Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Winetasting in Amador County's Shenandoah Valley - Part II, Food and Lodging

In my last post, I talked about wineries in the Shenandoah Valley.  In this post, I will discuss food and lodging options.  Not much has changed since I last visited the area in 2007.  (See Rick's Tips from August 2007.)  A few restaurants have closed and a couple of new ones have opened.  The lodging situation seems unchanged.

The consensus best restaurant in the area remains Taste in Plymouth.  This is the only restaurant serving sophisticated meals in the region.  We have eaten there twice and enjoyed both our meals.  The wine list features many wines from Amador County as well as wines from elsewhere in California and outside of the U.S.  Dinner is served Thursday to Monday and lunch is now available on Saturday.

A couple of steps down but still good is Susan's Place Wine Bar and Eatery in Sutter Creek.  This casual restaurant features Mediterranean influenced cuisine.  In 2007, we had a pretty good dinner at the Imperial Hotel in Amador City but did not get there on this trip.  A local shop owner said the Twisted Fork in Sutter Creek is also quite good.

There's not much food in the Shenandoah Valley so plan on picnicking during your visit.  You can pick up good supplies for your picnic at Andrae's Bakery in Amador City or Amador Vintage Market in Plymouth. 

If you find yourself in the small town of Volcano, you might want to check out the Union Pub as it is owned by the same folks that own Taste.  

All of these places have limited hours so be sure to check their hours of operation before you visit.

As for lodging, the best choices are bed and breakfasts.  I recommend staying in Sutter Creek  as it is the most interesting of the towns in the area.  We stayed at The Foxes Inn and had a very nice, large room with a good choice of breakfast foods.  There are other good B & B's to choose from.  A list is available on the Sutter Creek Business Association's website.

If you would like to take a private tour from the Bay Area to Amador County's wine country, please contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Winetasting in Amador County's Shenandoah Valley - Part I, The Wineries

The August 2007 edition of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron's free newsletter of fun things to do in the Bay Area and Northern California, focused on winetasting in the Shenandoah Valley of California.  Located about 2.5 hours east of San Francisco, this wine region produces mostly red wine from grapes that like hot weather, e.g., Zinfandel and Barbera.

This past weekend, I had a chance to return to the Shenandoah Valley and saw that many things had remained the same while a few new wineries had opened.  What I like best about this region is that most of the wineries are still low-key, family-run affairs.  Tasting rooms are modest and fees largely nonexistent.  Staff is friendly and the owners and/or winemakers frequently pour your wine.  Even on Saturday, you are unlikely to find the crowds that frequent wineries closer to San Francisco.  With most bottles priced between $15 and $30, you are unlikely to break the bank with your wine purchases.  Plus the drive is very pretty; with rolling hills and vineyards full of gnarly old vines.

A good place to start your visit is at Amador 360°, Wine and Visitor Center in the town of Plymouth, gateway to the Shenandoah Valley.  Gregg, the friendly owner, will pour you some wines from wineries that do not have tasting rooms in the Valley and orient you to the area.  He's a wealth of information on all things Amador.

On this visit, we tasted at wineries that we didn't get to on our previous trip.  We enjoyed many good Barberas, Zinfandels, Sangioveses, and Syrahs and bought way too much wine.  Some of our favorites included Scott Harvey (tasting room in Sutter Creek), Sera Fina (tasting rooms at the winery and at Cinque in Sutter Creek), Dillian, Cooper, Driven, Terra Rouge, Andis, and Jeff Runquist.  On our previous visit, we enjoyed Karly, Story, Deaver, Shenandoah Vineyards, Sobon Estate, Vino Nocetto, and Wilderotter (largest selection of white wines in the Valley).  The Amador Vintners website has lots of good information on the wineries.  Before you go, check each winery's hours as many tasting rooms are open only on certain days.

My next post will focus on lodging and restaurants in the area.  Meanwhile, if you would like to take a private tour of Amador wine country starting in San Francisco, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

Monday, April 04, 2011

Opening Day at Daffodil Hill

Daffodil Hill, near the small town of Volcano in Amador County, is home to thousands of beautiful flowers each spring.  Opening day was late this year with the flowers buried under snow until just a week or so ago.  Finally, on April 1, the early blooms were available for viewing.

For the next few weeks visitors will be treated to thousands of beautiful flowers.  Admission is free.  

In the nearby town of Volcano, you can stroll among its historic buildings and have lunch.  The Union Pub is open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday and for dinner from Friday through Monday.  Since it is owned by the same folks who own the best restaurant in Amador County, Taste in Plymouth, the food is bound to be good.   The St. George Hotel offers Sunday brunch in its restaurant and lunch in the Whiskey Flat Saloon on Saturday and Sunday.  The restaurant services dinner Wednesday through Saturday.

If you would like to take a private tour from San Francisco that includes visits to Daffodil Hill, Volcano, and the nearby wine country in the Shenandoah Valley, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or