More than 250 wineries have sprung up in the 10 counties that can be considered part of the Foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The wines being produced are incredible: intense, unique, sometimes even experimental in terms of blends and varietals. Learn more about this great and growing California wine region!
“Seriously, wineries in
Yuba County?” Yes, I get that question.
Researching the book “Wineries
of the Sierra Foothills” took me more than 8 years. It
was a hard job to hone in on the 21 very special wineries that are featured in
the book. They were chosen due to the Risk-Taking and Rule-Breaking
attributes of these wineries and winemakers.
There is a lot of
terrain to cover, and ten counties qualify for the moniker "Sierra Foothills Wineries", based on their terroir (decomposed granitic soils) and elevations for
growing certain kinds of grapes (800 feet).
are: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, Madera, Nevada,
Placer, Tuolumne, and last but not least, Yuba. There are 280
wineries in the book’s directory, organized by county.
If you have never
considered wine tasting in Yuba, do think again. The county has a long
history of wine grape growing, and there are fine producers there. I’m
fond of Clos Saron, in Oregon House.
Gideon in the Home Vineyard
of Clos Saron
Yuba County, on the
Western slope of the Sierra Nevada, has a small number of wineries. Historical
accounts note that in 1824 General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo sent an expedition
to study a river which had wild grapes growing along its banks (uvas silvestres in Spanish) and thus the name “Uba”
was given to the river. Winemaking started with the Gold Rush but
died out during Prohibition. In the 1970’s, it was revived near Oregon
House. The relative isolation of this part of the Sierra Foothills has led many
truth-seekers and rugged individualists to farm in this region, and those who
entered the vineyard and winery business certainly fit into that category.
Clos Saron and its
iconic winemaker, Gideon Bienstock, should be a must-visit on your wine tourism
list. You’ll need to plan your visit to Clos Saron in advance
because it is by-appointment-only.
Clos Saron is Gideon’s
own family-run vineyard and winery. He jokes that it is a Ma-and-Pa
operation because since it was started in 1998, all family members help in some
way. His teenage sons and his younger daughter as well as their
mother Saron are all involved. The approach to their vineyard is organic, with
natural soil augmentations from the chickens, rabbits, ducks, geese and sheep
they raise on site. Vines are own-rooted and densely planted, kept
free of all chemicals.
Gideon of Clos Saron
Small means big when it
comes to the quality of his wines. Gideon studied winemaking in the
Burgundy and Rhone regions of France. His winemaking style has
evolved to be on the extreme side of natural. “The most fascinating
aspect of a wine is its potential evolution,” he says.
Many of Clos Saron’s
wines have what Gideon refers to as a “life span” of 20 years after
bottling. His “Home Vineyard” Pinot Noir is so sought after that
customers will fly planes in from places as remote as Texas to stock up before
the 50-150 cases produced annually are gone. This, and the “Texas
Hill Road” Pinot Noir are terroir-driven, spicy, minerally and with
concentrated flavors. All of Clos Saron’s wines are limited in
production… the Pinot Noir, Syrah, and some non-traditional red blends. They
express all that is wonderful about Clos Saron’s terroir, the family that makes
it all happen, and the daily attention to detail.
9269 Collin House Drive
Oregon House, CA 95962