take a seat and enjoy yourself as the sun hits your skin (or if you are sun averse, stay under the umbrella) while you look at the vineyard in front of you. The wines here are not only good, but very affordable, making it a great place to stop. And, as the scary giant dog statue might imply, the winery is dog friendly. So feel free to bring your pooch along for the ride.
Hours: Weekdays: 11am to 4pm, Weekends: 11am to 5pm,
Cost: Complimentary wine tasting.