You may or may not know how significant the Zinfandel varietal is in Amador County, but with this month being Zinfandel month for Scott Harvey Wines, Scott took some time to elaborate on the various plantings and noteworthy events of this grape in our region. Enjoy Scott’s account of the history of how Zinfandel came to be celebrated in this part of California, and how he became involved in working with the grape.
Zinfandel first came to Amador County during the California Gold Rush. Gold was found in the Sierra Foothills in 1848, and soon the California Gold Rush of 1849 was attracting large numbers of people from all around the world to the Sierra Nevada and what would later become Amador County. These gold miners brought a thirst with them, and soon some of them began to plant vineyards on their mining claims. Incredibly, our Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel is a vineyard that still produces wine from this period.
The vineyard was planted on the Upton gold mining claim and was developed by Mahala Upton, a widow with six children. Not only is this vineyard still making wonderful wine, but many of her descendants are still farming in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County today.
From 1920 until the end of 1933, Prohibition took its toll on Amador County’s commercial winery production with only one winery surviving. The rest of the grape growers, including my grandfather, moved to selling grapes to the home winemaking market. They sold grapes to what we called “Jobbers”. These were people that bought grapes in wooden grape boxes and sent them east on railroad cars to the markets in Chicago and New York. In fact, some of the great wine family names you know of today started out this way. The Gallo brothers, Ernest and Julio Gallo, were both born in Amador County. Robert
Mondavi, originally from an Italian mining community from the iron ranges of Minnesota, was sent to California to secure grapes during Prohibition.
Grape acreage in Amador County increased during Prohibition because the terroir in this county produces grapes at higher sugar levels while maintaining great acidity. Since home winemakers don’t use SO2 (sulfur dioxide), the naturally higher alcohol levels from the Amador Zinfandel would make the wine last longer, or as the home winemakers put it, “the wine was less likely to go sour.”
During and after Prohibition, Zinfandel growers of Amador county continued to sell their grapes to home winemakers. However, things were soon to change because of a Sacramento college teacher by the name of Charles Myers.
As an accomplished home winemaker in the early 1960s, Charles was lamenting to one of his classes about the high cost of grapes in Napa Valley. A student-directed him to her cousins in Shenandoah Valley who grew Prohibition-era Zinfandel vineyards, and the rest is history. The high quality of Charles’ Amador county Deaver Vineyard Zinfandels got people like Sacramento wine merchant, Darrel Corti, and Napa Valley’s Trinchero family to invest in Amador County Zinfandel and promote it. From there, Corti convinced a man named Cary Gott to build a substantial winery in 1973. In 1974, I went to work for Cary Gott at Montevina Winery as an apprentice. Ever since I have been making and promoting Zinfandel from Amador County, going on 46 years now.
Cheers to Zinfandel month and this incredible grape we’re proud to produce for you each year. If you’re local, stop in and try our classic Amador County wines - we’re open daily from 11am-5pm!
- Scott Harvey, Winemaker
For the last two days while in the apex of harvest PG&E elected to cut power to the whole Shenandoah Valley and Fiddletown wine appellations of Amador County. They also cut power to Napa Valley and Sonoma as well. We produce wine at three different wineries that are located in Amador County, Napa Valley, and Clarksburg. They say it is due to high wind danger. I’m not sure about the rest of the wine-growing regions in northern California, but in Amador County, there has been no wind event to speak of. I would think that PG&E would have the ability to turn on and off different areas depending on the danger in each.
This will cost our winery in revenue and potential wine quality and will probably cost the Northern California wine industry millions of dollars.
There needs to be some better answers to this problem than just shutting off the power to all of northern California’s wine regions. Otherwise, I can see the lawsuits flying at PG&E at a time they can hardly afford any more lawsuits. The other answer is to put in a permanent high-powered generator for such occasions. Probably at a cost of $20,000 or more.
