Travel Gold Country
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Raise a glass along Gold Country’s ale, wine trails (2)
mining town of Sutter Creek or at the newer, winery tasting room in Plymouth. This Plymouth estate is lovely, set in the heart of Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley, and welcomes guests to bring picnic lunches to enjoy over views of the surrounding vineyards.

INNER SANCTUM CELLARS

The quirky fun spot on Main Street stays open until at least 7 p.m. on weekends, making it a popular hangout for the playful crowd. It’s known for hip parties like Day of the Dead costume parades.

Even its wine labels are artsy — a stylized bullfighter on the Mateo The Matador Verdejo, beautifully sketched birds, flowers and butterflies on the Live & Love Grenache and a crane and crate of peaches on the Peachy sparkling French Colombard. (Be sure to ask your tasting host for the fascinating family stories behind each label).

Owners Karen and Pete Luckhardt have had a lot of fun with décor, as well, from the corrugated iron, raw wood topped bar, to busy-beautiful mismatched wallpaper and a cozy little back patio that hosts periodic live music.

There are many complex wines to enjoy here. Red Headed Ninjas delivers a spicy, candied blend of Primativo, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Barbera and Tempranillo, while Cuatro is a Port style wine barrel aged for four years.

Here’s something new to do, too: Thirsty Thursdays offer live music from 5:30 to 7 p.m., plus specialty wine cocktails such as a Salty Matador made with Verdejo, sparkling wine, grapefruit and lime juice in a salted rimmed glass garnished with lime. Try the drink with grab-n-go bites from the picnic case or a special nibble that might include a savory Mexican waffle topped in refried beans, cheddar, olives, green onion, cilantro and sour cream.

If you happen to be in the Columbia area, meanwhile, stop in at the Luckhardt’s new Columbia Floral and Wares in Sonora, a flower and gift shop and event garden offering Inner Sanctum wine tastings on weekends, paired with optional charcuterie boards.

GIANELLI VINEYARDS

After purchasing 53 acres just outside Jamestown nearly a decade ago, Ron and Lorie Gianelli looked back to their Italian heritage and decided to create wines in the Old World style.

Today, Gianelli Vineyards is thriving with 18 different estate grown varietals such as Vermentino, Barbera, Primitivo and Grenache, planted with original rootstock from vineyard in Verona, Italy. It’s a deep commitment to authenticity, as even every piece of equipment, from the large fermentation tanks to the small filtration units, was imported from Italy.

Ron passed away this last October, and Lori sold the winery and vineyards to Amy Veldstra and Brendt Noon, who also own the nearby historic Rawhide Saloon.

Still, the property still bears the beloved Gianelli name, and the tasting room remains right at home in downtown Jamestown, as a cheerful yellow wood cottage with a white rail front porch. Inside, it’s country quaint with farm tables flanking a big, thick polished wood bar.

Some of the wines may be unfamiliar to most American palates, which makes exploring tasting an extra adventure. Your host will explain the history behind grapes like floral white Fiano, black grape Aglianico, white Nebbiolo and Sangiovese Grosso kissed with red cherry and pepper.

The Nino wine is another layered, berry-rich delight, as a blend of Grenache, Barbera and Petite Sirah. For even more fun, be sure to mark your calendar for Happy Hour Fridays with $5 wines by the glass and live music on some dates.