Wendy Van Diver
September 20, 2012 | Touring & Tasting Magazine, Wine Country Travel | Wendy Van Diver

Editor’s Tour Preview: Amador County

I don’t know if there’s any gold left, but there sure are a lot of gems in the Sierra Foothills.

Amador County was home to two of the world’s deepest and richest mines in the 1900s. Today, it’s still rich with natural beauty and many, many wineries to explore. When I toured with Contributing Photographer Linda Blue, we could only scratch the surface, but we discovered plenty of genuine people and wonderful wines.

Me and Linda Blue

The last time I took my editor’s tour through Shenandoah Valley, it was late January and the vines were strikingly dormant and brown. This time, they were lush and bursting with fruit.  I want to thank Andis Wines (Mark McKenna and Chuck Hayes, in particular) and Villa Toscano where we were warmly greeted by Sir Richard in the tasting room. Sir Richard said he was dubbed “Sir” because he had been around longer than anyone else. I think not. He was just being humble. I watched as he handled the tasting room bar (which swelled to a dozen tasters or more) singlehandedly for an hour .Meanwhile, Linda tasted through the long list of Zinfandels and I talked to Jesse Mc Grew, the special events manager for both Villa Toscano and its sister winery Bella Vista Winery, who left his desk to chat with us. Thanks again, Jesse, for acting like you had nothing more pressing than answering my questions and making sure we were happy.

I especially want to thank Joe Shebl, Helwig Winery’s general manager, who appeared in a flash when we arrived at 10:30 a.m. Joe took us on a complete tour of Helwig’s sublime location and made me sad that I’d missed the Eagles tribute concert a few nights earlier. Oh well, maybe next time.

Quince in Helwig's tasting room

On my last visit to Amador County, I made a note to myself to stay in Sutter Creek next time. I was charmed by the historic town’s string of charming bed and breakfasts, antique shops, and a great old hotel called The American Exchange Hotel. When I made arrangements for this tour, this grand hotel was the first and only place I contacted. When they graciously accepted us, I had no idea that they are the center for night life in Sutter Creek. At least they were on the night we visited. After a fantastic dinner in the dining room, served by Bob the charismatic waiter, we went downstairs to the local bar. Bob’s step son Paul was the bartender. Of course, I stuck to a local Zinfandel. Several locals came in and readily struck up conversations with us. It was a great way to learn more about Amador County.

I want to thank the American Exchange Hotel and every single member of the staff who made our stay so pleasant. I highly recommend this place. It’s not fancy, but it provides everything you’ll want and need when you’re touring and tasting in the area.


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