On April 2, wine enthusiasts will gather for the Foothill Wine Fest, which takes place at Palladio shopping center in Folsom. Attendees will be able to taste a broad selection of wines that hail from the Sierra Foothills, including award winners from the Foothill Wine Fest competition, which took place in early March. More than 20 wine judges gathered in Folsom to evaluate and score approximately 400 wines in the second year of this annual competition.
The judges came from various points around the United States, and included wine writers, sommeliers, winemakers, restaurateurs and other wine professionals. On the second day, a handful of judges gathered again to judge the best wines of the competition (double gold medal winners) for best of class status. The wines earning the top overall awards are:
- Best of Show Sparkling: Gwinllan Estate 2019 Rose
- Best of Show White: Bella Grace Vineyards 2021 Vermentino
- Best of Show Rose: Vino Noceto 2021 Rosato di Sangiovese
- Best of Show Red: Casino Mine Ranch 2018 Tempranillo
- Best of Show Dessert Wine: Lewis Grace Winery 2021 Fashionably Late Dessert Wine
Overall, the collection of wines was impressive. As one of the wine judges, I found myself commenting internally, especially during the determination of best of class wines, that the quality of many wines I tasted rivaled those from California’s more famous wine regions.
Of particular note was the PleinAir 2018 Cedarville Vineyard Cabernet, which earned a double gold medal. From the winery: “This mountain cabernet is wonderfully complex and alluring with a haunting nose. Black cherry, smokey cedar, damp earth and black olive. Aged in 50% new French oak, which lends baking spice, fine grain tannin and a lengthy finish.” PleinAir is a relative newcomer to the Sierra Foothills and plans to open a new tasting room in Fiddletown (Amador County) in April. Situated between 1850 and 1950 feet in elevation on 21 acres, PleinAir has established its own estate vineyards, with plantings of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah and Viognier. The PleinAir 2018 Zinfandel and 2019 Sauvignon Blanc also performed well, both earning gold medals.
Another wine that drew my attention was the Gwinllan 2019 Methode Champenoise Brut Rose, which was awarded a double gold medal and the award for best sparkling wine in the Foothill Wine Fest competition. This wine also scored double gold earlier in the year at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Sparkling wine is a specialty of Gwinllan (which means vineyard in Welsh), which sits at about 2,400 feet in elevation in Fair Play, an appellation in El Dorado County. In addition to the brut rose, which is delicate and bright, the winery also produces a blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, brut and a selection of still wines.
These two types of wines, sparkling and cabernet sauvignon, are arguably, not the wines for which the Sierra Foothills are best known, but these were outstanding examples nonetheless. These, along with other award winners, demonstrate serious quality among a wide diversity of types and range of styles in the region. For a complete listing of winners or to purchase tickets to the upcoming event, please visit Foothill Wine Fest.