Placer County wines


One of the best ways to experience a variety of Sierra Foothill wines is to attend an event that features them. The recent Passport to Dining, which benefits the North Tahoe Business Association and the Community House, focused on wines from nearby Placer County wineries.

The newest winery, Bear River Winery, is located in Meadow Vista. I went straight for the 2010 Barbera, which uses grapes sourced from Viani Vineyards in the Pilot Hill area of Placer County. Proprietor Jeff Evans notes that this Barbera has rich fruit-forward flavors of red cherry and raspberry. The aroma is fruity, and matches taste. It has a nicely balanced acidity. The winemakers suggest pairing it with pasta, pizza or anything Italian. 14.6 percent alcohol. $24 by the bottle. The winery also sources grapes from the Clavey Vineyards near Chicago Park, for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Syrah. Visit

Dono dal Cielo Vineyard, Newcastle, presented its 2009 Daven Port 6100. This port-like wine is a late-harvest Zinfandel, and has a ruby-jewel appearance and strong ripe black-cherry aroma. It is a nicely soft wine, with a hint of warmed currant and is rich on the palate. I think a port should be in everyone’s wine rack, and this is a good one at a reasonable price. 16.5 percent alcohol. $25 for the 375 ml bottle. Visit

I’ve tasted wines before from Wise Villa Winery, located in Lincoln. Dr. Grover Lee, winemaker, has a philosophy that I appreciate: “We believe that great wines come from ultra-premium grapes, hand picked and crafted one barrel at a time. Our premium wines are aged in French oak barrels and enriched by the mineral, loam, soil of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Foothills in Lincoln.” At the benefit, they poured a Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I liked the 2011 Wisdom of Wise best. This wine is a blend of Merlot (54 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (26 percent) and Cabernet Franc (18 percent). It’s made in the Bordeaux style (think claret, etc). Taste is of bright fruit, a fair amount of spiciness and it has a lovely medium body. 13.5 percent alcohol. $30 by the bottle. Visit

Bonitata Boutique Wines is located in Auburn in the original Bernhard Winery founded in 1874. This is part of the Bernhard Museum on Folsom Road. Bonitata poured its 2009 Barbera, made from fruit sourced from the Boa Vista vineyards in El Dorado County. This Barbera is a classic one, made from those great El Dorado grapes. Rich, fruit, medium body. 14.5 percent alcohol. $24 by the bottle. Visit

For more information on Placer County wines, visit For more information on the NTBA, visit

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Barbara Keck
Barbara started writing for newspapers when she was 14 and continues to write, most recently the “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills” book published by Range of Light Media, parent company of The Tahoe Weekly. Barbara wrote the wine column for the Weekly for many years, and contributes occasional tidbits on tourism and entertainment topics. A long marketing consulting career that included extensive international travel led her to conclude that Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Almost 20 years of enjoying the seasons on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe has confirmed her belief.