CEO and Winemaker
One of the great things about wine is its versatility. There are countless varietals to choose from, all easily enjoyable in a range of settings. And since we thoroughly enjoy the outdoors here at Scott Harvey Wines, particularly during the summer months, we’re sharing our favorite ways to sip on your favorite wines all season long. So whether you’re more of a “beach bum”, prefer a day on the river or a weekend in the mountains, our wide variety of wines are the perfect complement to any day trip or vacation you plan this summer. Want to see why? Read on!
1. The Beach
Our Amador County winery might not be particularly close to the shore, but it’s one of our favorite places to visit! Amador County can be sweltering during the summer months, and there’s nothing like a beautiful day at the beach to get a breath of fresh ocean air.
While lighter whites and Rosés like our 2018 Jana Sauvignon Blanc or Tickle Me Pink are perfect for hot beach days, sometimes it gets a little breezy and chilly (at least at our Northern California beaches!).
Because of that, we love to bring along our 2016 J&S Reserve Syrah. Aromas of raspberry, pepper, and cherry and bright, spicy flavors make this a feel-good wine to walk along the beach with loved ones.
2. The River
Moving more inland but still savoring the water, a favorite pastime of ours is going to the river to relax, enjoy a meal, and cool of by canoeing or floating down. The comradery of spending time with friends and family is one of the most heartwarming parts of summer, and you can’t beat our Barberas to continue the fun in the sun!
Our 2018 Rosé of Barbera is dry in style and packed with a well-rounded mouthfeel, while our 2016 J&S Reserve Barbera is a fruit-forward wine that boasts rich, full flavors that express both the varietal and the Amador County terroir. Both wines have the potential to pair beautifully with any picnic you pack. Or, simply sip on them while you soak up the sun!
3. The Mountains
Our final favorite location to enjoy Scott’s wines is in a mountain setting, and we love our 2016 Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel anytime we head to the hills. With flavors of blackberry, fig, and violets and hints of coffee with bright currants on the nose, the old vine complexity of this wine is unmistakable and absolutely delicious.
Whether you’re sipping it in the still of the afternoon amongst the trees, on a boat on the lake, or in a group around the dinner table or a campfire, we love how this wine has the power to bring people together in even the most remote settings.
We love this idea so much, in fact, that for the second year in a row we’re thrilled to host our Wine Club Weekend Glamping Trip! If you’re a wine club member, join us as we escape the city lights and leave the noise at home. Let the beautiful scenery of the Sierra Buttes be the backdrop of a beautiful weekend with friends.
From Friday, August 23rd at 2pm through Sunday, August 25th, “glamp” in style with incredible wine and food pairings at the Lakes Basin Recreation Area at the Gold Lake Beach Resort. Pack your suitcase and hiking shoes and leave the rest to us! Enjoy group hikes during the day and wine and food pairings at night prepared by our Estate Chef, Brian Overhauser.
For more information, click here, contact email@example.com, or call us at (209) 267-0122 and ask for Melissa.
Whether you prefer the beach, are more of a casual river dweller or enjoy the serenity of the mountains, our wines are ready to go whenever and wherever you are. Happy summer, Scott Harvey fans!
Are you in need of a vacation? Or, a “staycation” for those that are local? For some people, Amador County would be considered “off the beaten path”. While many don’t know the extensive and fascinating history behind the county, for us, it’s home. In the time we’ve had the privilege of living in Amador we’ve stumbled across many things we love to enjoy as a couple, or with friends and family when they visit. With that, we’ve put together our top five favorite Amador County hidden gems we hope you can someday enjoy.
1. The Amador City Loop
We begin our day in the city of Amador where we love starting our day at Andrae's Bakery for coffee and a sweet or savory breakfast snack. Once we have our coffee fix, we venture up the main road along the creek for a pleasant walk along the brook. After our stroll, we return downtown via Stringbean Alley which is a comfortable, flat concrete walking path. On your way back into the main part of town, you pass the Sutter Creek Gold Mine which is a fascinating piece of history.
