The El Dorado AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in El Dorado County, California, United States. Wine grape growers in the region produce Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot and are beginning to plant the Rhône varietals. Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, vineyards are found at elevations between 1,200 feet (366 m) and 3,500 feet (1,067 m) above sea level and some of the best vineyards are planted above 2,000 feet (610 m) elevation. The region benefits from the cool breezes that come off the mountains and push hot air off the vines and down to the valley. The soils of the region are magma based with high levels of acidity.
Established in 1983, The El Dorado American Viticultural Area (AVA, also referred to as an "appellation") includes those portions of El Dorado County bounded on the north by the Middle Fork of the American River, and on the south by the South Fork of the Cosumnes River. El Dorado is a sub-appellation of the 2,600,000-acre Sierra Foothills AVA — one of the largest appellations in California — which includes portions of the counties of Yuba, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Mariposa.
The El Dorado appellation is unique due to its high elevation and complex topography. El Dorado's mountain vineyards are perched at elevations high above the valley, where cooling breezes off the Sierra Nevada and the mountainous topography create a diversity of microclimates and growing conditions not found in other regions in valley settings.
These microclimates provide ideal locations for growing a wide variety of grapes identified with the world's finest wine regions, including Bordeaux, the Rhône, Germany, Italy and Spain. El Dorado grows approximately 50 different varieties of grapes, ranging from Gewürztraminer, which does best in the higher and cooler portions of the county, to Zinfandel and Barbera, which ripen perfectly in warmer climates.
El Dorado is cooled by elevation rather than by the fog that is common to the coastal regions. This means the grapes receive more direct sunlight, thus ripening fully without retaining excess herbaceous characters or acidity that is out of balance with the fruit flavors. El Dorado's relatively cool temperatures also allow the grapes a long "hang time" for uniform ripening.
In conjunction with the climate, there are three basic soil types determining the characteristics of the region: fine-grained volcanic rock, decomposed granite and fine-grained shale. Varying in elevation and topography, each soil offers good drainage and the nutrients needed to encourage vines producing rich, deeply flavored grapes.
The unique combination of climate, soil and topography found in the El Dorado appellation produce wines of distinction, depth and density with a maturity unmatched in other regions. This is El Dorado's "terroir."
California's Gold Rush began in El Dorado County 1848 with James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, on the South Fork of the American River in Coloma. As legions of people flocked to California to claim their fortunes, the region's winemaking industry was born.
By 1870, El Dorado County was among the largest wine producers in the state, trailing only Los Angeles and Sonoma counties. The local wine industry flourished until just after the turn of the century when there were approximately 2,000 acres of vines in the county. Shortly thereafter, El Dorado began a gradual decline, brought about by poor economic conditions and a diminishing local population. Prohibition was but the last straw.
Between 1920 and 1960, viticulture virtually disappeared from the county. It wasn't until the late 1960s that winegrowing made a resurgence. Following the development of several experimental vineyards, it became apparent that both the climate and soil of El Dorado County were ideally suited to the production of high quality, dry table wines. With the opening of Boeger Winery in 1973, El Dorado was once again on its way to becoming an important wine-growing region. Other wineries, including Madrona, Sierra Vista, and Lava Cap have developed a vibrant winemaking industry centered around the town of Placerville.
Today, the county has more than 2,000 acres of vines, is home to approximately 50 wineries, and produces some of California's most sophisticated wines. El Dorado was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983.
C.G. di Arie
Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards
Crystal Basin Cellars
Fenton Herriott Vineyards
Findleton Estate Winery
Fleur De Lys Winery
David Girard Vineyards
Gold Hill Vineyard & Brewery
Grace Patriot Wines
Jodar Vineyards & Winery
Lava Cap Winery
Narrow Gate Vineyards
Nello Olivo Wines
Sierra Vista Vineyards & Winery
Winery by the Creek