One of my favorite stops the last time I was in El Dorado was Miraflores, a sprawling hilltop winery with a beautiful terrace and expansive views. On the day we next visited, it was raining, but that wouldn’t deter our delicious tasting of Italian focused winemakers here in El Dorado. There is a long history of Italian immigrants in the area, largely due to the Gold Rush and enterprising folks who started restaurants, businesses and other ways of striking it rich supporting the miners, and maintaining cultural ties to the homeland. Today, we tasted through some examples of modern day Italian winemakers:
Miraflores is located on the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail, in the heart of El Dorado wine country. Winemaker Marco Cappelli is both an artist, and a scientist, like any good winemaker, and focuses on creating wines of distinction that reflect the varying terroir of the region. With 12 years of experience at Miraflores, Marco also has been a winemaker in Italy, France, and Australia – learning about terroir, wine styles, and the uniqueness of each region.
Mirafloras sits at 2700 feet, on granite based, well drained soils. The 2012 Barbera is clone 4, which is lower in acid than other clones, which creates a richer, more mellow final wine. Fermented in opt top vats, it aged 22 months in neutral oak to allow the fruit to show through. Rich, and bold red fruit, with chewy and dense figs, leather and coffee give way to bright Bing cherry and a zippy finish. A great example of what elevation can do! $28
C.G. Di Arie Vineyard and Winery was founded in 2000, when Chaim and Elisheva Gur-Arieh purchased the 209 acre property in the Shenandoah Valley. With the rolling hills averaging about 1,700 feet, they knew that this area had the potential to create world class wines. Today, they are able to produce up to 15,000 cases of wine, in the state of the art gravity flow facility that also houses an art gallery. With 40 acres currently planted, they plan to put 30 more to vine by 2020. Chaim strives to make wines that have balance and style.
The 2012 Primativo is a lighter style wine, mimicking the Zinfandel that so many immigrants to this region planted. It’s spicy gingerbread flavors are uniquely different than the classic California Zinfandel from this region. The bright acidity make this an excellent wine for burgers, BBQ, and general enjoyment. $25
Nello Olivo is a character straight out of a Hollywood movie. Larger than life, and full of verve, this second generation Italian-American has wine in his blood. Born to a large brood in the Bay Area, Nello started a successful property development business in Los Angeles, where he raised his family before the real estate market crashed in the early 1980s. Heading north to the Cameron Park area near Sacramento, which was near his beloved Lake Tahoe retirement dream, Nello and his family purchased 21 acres in 2000. Here, he planted seven varietals, focusing on the historical Italian grapes that he is so connected to. Initially selling most of his grapes to the newly founded El Dorado wine community, Nello kept a small amount for himself for some home winemaker experiments. Eventually, he was enticed to begin his own winery, and in 2005, produced his first vintage of commercial wine.
Leaning on the skills of winemaker Marco Cappelli, Nello decided to set his sights on an obscure grape of his ancestral home in Umbria – Sagrantino de Montefalco. This unique wine is representaitve of the family history, and is a an unusual varitety to be planted in California. Fortunately, it took, and a successful venture was born. Sagrantino is native to Umbria, and is only grown in the Monte Falco region. It is considered the most tannic wine in Italy, and can be sharp and bitter while young, yet ages marvelously. The 2012 Sagrantino is full of plum, berry, cherry and cloud berry flavors, followed by tangerine and milk chocolate. While this was a young wine, I can see the aging potential and look forward to trying a glass in 5 years. $79
Ruggero Mastroserio has degrees in engineering, geology and music, and also trained in enology in Italy. Phew! After crafting wines in the area for 10 years, Ruggero founded Mastroserio Winery in 2010. The region of Fair Play is idea for producing varied, nuanced wines, sitting in a granite bowl high atop the El Dorado Hills.
The 2010 Barbera is a bowl of dark chocolate covered cherries, rich and opulent. With dark berry, fig and plum character, it is soft and plush on the palate, with a touch of acidity at the end, as Barbera should have. This soft cashmere sweater warms you with dried herbs and crushed black pepper, waking up the palate and piquing your curiosity. $77
With so many wineries and varieties in El Dorodo, I hope you will take a road trip and discover them for yourselves! Special thanks to the El Dorado Winery Association and Solterra Strategies for arranging a varied, and complex look at the region. There are so many wineries to choose from, I look forward to more trips and more posts soon!