Whether you’re planning a trip to Lake Tahoe and want to stop by on your way, or you’re set on exploring the Placer County Wine Trail on its own, this wine region in the Sierra foothills of Gold Country won’t disappoint.
Winemaking is deeply embedded in the culture here, having first taken root around the same time as gold was discovered in nearby Coloma. Aspiring miners weren’t the only ones drawn to the area by the Gold Rush—more than a few winemakers, some of them from Europe, found their way over as well, and a booming wine region was born. (Fun fact: Up until Prohibition, there were more vineyards and wineries in the Sierra foothills than in Napa and Sonoma combined.)
The 20 or so wineries that make up today’s Placer County Wine Trail (map) are roughly bisected by Interstate 80 and take advantage of the region’s typically warm and dry summers to produce a wide array of wines. Wise Villa Winery, Rappé Family Vineyards, Dora Dain Wines, Mt. Vernon Winery, and Twin Rocks Winery are a few of the operations that prove this trail is not to be missed. Bold Italian, Spanish, and Rhône varietals like Tempranillo, Barbera, Syrah, Viognier, and Petit Sirah are what the Sierra Foothills AVA is most known for, but Grenache, Sangiovese, and several types of port make appearances too. These winemakers tend to be an adventurous lot, and their wineries are typically family-run operations. You’ll probably see—and hopefully taste—some unusual vintages and blends as you travel through the region. Check the trail’s website for events, tasting room hours, and vineyards with picnic grounds and other amenities. (And if traveling with beer lovers, there’s also a map for the Placer Wine & Ale Trail, which includes not-to-be-missed craft breweries and taprooms.)