Monday, August 05, 2013

Winetasting in Fair Play

Fair Play is one of California's lesser known wine regions.  We recently had a chance to visit this small region located in the Sierra Foothills of El Dorado County, The area has historically been known for producing Zinfandel (red, not pink).  Today, there is still plenty of Zin but wines from Italian,Rhone, and other varietals are also made.

Just over 20 wineries are located in Fair Play.  Most are small, family-owned affairs with the largest wineries producing around 15,000 cases per year.  The wine region is small; with the most distant wineries located just 20 minutes from each other.  Tastings were free at all of the wineries we visited.  Staff were universally friendly and eager to talk with us about their wines.

One of the newer wineries is Mastroserio Winery.  Ruggero, the welcoming owner and winemaker, walked us through a good selection of his wines.  His most unusual wine is a 2010 Fiano, an Italian varietal that is seldom grown in the United States.  It's possible that Ruggero is the only winemaker in this country that makes a Fiano.  Mastroserio also produces Sauvignon Blanc and an array of red wines.

Two of the older and bigger wineries in the region are Windwalker and Perry Creek.  Windwalker Vineyard and Winery produces a variety of white, red, and dessert wines.  We particularly enjoyed the reds we tasted.  Perry Creek Winery is best known for its Zin Man Zinfandel, which is distributed, but makes a few whites and a good number of reds.  Here too we liked most of the red wines we tasted.

Fair Play is about 2.5 hours east of San Francisco.  Lodging and dining options in Fair Play are limited.  Only about a half dozen bed and breakfasts and three restaurants are located in the region.  We stayed at Fitzpatrick Winery and Lodge, which I highly recommend.  The bed and breakfast, tasting room, and winery are located in a large log house.  Rooms are spacious and well appointed.  Five tasty options are offered for breakfast.

We ate at two of the three restaurants located in the Fair Play area.  The Pub at Fair Play serves typical bar food.  The Gold Vine Grill, in nearby Somerset, serves more refined fare in a casual atmosphere. We were also told that there is a good Chinese restaurant nearby but did not see it.  If you are visiting on a Friday or Saturday night during the summer or early fall, you may find wineries hosting special events that include dinners.

More lodging are restaurant options are available in Plymouth and Placerville, both about 30 minutes away.

Fair Play is a great weekend getaway for Bay Area residents and an easy day trip for those living in Sacramento.  If you are traveling from further away, there's much to do in the Sierra Foothills.  You might want to include a day or two in Fair Play as part of a longer Gold Country vacation.  If you would like to take a tour of Fair Play from San Francisco, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at or (415) 337-1874. 

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