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Overview

The western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, commonly referred to as the "Gold Country," have vines that have been cultivated here since the Gold Rush of 1849. Stretching from Yuba County in the north to Mariposa County in the south, the Sierra Foothills AVA (American Viticulture Area) draws thousands of visitors yearly to explore wineries and tipple the region's distinctive vintages - notably full-bodied reds such as Zinfandel, which originated here. Most of the vineyards at between 1,500 and 3,000 feet elevation and easily accessed from California State Highway 49. Dozens of wineries are sprinkled along valleys that branch off the highway. ...

The western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, commonly referred to as the "Gold Country," have vines that have been cultivated here since the Gold Rush of 1849. Stretching from Yuba County in the north to Mariposa County in the south, the Sierra Foothills AVA (American Viticulture Area) draws thousands of visitors yearly to explore wineries and tipple the region's distinctive vintages - notably full-bodied reds such as Zinfandel, which originated here. Most of the vineyards at between 1,500 and 3,000 feet elevation and easily accessed from California State Highway 49. Dozens of wineries are sprinkled along valleys that branch off the highway. Most wineries are small and welcome visitors for informal tasting, often hosted by the vintners themselves. Virtually all tastings are free. The biggest concentration is in the Shenandoah Valley, near Sutter Creek. Here and not to be missed is the Shenandoah Valley Museum, at Sobon Estate Winery, tracing the history of wine-making in the region. When not exploring the wineries, you can poke around in dusty antique stores, hike the redwood parks, enjoy the magnificent scenery along Highway 49, and savor the romance of staying in historic bed and breakfast hotels.

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Christopher Baker for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Late summer and early fall are ideal times for a visit, as the weather is mild and sunny and the harvest is getting under way.