On March 1 and 2, 2014, thousands of wine aficionados traversed the Amador foothills as the annual Behind the Cellar Door event took place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. With 38 out of 39 participating Amador Vintner's Association wineries in the event, attendees had limitless opportunities to sample the regional wines as well as edible delicacies matched with whites, reds, rosé and even champagne.
While the predominant wines from Amador are Zinfandel with over 2, 000 Zin acres, there is actually a vast range of red growing on the vines and being turned into fine wine. The Amador region wineries also "vinify superb examples of barbera, sangiovese, sauvignon blanc, syrah and limited bottlings of pinot grigio, verdelho, viognier, roussanne, marsanne, grenache, mourvedre, petite sirah, aglianico and tempranillo." Wow! Some winemakers also bring in grapes from numerous other counties like Napa and El Dorado in order to produce their final preferred product.
The sun was shiny with a brilliant blue sky filled with puffy white clouds on Saturday while the landscape turned a bit grey and greeted raindrops on the second day of the event. A light breeze, sometimes working itself into a bigger breeze, was in evidence throughout the weekend. The weather did not deter visitors even though it did alter some of the BCD staging as well as live music. Borjon's booking for The Rhythm Vandals, Santana Tribute Band was cancelled on Saturday due to the weather forecast. Sad but understandable. The band was missed but festival lovers will probably be able to find them performing at the upcoming Sacramento Music Festival at the end of May.
Among the favorites for tasty treat pairings was 9 Gables champagne with miniature toasted cheesy breads. Superb combination and highly recommended perhaps at breakfast even though not an official pairing. Bray Vineyard's usual chili three ways was forfeited to the desire to offer something different this year with meatballs in raspberry and roasted chipotle sauce over polenta. So the chili remains a favorite but no one was found wailing in distress and seemed quite pleased with the meatballs and polenta. The wine was as enthusiastically appreciated as always since Bray continues to make some mighty good stuff.
The most frequently sited animal on the route was the ever popular Golden Retriever with several tucked into a hatchback and let out for quick walks between their escorts' wine tasting. Little dogs in strollers were also sited, signs barring animals from tasting rooms, wineries with their own beloved pooches and dog lovers stealing a quick pet here and there. According to one dog owner,his two pals had no BCD pass due to being beer lovers. They are forgiven the error of their ways being that dogs don't know good wine so well.
BCD visitors stopping at Jeff Runquist found a three table layout of white wine imbued with 22 different scents from lime to ginger, butterscotch, almond and pear. The task was to identify the scent from the provided list of possibles. (Not for drinking.) Few were 100% successful but many tried. Others found the scent test a tad overwhelming and gave in to the call of actual tasting of some of the Amador best found at the Runquist bar with author's favorites being the 2012 Tannat, Silverspoons, Lodi and 2012 Petite Syrah, Salmon Vineyard, Clarksburg. The Runquist food choice from three tasty sandwiches was appealing but the ever popular brownie with creamy smooth chocolate goodness was a return hit.
The wines from each winery all have their special standouts and personal preference has a big hand in that opinion. Some Gold Metal winners might turn a taster's mouth in a curl while a neighboring taster gets a in the shine in eye and buys a full case. Beyond the broad range of wines and wineries the views in the county are beautiful and make the wine touring event a special treat. Beautiful landscapes and architecture, as seen at Andis and Helwig in previous articles, continue to woo visitors with the expanse of beauty and planning. One of the prettiest drives along the route was the excursion off the primary Shenandoah Road route onto Bell Road up to Story Winery with views over the hills, a painted mural, old farm equipment, native trees and more.