Sierra Foothills AVA and Viticultural Areas
The Sierra Foothills AVA (established in 1987) is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the state of California in the United States. Wine grapes were introduced to the area in the nineteenth century during the California Gold Rush. Over 100 wineries are located within the boundaries of the AVA.
The Sierra Foothills AVA stretches from Yuba County in the north to Mariposa County in the south, along the western portion of the Sierra Nevada, with Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras counties in the center. Within the entire Sierra Foothills AVA, which totals 2,600,000 acres, there are five other AVAs: California Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, Fiddletown, and North Yuba. http://www.californiawineinfo.com/sierra.html
The El Dorado AVA is comprised of rugged, mountainous terroir. The thin, austere soils of the region are ideal for Zinfandel; but Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Barbera, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Sierra Foothills Wineries are known for producing these wines.
The Fair Play AVA is a hill-top sub-region of Sierra Foothills Wine Country. The AVA has relatively fertile soil compared to other grape growing regions in the Sierra Foothills. But this is balanced by the wine region’s extremely high elevation and cool, windy climate. So the soil is forgiving compared to other Sierra Foothills Wineries, but the climate is marginal.
The Fiddletown AVA is also in Amador County and sits adjacent to Shenandoah Valley, but at a higher elevation. If the soils were any less fertile, they simply would not be able to sustain vineyards. But this feature produces extracted Zinfandel with dark pigments, strong tannins and high alcohol.the western portion of the Sierra Nevada, with Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras counties in the center. Within the entire Sierra Foothills AVA, which totals 2,600,000 acres, there are five other AVAs: California Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, Fiddletown, and North Yuba. The total winegrape vineyard acreage in the Sierra Foothills AVA is 5,700 acres. Zinfandel has the largest amount of plantings with 2,400 acres, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon with 625 acres, Syrah, 559 acres, Chardonnay, 297 acres, Merlot, 283 acres, and Barbera, 244 acres. The region crushes about 0.6 percent of the state’s total winegrape production. More than 100 wineries are nestled throughout the nooks and crannies of the foothills, with vineyards generally located between 1,500 to 3,000 feet where elevation creates a four-season climate. The shallow, mountainside soils create moderate stress on the vines, producing low to moderate yields and high quality.
The oldest Sierra Foothills Wineries are in the Shenandoah Valley AVA. Wine has been made here since the Gold Rush. It’s located in Amador County, and has a sunny climate that produces wines of considerable depth. In addition, there are some extremely old Zinfandel vineyards in this historic part of Sierra Foothills Wine Country.
The North Yuba AVA is farily small at only 30 square miles. It includes the area from Oregon House east of Rice Crossing Road to roughly Dobbins just west of the Yuba River. The area is known for its mineral rich loamy clay soils, warm days, cool nights and an average annual rainfall average of 51 inches. The AVA is located entirely within the Sierra Foothills AVA, at its most northerly edge. For our purposes we also add the one winery in the AVA that is across the street from its western border.