Story Winery is a shimmering nugget in California’s Gold Country. Nestled in the rustic reaches of the state’s very own Shenandoah Valley ~ a growing hub of winemaking in the Sierra Foothills wine region on the eastern edge of the vast Central Valley ~ Story excels in producing very fine single-vineyard Zinfandels. This past summer I had the pleasure of tasting through Story’s current and future releases with owners/winemakers Bruce and Jan Tichenor at the winery’s rustic (but charming) tasting room, surrounded by 40 acres of Zinfandel vines overlooking a deep, golden canyon. I enjoyed all their wines, but the Picnic Hill Vineyard Zinfandel, made from fruit harvested from 100 year-old vines on the estate, emerged as my favorite. True to the general character of Amador County Zins, it is rich, fruity and accessible, with aromas and flavors redolent of ripe raspberries, vanilla and bittersweet chocolate, balanced with undercurrents of spice and earth that lend complexity. Balance is really Story’s strong suit; unlike so many wines on the market these days, its wines are neither over-done nor under-done in any way. They’re honest, straightforward, well-crafted and, as the Picnic Hill Vineyard Zinfandel amply demonstrates, quite delicious.
For those of us on the East Coast, though, Story wines aren’t easy to find. The winery is a small operation, producing only a couple thousand cases (altogether) each year, so the best bet for finding this wine and their other offerings is online. Story’s website ~ www.zin.com ~ is befitting their dedication to Zinfandel. You’ll find they offer several single-vineyard Zinfandel bottlings, as well as a unique single varietal wine made from the historic Mission grape and a sparkling wine, to boot. I would recommend a visit, too, if you’re ever out that way; the winery is located on the outskirts of Plymouth, California, which is roughly 43 miles east of Sacramento. Story is “boutique” in scale, yes, but certainly not in pricing or attitude. Tastings at the winery are complimentary, the wines are reasonably priced, and Bruce and Jan are happy to treat visitors to a leisurely barrel tasting and stroll through the vineyards.
Amador County, along with the entire Sierra Foothills wine region ~ which includes neighboring El Dorado and Calaveras Counties ~ is a rising star in California winemaking. The wines being produced in this region are well worth tasting, and the wineries well worth exploring. It would do you well, too, to get to know some of the area’s winemakers and grape growers. Bruce and Jan included, most are unpretentious, skilled, devoted to the craft, and very creative. And while Zinfandel has been the poster child grape variety of the Sierra Foothills (Amador County, especially) for some time, many winemakers and grape growers are still finding the way of their vines and wines, soil and climate, experimenting with different varieties and wine styles in a quest to discover the best possible expression of winemaking in the region.
I’ll feature more Amador County and Sierra Foothills wineries in future posts, so stay tuned. In the mean-time, you can learn more about the region by clicking on the WINE REGIONS page, then scrolling down to the Sierra Foothills links.
“There’s gold in them thar hills,” alright, but these days it’s liquid.