About a year ago, I discovered a little town called Plymouth in Amador County, California. It’s a small town with a population over 900 about 45 minutes east from Sacramento. It has the sleeper town vibe going on. It doesn’t even have a stop light. I used to live in one of those towns. And as you drive in and you see a Mexican restaurant, a Shell gas station, a grocery store, the fairgrounds, you begin to wonder what the hell you are doing here in the first place. Over the past year, I’ve been to this little town so many times I can’t remember.
Although the town might have its charm, I have not actually set foot in any of the local places. I skip the town and head straight to the Shenandoah Valley, northeast of Plymouth, where 30 plus wineries reside all within minutes from each other. Forget going to Napa! It’s overpriced and crowded. Spending a day at the Shenandoah Valley wineries is a picnic. One day is not enough to get through abundance of wineries. As many times as I’ve visited, I haven’t managed to make it to all of them. Mostly known for the zinfandel wines, the valley grows more than 2,700 acres of grapes and with vines said to be more than 60 years old and some dating back to the 19th century. It is a red winos heaven.
Unfortunately, I am not a big on red wines; however, coming to this place has introduced me to some great red wines as it is a mostly red wine producing valley. The first time I showed up at Villa Toscano Winery one of staff members told me I was at the wrong place to taste white wines. He told me I would be disappointed as I would mostly be drinking red wines but by the end of the tasting I would be a red wino. He wasn’t wrong. I don’t know if was because they serve around 10 of their wines and I had a major wine buzz going, but by the end of the tasting, my friend and I left with six bottles of wines plus we became wine members. One of my favorite wines thus far from the valley has been the Barbera, which is incredibly smooth and doesn’t have that bitter aftertaste. But you will also find some great Tempranillo, Syrah and amazing Port wines.
Part of the unique experience of wine tasting in the valley is that the majority of the wineries are locally owned and family operated. As you drive around to the different wineries, you begin to feel very much the family spirit as you get know the people who work there and the patrons showing up to drink. At the Borjon Winery, we were sitting outside enjoying our tasting and the owner sat with us (we had no clue he was the owner). We talked for hours and he even offered us a bottle of wine (we’re just cool like that).
When I first started going tasting, most of the wineries offered free tasting, however, that was changed sometime during the year and most wineries now have a $5 charge. If you’ve ever been to Napa, you know have to wait more than 20 minutes to get served plus pay more than $20 for three tastings. At the majority of the wineries here, you’ll get to taste anywhere between five to 10 different wines for a fraction of the price and without that unpretentious feeling. If you manage to make to the top of the valley, you’ll also get an amazing view of some of the winding river canyons and the sierra. So if you’d like to get away for the day and drink some amazing wine then I highly recommend Shenandoah Valley vineyards.