Bella Piazza Winery in the Shenandoah Valley, Amador County. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Touring Amador County At Your Own Speed

With a local culture steeped in the area’s rich past, Amador County offers visitors a respite from the hustle of urban life. Historic main streets invite exploring an eclectic mix of antiques, wine tasting, and general stores.

Nestled between the 1,200 to 1,600 foot level in the Sierra Nevada foothills is the historic town of Jackson.

Using Jackson Rancheria RV Resort in Jackson as our home base, we explored the Gold Rush Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using Jackson Rancheria RV Resort in Jackson as our home base, we explored the Gold Rush Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two and one-half miles east of the historic district off State Route 88, the Jackson Rancheria RV Resort makes a great home base to explore the Heart of the Mother Lode. New in 2008, Jackson Rancheria RV Resort is part of a casino complex. Big rig friendly 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Wide, paved interior roads with wide concrete sites. Back-in sites over 55 feet with pull-through sites in the 70-75 foot range. A 5-star resort. Reservations over a weekend are required well in advance.

Historic Jackson is home to the former Kennedy Gold Mine and the Amador County Museum. The mine is open every Saturday, Sunday, and holidays between March and October. Guided and self-guided tours are available. One of the highlights is a video with historic footage featuring miners working. A local theatre troupe also performs plays in the amphitheatre during summer months.

The museum, in a 15-room classic Greek Revival home built in 1854 by Armstead C. Brown, features exhibits highlighting the area’s history including a fascinating array of artifacts and items from the county’s early mining days. Volunteer guides are knowledgeable not only about the artifacts and stories behind them but also the surrounding towns that make up Amador County. Don’t miss the museum’s hard-rock-mining exhibit — a working scale model of the Kennedy and North Star mines.

Nestled between the 1,200 to 1,600 foot level in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the "Heart of the Mother Lode" is the historic town of Jackson. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Nestled between the 1,200 to 1,600 foot level in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the “Heart of the Mother Lode” is the historic town of Jackson. © Rex Vogel, all rights

After shopping, head north on Highway 49 to Plymouth, at the entrance to the California Shenandoah Valley, a wine enthusiast’s heaven. The valley offers unique tasting rooms and outdoor event venues, bed and breakfast inns, and relaxing environments for locals and visitors alike to enjoy all year long.

Turning off Highway 16 (an extension of Highway 49) onto Shenandoah Road, you’ll find yourself amid rolling, oak-studded hills where cows or sheep graze on one side of the road and tidy rows of grapevines climb the other.

During the past 20 years, Amador vintners have begun producing a diverse array of varieties, especially those of Italian and southern French origin. While zinfandel, with over 2,000 acres, remains Amador’s signature variety, the region’s wineries also vinify superb examples of barbera, sangiovese, sauvignon blanc, and syrah; limited bottlings of pinot grigio, verdelho, viognier, roussanne, marsanne, grenache, mourvedre, petite sirah, aglianico, and tempranillo; rosés made from a wide variety of grapes; dessert wines made from muscat grapes; and port-style wines made from zinfandel and traditional Portuguese varieties.

Bella Piazza Winery in the Shenandoah Valley, Amador County. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bella Piazza Winery in the Shenandoah Valley, Amador County. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wineries within five or 10 minutes of Plymouth include Bella Piazza Winery, Terra d’Oro, Borjón Winery, Helwig Winery, and Cooper Vineyards.

After about 5 miles along Shenandoah Road, pull into Helwig Winery. Home to Amador County’s first wine cave, the winery is well known for its Zinfandel and Barbera varieties. The grounds include an amphitheater with a panoramic view of the vineyards.

Borjón Winery is a dynamic, Mexican-American, family-owned winery with a range of European-influenced wines including Italian (Barbara, Primitivo, Sangiovese), Spanish (Garnacha and Tempranillo), and French (Petite Sirah).

A visit to Coopers Vineyards is a visit to one of California’s most charming family wineries.

Dick Cooper, whose family originally arrived in the Sierra Foothills in 1919, is generally considered Amador County’s “Godfather of Barbera.”

Cooper Vineyard in the Shenandoah Valley, Amador County. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooper Vineyard in the Shenandoah Valley, Amador County. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Villa Toscano Winery brings the essence of the beautiful Tuscany region of Italy to California.

Many of their full-bodied wines are crafted from century-old vines.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Worth Pondering…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time. Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event.

―David Hyde Pierce

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