By Lisa Rowlands

Established in 1983, El Dorado is a topographically complex wine region with vineyards occupying sites at elevations up to one-thousand-one-hundred metres above sea level. This altitude affords El Dorado vines the benefit of significant diurnal temperature variation, and subsequently leads to vibrant wines with a good balance of fruit and acidity.

But whilst the appellation’s climate is broadly characterised by warm days and cool nights, El Dorado’s diverse landscape creates a number of different microclimates, offering wide ranging growing conditions within this small area. Factors such as elevation, exposure and prevailing wind vary from plot to plot, and hence a huge number of grapes have found success here. These include red varieties Zinfandel, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, and white grapes Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Riesling; in all, there are more than fifty grape types grown within the appellation’s bounds. The region’s fine, free-draining soils of volcanic rock and shale complete a terroir conducive to the production of sophisticated, age-worthy wines.

Historically, wine came to El Dorado with a rush of settlers seeking their fortune. When gold was discovered in the town of Coloma in the middle of the nineteenth century, the population of the area increased dramatically and the wine industry grew overnight. This initial success was however short lived as a post gold rush population decrease, along with the perils of Prohibition and the Great Depression led to the industry’s decline and virtual shut down until the 1970s. Since then, the area has barely looked back. El Dorado now boasts more than seventy wineries - many of which open their doors to tastings and tours - and a reputation for producing award winning wines of distinction.