You read that right - Volcano! But, it’s not an active one, or even a volcano for that matter. Volcano is actually a town in Amador County. Settled in 1849, the town is named for its setting in a bowl-shaped valley which early miners thought was caused by a volcano. The early morning fog rising from the valley floor only reinforced that belief. If you take a stroll around town, you’ll feel as though you’ve transported into a different era. If you visit the old grocery store, you’ll find items that you haven’t seen in years, if ever. There’s also a charming community theater that was established in 1854 and is continued through the efforts of the Volcano Theater Company. Watching a play at the 50-seat Cobblestone theater is an absolute treat. Finally, you can curb your appetite with a savory lunch or dinner at the Union Inn + Pub.
3. Black Chasm Cavern
This is a place we always love to take new visitors. While Black Chasm Cavern was likely known by the local Miwok people who inhabited this area long before the Gold Rush, the first documented exploration of these caverns occurred in 1854 when a group of explorers braved the unknown to discover the phenomenal beauty that exists below the surface. Simple tours were held at the Black Chasm in those early days, barely penetrating the cavern system that we know today. The tours we venture on nowadays are always interesting and entertaining, and usually given by a member of the family that owns it. We find it fun to use your imagination with the shapes of the stalagmites and stalactites, while in the main part of the cavern opens up for a splendid experience overall.
4. Hikes at Carson Pass
Carson Pass is a mountain pass on the crest of the central Sierra Nevada in the El Dorado National Forest. The historic pass was a point on the Carson Trail during the Gold Rush and was used for American Civil War shipping to California until the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. In addition to the extensive history, the hikes at Carson Pass boast some of the most gorgeous wildflowers we’ve seen in California. These trails are best around mid-summer after the snow melts, and this year should be even more beautiful with all of the rain we had over the winter! Carson Pass is a great place to partake in a variety of activities, from day hikes and backpacking to practicing your photography skills.
5. Lake Tabeaud
We don’t see a lot of water in Amador County except for the many creeks, which is why it’s such a pleasure to walk around Lake Tabeaud. This lake is a great place for walkers, joggers, canoers, kayakers, and those who like to fish. This setting is also an ideal quiet place for picnicking and bird-watching. You can enjoy a walk or fishing on the banks in this peaceful setting with shade from the surrounding oaks. While there are no motor boats, swimming, or overnight camping allowed, these trails are open year-round. We love to take a walk around this lake in an easy-to-moderate 2.5-mile loop.
While it’s easy to search “top places to visit” online for any given place, we hope this local’s perspective of Amador County will take you a bit further out of your comfort zone and into our world here at Scott Harvey Wines.
If you choose to visit or partake in any of these activities, we hope you also find some time to stop by one of our two tasting room locations in either Plymouth or Sutter Creek to round off your Amador County experience!
- Scott & Jana
We couldn’t resist the opportunity to embrace Earth Day and do a deep-dive into our spectacular vineyards. They are, after all, what gives our grapes the characteristics that shine in our wines - each wonderfully unique in their own right.
While Scott Harvey Wines is based in Amador County, we source some of our grapes from a few other highly sought after vineyards around Northern California. Because we’re in the midst of spring, it’s the perfect opportunity to hone in on some of this season’s favorites. Let’s start off close to home with our Rosé vineyards.
Hailing from our very own Amador County where Scott has been making wine for over 45 years, our Rosé of Barbera is long-time Scott and Jana Harvey fan-favorite.
Shenandoah Valley is an American viticultural area (AVA) in the heart of California's once-thriving gold-mining country. Although Zinfandel reigns supreme here (check out our red wines!), the region also produces high-quality Italian favorites like Sangiovese and Barbera.
This Barbera vineyard used for our Rosé of Barbera sits on a hilltop overlooking the entire Shenandoah Valley. These flavorful Barbera grapes are harvested early to produce this light, crisp, and dry Rosé. It is produced in the “Halbtrocken Kabinett”
style, which is the lightest style of Riesling done half-dry (or slightly sweet). Scott loved producing this style of wine while he went to winemaking school and worked in Germany many years ago.
