History played a huge role in establishing El Dorado’s wine industry. The discovery of gold at Coloma in 1848 initiated what became known as the Gold Rush, with many people heading west in search of riches. As the population rose, the demand for wine increased and the industry thrived for more than a half century, before - like much of the United States’ wine growing regions - Phylloxera and Prohibition brought progress to a halt. That was until perhaps sixty years ago when the county began its winemaking renaissance.
Today El Dorado has around seventy wineries, eight-hundred hectares planted to vine and one sub-appellation, Fair Play established in 2001. The key feature of the terroir here is the altitude, with vineyard elevations ranging from three-hundred to over one-thousand metres above sea level. This, coupled with the inland location ensures El Dorado fruits the benefit of a significant diurnal temperature variation. Hot days and cool nights prolong the growing season leading to well balanced, flavoursome grapes.
With a mountainous landscape, vineyard location is particularly important here. The diversity of the county’s topography creates a multitude of microclimates for growers to consider, with variations in elevation and aspect exposing the vines to a number of climatic influences. Nonetheless, soils across the county are fairly uniform in their being shallow, rocky, free-draining and volcanic, thus tending to produce low yields of concentrated fruit.
The incredible diversity of the region allows for the cultivation of a wide number of grapes and the production of wines in a range of styles. Amongst the fifty plus varieties planted to vine here, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most prevalent, with Grenache, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay also very well represented. The wines here are rich, intense and well balanced; their quiet sophistication has led to their being very much respected both within California and on the international stage.
El Dorado is an American viticultural Area that covers most of the Californian county with which it shares a name. Zinfandel is the appellation’s principal grape, although Rhône Valley varieties such a Syrah, and Bordeaux grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot also do well here.