As they say, Zinfandel is king in Amador County, CA, in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range*. As a result, few wineries feel the need to specialize in native Italian varietals.  Terra d’Oro  is one of them. While it is famous for its outstanding single-vineyard zinfandels produced from very old vines, and for its stylish syrahs, Terra d’Oro  ( trans. "Land of Gold"  ) has been making wines from Italian varieties  since the 1970s.

These wines, all moderately-priced, are surprisingly true to their origins while exhibiting the intensity, the richness and fruitiness of the New World’s terroirs.

 

tdo-v2009 bb bottle2008 Terra d’Oro Barbera, Amador, CA (  $18). After 2 weeks of maceration in stainless steel and 15 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, this  ruby-red 100%  Barbera is elegant  with layers of juicy black fruit, exotic spice, and a silky mouthfeel spiked with pleasant tannins yet tempered by a lively acidity.  Famous in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy for Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti,  Barbera is one of the most successful of the Piemontese grapes to be adapted in California. In Amador it has found its terroir.  It pairs well with grilled meats and veggies and any food a good Pinot Noir would.

 

2008 Terra d’Oro Sangiovese, Amador, CA  ($18) An eminently Tuscan grape used in Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano among others, the temperamental Sangiovese was brought to California by Italian settlers during the Gold Rush in the late 1800s. The high acidity and light body characteristics of sangiovese grape are tamed by minimizing crop to increase concentration and color.  Aged in old and new American oak  for 14 months the result is a bright and juicy Sangiovese with aromas of red fruit and spices with  silky tannins and a refined finish which  pairs with beef; boar ragout over pasta, burgers and goat cheese.

 

2008 Terra d’Oro Aglianico Amador, CA  ($18) When I hear aglianico what immediately comes to mind in the Aglianico del Vulture, a black grape grown in the south of Italy -  namely  Basilicata and Campania where it was brought by ancient Greek settlers before Roman times.    The name may be a corruption of Vitis hellenica, Latin for "Greek vine”. It is a relative rarity in California. This deep garnet 100% Aglianico comes from the Shenendoah Valley in Amador County and makes a light medium-bodied wine, with a complex aroma of smoked bacon and juicy fruit, fleshy and round with plum, cherry and jam  notes, rich with mocha and vanilla and a velvet-like texture, with  good acids and a bit of spice. It works perfectly with BBQ ribs and 4th of July fare .

 

2008 Terra d’Oro Forte “Super Tuscan” Blend, Amador, CA  ($28) Fruit and spice, muscle and finesse, Dark red fruit flavors, jam and candied apple spiced with nutmeg, dried vanilla bean and cracked black pepper! This full-bodied dark red wine is a blend of Amador County Sangiovese and Napa Cabernet Sauvignon vinified separately until settled, because of their different characteristics, and then blended and aged together in 100% new French Oak for 6 weeks prior to bottling.  Just like a Super-Tuscan it pairs well with a variety of dishes from steak and stews to pan-seared salmon over sweet corn risotto and crispy pancetta with a tomato beurre blanc, and cheeses.

 

tdo-v2009 ag bottleHistory of Amador county

*Wine and gold came hand in hand in Amador county , the epicenter of the Mother Lode during the Gold Rush in the 1850’s. Fortune-seekers, attracted by the discovery of the famous “Mother Lode” — Mother Lode is the name given to the long alignment of hard-rock gold deposits stretching northwest to southeast in the Sierra Nevada of California, one of the most productive gold-producing districts in the United States — chose to plant vineyards first to satisfy the thirst of thousands of miners and later to make a living after the mines began to run dry. By the 1890s, the foothill region had over 100 wineries (more than any other region in California).

By 1920 most of the gold mines had closed and Prohibition laws compelled wineries to shut their doors. This region was revived in 1970, when a young winemaker named Cary Gott and his father-in-law, Walter Field, established Montevina Winery. As the first new post-Prohibition winery in the Sierra Foothills, Montevina helped to return both Amador County and Zinfandel to the attention of fine wine aficionados and to remake the Sierra Nevada foothills as one of the best wine regions around.

Terra d’Oro wines were first released in 1973 under the Montevina label and today Terra d’Oro Winery makes world-class wines.

 

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