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Amador County

Amador County

Discover great wines, explore historic towns, and take to the slopes in a unique California region

With Gold Country, wine country, and ski country all in one, Amador County is as versatile as any destination in California. Extending from rolling foothills less than an hour east of Sacramento and into the high country south of Lake Tahoe, Amador County has something for everyone—whether you’re interested in exploring historic Gold Country towns or going to extremes on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

Historic Towns and Landmarks in Amador County

Many of Amador County’s towns trace their origins to the famed California Gold Rush, and, appropriately enough, State Highway 49 (aka the Golden Chain Highway) helps connect the Gold Country communities of Sutter Creek, Jackson, Amador City, and Plymouth.

Known as “the Jewel of the Motherlode,” Sutter Creek is beloved for what Sunset magazine lauded as “the prettiest Main Street you’ve ever seen,” where the filigreed balconies of 19th-century buildings cantilever out over sidewalks lined by shops and restaurants. For all of its historic charm, Sutter Creek is no museum piece and has a contemporary side too, with such tasting rooms as the acclaimed Scott Harvey Winery and Le Mulet Rouge right on Main Street.

In Jackson, Amador’s original county seat, take a self-guided walking tour that leads to 45 local landmarks, including the impeccably restored National Hotel, which was built in 1852 and commands the town’s Main Street. For more history, visit the Amador County Museum in an 1859 Greek Revival–style house that’s surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Just outside Jackson, the Kennedy Gold Mine was one of the world’s deepest mines and offers tours that explore surviving facilities, including the stamp mill and mine office building.

Amador City may be one of California’s smallest incorporated cities but it boasts the Amador Whitney Museum, a must for anyone interested in Gold Country history. Amador City is also a surprising dining destination, thanks to stylish Small Town Food + Wine, where favorites like the deviled eggs and flatbreads earned the restaurant raves from Yelpers.

The tiny community of Volcano has barely 100 residents but once was a bustling boomtown with a population of 5,000. The St. George Hotel, founded in 1862, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a reminder of Volcano’s glory days. And with its Old West atmosphere, the hotel’s Whiskey Flat Saloon is a Gold Country landmark.

Plymouth is the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley, the heart of Amador County wine country. While the county’s wine scene has boomed in recent years (there are now more than 40 wineries), winemaking here dates to the 19th century and Shenandoah Valley is home to the oldest Zinfandel vines in the U.S. Plymouth’s acclaimed Taste Restaurant & Wine Bar is in a onetime saloon known for its rough-and-rowdy ways and serves creative American and contemporary dishes prepared with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. 

Parks and Outdoor Adventures in Amador County

Outside Jackson, Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park preserves the country’s largest collection of bedrock mortars, which were used by the region’s Native American populations to pound acorns and seeds for food. You’ll also find a reproduction of a Miwok village and the park’s Chaw’se Regional Indian Museum displays Miwok baskets and other traditional crafts.

Near Volcano, walking tours at Black Chasm Cavern take you 100 feet underground into a cave famed for its remarkable helictites—unique tubular formations that seem to defy gravity. From Amador County’s hidden subterranean world, climb to slopes at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level for downhill skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Kirkwood averages 354 inches of snowfall annually but once the white stuff melts off, the resort opens for mountain biking and hiking. For more summer fun, Pardee Reservoir is a popular destination for trout fishing, boating, and hiking, as well as camping at a 141-acre campground. 

Amador County Wine Tasting

Gold used to draw people to Amador County, but these days it’s reds and whites, thanks to the county’s outstanding growing conditions. Historically known for its signature Zinfandels, Amador County also has earned a reputation for such varietals as Barbera, Aglianico, and Sangiovese.

Notable for its contemporary architecture, Andis Wines is one of the few places in Amador County where you’ll find wines made from old-vine Zinfandel grapes. In addition to tastings of outstanding Zinfandel and Rosés, Helwig Vineyards & Winery hosts a summer concert series and produces premium olive oils from trees grown in its own orchards.

And if you want to pair handcrafted, small-batch Grenache and Zin with sweeping Sierra Nevada views, it’s tough to beat Iron Hub Winery’s modern tasting room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows. Iron Hub is one of eight wineries on Amador County’s Start on Steiner wine trail.

California Winery

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