In Amador, hot, sunny days turn to cool evenings bringing breezes that blow down from the Sierra Nevada. This drop in temperature allows the grapes time to close down their ripening processes overnight, retaining the acidity required to create balanced wines. The refreshing breezes are also essential for ventilating the vineyards and keeping fungal diseases at bay.
The most noteworthy soils in Amador are of iron-rich decomposed granite. They’re often laced with sandy clay loam, enabling them to retain water and stay hydrated despite the county’s limited rainfall. These are ideal conditions for cultivating high-quality grapes as the vines are forced to grow deep, strong root systems.
Moving farther out west toward well-known Napa Valley, we then take a right and head north toward Lake County. Lake County is home to our Sauvignon Blanc vineyards, and one of the most interesting aspects of this county is that ancient volcanoes have provided much of its terroir. Ridges and hills throughout the county have been formed by ancient lava flows, and vineyards are planted on hillsides with a variety of different slopes to take advantage of the prevailing weather patterns.
We source the grapes for our Sauvignon Blanc from the Olden vineyard, which is located on the northern shore of Clear Lake. The vineyards are located against a large pear orchard and these sandy, alluvial soils drain well to produce our wonderfully flavorful Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is made to be fresh and crisp to preserve the wines ability to tell the story of the vineyard it comes from, and the varietal character.
Gravel, sand, and even pockets of heat-retaining obsidian can be found in the areas near Clear Lake, while the lack of water in the ground leads to small berries with great concentration of flavor.
Lake County lies in the rain shadow of the Mayacama mountains, and the region is generally warm and dry. The Olden vineyard experiences afternoon breezes which help to cool the grapes and extend the growing season. These warm days are followed by colder nights, ensuring berries have a slower ripening period during which they can develop varietal character without sacrificing acidity.
Our final stop is northwest of Lake County at the northern limit of California's quality wine-growing regions.
Scott’s favorite white wine to make is our Old Vine Riesling, and Mendocino County was the perfect place to venture to for these grapes. Nelson Ranch, where these grapes are sourced from, is the perfect vineyard for our Riesling because of the area’s cooler climate. This climate allows the grapes to ripen slowly to preserve that beautiful, well-rounded varietal character.
The Mendocino region is divided into two distinct climatic zones by the Mendocino Range, one of several mountain ranges which make up the Pacific Coast Ranges. Unusually for California, some vineyards lean toward the inland areas rather than the coast. Inland, it is significantly warmer and drier and vines are sheltered from the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean.
We consider each of our wines to be a reflection of the complex terroir and growing conditions of the AVAs they come from. It’s always incredible to see how these factors affect the characteristics of wines, and how these can change so drastically from year to year. While Mother Nature can certainly be unpredictable at times, we’re especially thankful for these vineyards and everything they endure to provide us our grapes each year. We hope you have the opportunity to step outside and enjoy this beautiful planet today - Happy Earth Day!
We’re foodies over here at Scott Harvey Winery, and lucky for us, many of our Wine Club Members share that sentiment! One thing we love about wine is its delectable ability to pair with food. Winemaker Scott Harvey and Estate Chef Brian Overhauser love working together to unlock fantastic food and wine combinations for all to enjoy. Whether they are bites at our monthly 3&3 Wine and Food Pairing events or hearty dishes you can cook at home, like braised wagyu beef short rib or sous vide Alaskan halibut, we love bringing people together at the table. We love that our Club Members appreciate a great pairing when they see one, so we make sure they’re always stocked up with winemaker notes and perfectly paired recipes!
Speaking of great wine and food pairings, we understand wine can be very subjective and that no two palates are alike. Some of our members prefer red wines – especially our big, bold Zins, Syrahs, and Barberas. Others may prefer white wine or Jana’s bubbles, or they’re fans of all of the above and everything in between! With that in mind, we always want to ensure there’s something for everyone. We love sharing a variety of wines with you each year through the customized club options, and that you get as excited for new and old favorites as we do!
