Mark your calendar for two terrific Sierra foothills wine events happening in the coming weeks.
From Friday through Sunday, March 3-5, the annual Behind the Cellar Door tasting takes place in nearby Amador County. And early next month the Columbia College Foundation will feature upwards of 80 wineries and food concerns when they host the 41st annual Columbia Wine Tasting that takes place in Columbia State Historic Park. I’ll provide more on that event in the coming weeks.
In Amador County more than 45 wineries will offer an informative opportunity to expand your wine knowledge beyond the usual tasting room visit by providing educational seminars, one-of-a-kind tastings, and hands-on winery activities. Not to mention an extensive variety of food offerings and music at a number of the wineries.
The short but informative seminars might include checking wine development through barrel samples, learning about pruning techniques, or trying your hand at blending various grape types. Some of the presentations take place at specific times on both days, so advance planning is a must. And if there is a particular interest or topic, such as learning how to blend wines or understanding sensory evaluation, you can benefit from various takes on it from different wineries.
For instance, Andis Wines will offer a seminar on how types of oak affect the same wine with guests tasting the difference between French and Hungarian oak barrel samples, while nearby Iron Hub Winery will conduct barrel tasting comparing new vs. neutral barrels.
Or put your senses to work. Scott Harvey Wines will conduct an aroma and flavor sensory evaluation highlighting how food pairings impact your impressions. Jeff Runquist Wines challenges visitors with a 20-smell test that features 20 common descriptors used for red wine identification. Drytown Cellars gets more technical on the subject by applying sensory analysis and basic lab results in the art of winemaking.
Blending is becoming a popular winemaking skill, and several wineries will share their thoughts and will guide tasters through various trials with participants creating their own combinations. Or consider perfecting your pruning skills at several wineries and going home with vine clippings for planting.
The weekend also offers a special winemakers dinner on Friday evening at Terra d’Oro Winery, featuring a variety of producers from the region. Unlike a visit to Napa or Sonoma, Amador County provides visitors an opportunity to actually meet the winemaker at most wineries. Along with plenty of winery discounts, it is also an opportunity to purchase older vintages or wine futures.
It is important to check the wineries websites for specific times for many of the demos and sessions. One- and two-day passes are available. Weekend passes are $65 each with individual daily passes costing $55 for Saturday and $45 for Sunday. To get a peek behind their cellar doors, purchase passes, or check out the all the historic region’s winery happenings, go to www.amadorwine.com.
Tom Bender is a wine instructor at Columbia College and wine steward for O’Brien’s Market in Modesto.