You may be unfamiliar with the Fair Play/Sierra Foothills American Viticultural Area (AVA). If so, you are not alone. Nestled deep in the Northern hills of California it is the easiest AVA to overlook. You could drive right through it and not even know there was a single vine! Chances are if you are familiar with this area, then you probably live there.
Layout of the region
Grapes were first planted in 1840 by early pioneers during the California Gold Rush. They certainly knew how to keep a secret. The Fair Play/Sierra Foothills AVA is the largest AVA in land size. Even still it only has a meager 6,000 acres planted here today. However, this American Viticultural Area contains many sub-AVAs that you may know. Those include Amador, Placer, and El Dorado. All have Hot-Summer Mediterranean climates and nutrient-rich soil. Because of this they make perfect for growing those fruit-forward Zinfandels, Cabernet Sauvignons, Syrahs, and Chardonnays.
Stop by Sutter creek
In the small town of Sutter Creek lies a quaint tasting room with a powerful list of handcrafted wines. 1850 Wine Cellars produces elegant, artisan wines from sustainably farmed vineyards. 1850 believes in low impact farming practices and zero pesticides. These wines are “ground-to-grape-to-glass” as the first growers would have intended.
Head into their cute tasting room off of Main Street for a meet and greet with Sierra, the Goldendoodle. She is named after the Sierra Foothills. She is the cute 1850 Wine Cellars mascot. Make yourself comfortable outside on the patio or sit inside the warmth of their charming tasting venue. Stay awhile to sip some amazing “heritage varietals”. These are vines that were originally planted by the early farmers. 1850 is a small winery that will wow even the most experienced wine taster. Pair the rustic patio, small bites and live music to your favorite glass of 1850 Wine Cellars, never a bad day here.
Sip in Somerset
Your next stop in the Fair Play AVA should be at Mediterranean Vineyards in Somerset. Somerset is a rural town located in the El Dorado AVA. Famous for its wine tourism, the town is tiny. There is only a small store, a realty office, the Gold Vine Grille, the Crossroads Cafe, and a post office. It is a little town producing BIG wines. Mediterranean Vineyards commits to crafting ultra-premium, high-end wines. Varietals like Petite Syrah, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir and, even Malbec, are easy to sip. Easy, because the processes are of an Old World Style. Family and dog-friendly, so bring everyone along to enjoy an afternoon. Relax on the Bocce Ball Courts or in the gardens. You can even have a little picnic with your Mediterranean Vineyards bottle.
Visit Fair Play & the Sierra Foothills
If you are looking to beat the crowds, head into the hills. The Fair Play/Sierra Foothills AVA will be your sanctuary. The area has a ton to offer in the way of wines, Apple Hill, and a rich California Gold Rush history. It is surprising that this humble AVA hasn’t drawn more attention sooner.