Two tasting rooms means double the fun when our Wine Club Members come to visit! We love being able to catch up and share stories with familiar faces while pouring a new release. When our members pop in for their complimentary member tasting or Wine Club pick-up at our Downtown historic Sutter Creek tasting room or our winery in Plymouth, it’s like welcoming old friends in the door. Whether their visit is a quick trip or they stay for an afternoon and bring a picnic, we see it as a great opportunity to get to know each member and bond over our favorite Scott Harvey wines!
Last but far from least, we’re fortunate to host a wide variety of exclusive events and parties throughout the year that bring folks together from all walks of life. Whether it’s a Club Member who comes every year or a guest of a member who is tasting Scott Harvey wines for the first time, every time we come together it feels like a family affair!
We know there are endless Wine Clubs to join out there in the wine world, but we’re extremely grateful to our Club Members for choosing us to support and believe in. To our Wine Club Members who continue to value our mission and enjoy the fruit of our labor year after year - we love you!
If you’re interested in learning more about our Wine Club benefits and joining the Scott Harvey community, click here!
I have not missed a harvest since 1974, this being my 45th harvest. I’m wondering how many more I have in me? Especially after this 2018 harvest. Some harvests come and go quickly and are over before you know it. This was not one of those. It was one of those long drawn out harvests that just seemed to go on and on… Fortunately, the long drawn out ones tend to produce the best most flavorful and extractive wines. Harvests like 1974, 1979, 1986, 1991, 1997, 2016 and now 2018.
Harvest started for us on September 6 with Muscat Canelli off our estate vineyard. The grapes are in frozen storage waiting to be pulled out to produce Ice Wine. So, technically harvest is still not over until we process the Muscat Canelli Eis Wine.
We finished harvesting grapes on November 6 and 7 with both the Portuguese varieties for our Forte and Concord for the Tickle Me Pink.
As in most late harvest years, the yields were a little above average in size. We had a wonderful spring with a good healthy flowering for all varieties except the Tempranillo. Our neighbors in Amador County had the same complaint about their Tempranillo.
The growing season was dry and with periods of cool weather and some long hot spells. The hot spells were early enough in the growing season that they did not negatively affect the grapes with excessive sun burning. Harvest began later than normal and went on and on with no rain until early October. I say the best Zinfandels in Amador are made after the first rain. So, it was welcome. After the rain, it dried out quickly with a North wind, so we escaped any molding in the Zinfandel.
Resulting wines are full and extractive with good acidity and lots of regional and varietal character. Wines that were similar to the great 1991 wines I produced at Santino/Renwood.
I’m convinced, and it is rapidly becoming known, that Amador County is the best wine growing region in the world for Barbera – and the proof is in the high-quality wine that flows out of here season after season.
When you look at the natural origins of Barbera, it hails from a region in Italy called the Piedmont or Piedmonte, which translates to “foothill” in Italian. And much like the Alps above Italy, the Sierra Nevada flanking Amador are huge granite, monolithic uplifts born from continental drift. These foothill regions are full of decomposed granite soils coming off the sides of the mountain range. Amador’s terrain is like a home away from home for Barbera.
The biggest difference between the two winegrowing regions is that Piedmont is very close to a marine influence – the Mediterranean Sea. During the growing season, Piedmont receives a nourishing fog from the Mediterranean, creating the best varietal known as Nebbiolo (named after the fog). The most expensive wines, Barolo and Barbaresco, come from this region. And while Nebbiolo is a fog-loving variety perfect for the misty Piedmont region, Barbera is a sun-loving variety that is dealt the second-best vineyard sites in Piedmont.
Now, take it around the world to right here in Amador County, a very similar foothill region up against a very similar fast-growing, granitic mountain range. The Sierra Nevada’s marine influence, the Pacific, is too far away for the fog to roll in during the growing season, making this a more suitable territory than the Italian Piedmont. Barbera thrives in Amador like no other place on earth.
My favorite red wine to make is Barbera. I first cut my teeth making Barbera at Montevina Winery in 1974, and it struck a passion in me that’s never faltered. I’ve been producing Amador County Barbera ever since, under our own Scott Harvey label. It’s my favorite because it makes, undoubtedly, the best wine in the region.
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