Sacramento sits smack dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful and diverse wine regions in the country. Within a short hour’s drive from downtown Sacramento, you can visit over 200 wineries in Yolo, San Joaquin, Placer, Amador, El Dorado and Nevada counties.
Tucked inside El Dorado County, on the border of Amador County, you’ll find a sub-appellation called Fair Play. Fair Play boasts beautiful scenery and picturesque rolling hills with elevations ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 feet, making it the California AVA (American Viticultural Area) with the second-highest average elevation. This altitude sets this wine appellation apart and gives it the benefit of a noticeable diurnal shift—the difference between the average daily temperature and the average nighttime temperature. The growing days in Fair Play can be hot, which allows grapes to develop sugars and flavors, but they are tempered by significantly cooler nights, which allow the grapes to rest, recover and retain acidity. The most esteemed wine regions around the world are blessed with the gift of a diurnal shift, which can occur at elevation, or by way of cooling coastal breezes. Fair Play, established as an AVA in 2001, counts itself as one of these top wine regions. Now, the 23 member wineries have banded together to invite wine lovers from around the Sacramento region and beyond to explore the appellation and get acquainted with each winery through a multiweek, multiwinery virtual experience called The Best of Fair Play.
I found out about this series a few weeks ago. While I have been slowly re-entering the world with in-person visits to local wineries in recent weeks, I was starting to miss the convenience of drinking wine with winemakers from the comfort of my own couch (while never getting out of my yoga pants). When I learned about The Best of Fair Play series, I jumped on board for my virtual fix. To participate, I simply navigated my way to the Fair Play Wineries website and clicked a button. Subsequently, I was registered for an event on Zoom and was shipped one highly-rated or award-winning wine from each of the three featured wineries.
For the first series, which debuted on Wednesday, July 1, the event showcased wines from Sentivo Vineyards, Polynesian Girl Wine and E16 Winery. With help from local wine personality Russ Reyes of Kilt & Cork, the winery representatives took turns introducing themselves and their wineries, highlighting what factors make Fair Play such an outstanding region for wine, describing their winemaking philosophy and then leading viewers through a tasting of their respective wine. Participants could interact and get involved by asking questions, making food-pairing suggestions and posting comments.
As I opened my first wine and took a sip of the E16 Baby Rattlesnake Vineyard 2018 Grenache Blanc, I was hooked. The wine, so crisp and fresh, immediately interjected a little brightness into my evening. I started dreaming of calamari with chiles and a squeeze of lemon. When I snapped to, I poured myself the second wine: Sentivo Vineyards’ Tribute Reserve 2015 Red Blend (Syrah/Grenache). This rich and velvety wine brought to mind roasted lamb and a silky side of tunes from John Legend. I completed my tasting with a wine from the new kid on the block in Fair Play: Polynesian Girl Wine. The Estate Reserve Barbera 2017 is grown without the use of any pesticides or herbicides. This red was juicy and silky, and begged for a beautiful pork tenderloin and cherry reduction. (Clearly I was hungry for the duration of the event!) When the tasting ended, I had successfully learned about three unique wineries, tasted some beautiful wines and was transported to a beautiful place through descriptive phrases and photos all without doing anything but clicking a button or two on my computer. It was a good night.
If you’d like to participate in future episodes of The Best of Fair Play, please visit: https://www.fairplaywine.com/
For more information about wineries mentioned in this article, please visit: