If you travel 42 miles east of Sacramento, you’ll find Amador County tucked into the Sierra Nevada foothills. You may know this region as the heart of the Gold Rush, but it also houses the Shenandoah Valley, which was once the main viticultural area in California. During the Gold Rush, in the mid-1800s, the population exploded in the region. Subsequently, wineries popped up all over the valley. Prohibition hit in the early 1930s and devastated the industry. However, some vineyards survived and today Amador County boasts the oldest documented zinfandel vineyard in the Americas, with planted vines dating back to 1869.
This vineyard, historically known as Old Grandpere and now as Vineyard 1869, is still producing beautiful wines that are sought out by wine enthusiasts and zinfandel fanatics. Dry-farmed for over 150 years, these gnarly, thick, twisted vines have had to dig deep over their lifetime to find water. This is one of the reasons these vines have survived in such impressive fashion. When rain is lacking, these vines can still manage.
There is an ongoing debate about old vines and the reason the grapes are so highly regarded. One explanation is that the fruit was so extraordinary to begin with that the vines warranted extra care and attention, allowing the plant to be shepherded successfully into old age. The second reasoning is that, over time, the vines age and become less vigorous. As the vineyard ages, production declines, offering up only a fraction of the yield generated by younger neighbors. Lower yields mean more of the plant’s resources, nutrients and energy are focused into smaller quantities of fruit, resulting in wines that are more concentrated and full of flavor, layers and structure.
Wines from Vineyard 1869 are distinct and spicy, with aroma and taste characteristics that teeter between ripe raspberry and blackberry brightened by a juicy backbone.
Just a handful of wineries in the region have access to this vineyard’s extraordinary fruit. This month, from Jan. 15–16, 2022, three of those wineries, Scott Harvey Wines, Vino Noceto and Andis Wines, along with Taste Restaurant, will be showcasing wines from this vineyard for the Original Grandpere Vineyard Weekend. Tickets to this event start at $59 and include a sampling of current and library releases made from the Vineyard 1869 grapes plus specially curated food pairings at each of the participating wineries. Attendees can also upgrade their event passport (for an extra $20) and get access to a tour of the historical vineyard. Upgraded tickets are limited so check the event website for more details.