The Sierra Foothills area has long been home to pioneers and innovators. In the early 1850s European immigrants descended upon the region to search for gold. Many of them were unable to find gold ore in the ground but instead found that the ground could offer them riches with grape growing. These settlers brought with them the understanding of grape growing and wine making. By the late 1800s more than 100 wineries were thriving, the most of any other California region at the time. In 1888 the University of California had already established an experimental station near the town of Jackson with more than 130 grape varieties grown.
This emphasis on viticulture gave Amador an advantage while phylloxera and Prohibition ravaged wine regions throughout California. Most of Amador lay dormant and untouched. The isolation, elevation and dry farming practices helped to prevent the spread of phylloxera and many of its grapes were distributed amongst Italian families across the country, so as the tide of Prohibition passed, the vines of Amador were still thriving. As a result Amador has some of California’s oldest surviving vineyards, especially old vine Zinfandel.
Within Amador County there are two other American Viticultural Areas, the Shenandoah Valley of California and Fiddletown. Amador specializes in Zinfandel with more than 2,000 acres planted but also features unique varieties of Italian (Barbara and Sangiovese), French (Syrah) and Spanish (Tempranillo) origin.