Our Sierra foothills range from 1,200 to 3,500 feet and hundreds of microclimates perfect for nearly 50 grape varieties. And all our artisan winemakers have a passion for experimenting and for this place. That's what sets El Dorado apart.
Want to know what gives El Dorado wines their intense flavors and deep colors? Our mountain vineyards are on steep hillsides with warm summer days and cool night air. It's an environment that gives wines luscious fruit, an alluring balance, gentle tannins, and body and depth that valley floors just can't match.
California's Gold Rush began in El Dorado County 1848 with James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, on the South Fork of the American River in Coloma. As legions of people flocked to California to claim their fortunes, the region's winemaking industry was born.
By 1870, El Dorado County was among the largest wine producers in the state, trailing only Los Angeles and Sonoma counties. The local wine industry flourished until just after the turn of the century when there were approximately 2,000 acres of vines in the county. Shortly thereafter, El Dorado began a gradual decline, brought about by poor economic conditions and a diminishing local population. Prohibition was but the last straw.
Between 1920 and 1960, viticulture virtually disappeared from the county. It wasn't until the late 1960s that winegrowing made a resurgence. Following the development of several experimental vineyards, it became apparent that both the climate and soil of El Dorado County were ideally suited to the production of high quality, dry table wines. With the opening of Boeger Winery in 1973, El Dorado was once again on its way to becoming an important winegrowing region.
Today, the county has more than 2,000 acres of vines, is home to approximately 50 wineries, and produces some of California's most sophisticated wines. El Dorado was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983.
Source: "A Brief History of Winegrowing
in El Dorado County," Eric J. Costa
*Currently over 70 wineries within the boundaries of Greater El Dorado County
Nooks and Crannies at 1,200 to 3,500 ft: A Diversity of Microclimates.
In El Dorado County, the vintner's strength is the land's terrain: hundreds of microclimates provide a broad range of temperatures, exposures, and soils. When well matched, this topography provides an ideal location for the world's finest wine grapes, hailing from Bordeaux, the Rhône, Germany, Italy, and Spain. And that's what we call "Right Grape, Right Place."
El Dorado grape varieties
Download this list of the myriad wine grapes found in the El Dorado appellation, with the wineries that grow or make wine from those grapes. While this list is not comprehensive, it gives you a good taste for the variety you can find in El Dorado.
Established in 1983, The El Dorado American Viticultural Area (AVA, also referred to as an "appellation") includes those portions of El Dorado County located between 1,200 and 3,500 feet in elevation and bounded on the north by the Middle Fork of the American River, and on the south by the South Fork of the Cosumnes River. El Dorado is a sub-appellation of the 2,600,000-acre Sierra Foothills AVA — one of the largest appellations in California — which includes portions of the counties of Yuba, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolomne and Mariposa.
The El Dorado appellation is unique due to its high elevation and complex topography. El Dorado's mountain vineyards are perched at elevations high above the valley, where cooling breezes off the Sierra Nevada and the mountainous topography create a diversity of microclimates and growing conditions not found in other regions in valley settings.
These microclimates provide ideal locations for growing a wide variety of grapes identified with the world's finest wine regions, including Bordeaux, the Rhône, Germany, Italy and Spain. El Dorado grows approximately 50 different varieties of grapes, ranging from Gewürztraminer, which does best in the higher and cooler portions of the county, to Zinfandel and Barbera, which ripen perfectly in warmer climates.
El Dorado is cooled by elevation rather than by the fog that is common to the coastal regions. This means the grapes receive more direct sunlight, thus ripening fully without retaining excess herbaceous characters or acidity that is out of balance with the fruit flavors. El Dorado's relatively cool temperatures also allow the grapes a long "hang time" for uniform ripening.
In conjunction with the climate, there are three basic soil types determining the characteristics of the region: fine-grained volcanic rock, decomposed granite and fine-grained shale. Varying in elevation and topography, each soil offers good drainage and the nutrients needed to encourage vines producing rich, deeply flavored grapes.
The unique combination of climate, soil and topography found in the El Dorado appellation produce wines of distinction, depth and density with a maturity unmatched in other regions. This is El Dorado's "terroir."