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Stories from the valley

Wine Country, the Sacramento Valley way

Contributed by Jennifer Harrison

Wine is big in the Sacramento Valley.  El Dorado County, situated in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, is home to 2,300 acres of vineyards and many a grape grower. You could say Greg Boeger of Boeger Winery, started it all.  Forty-five years ago, he opened the very first post-prohibition winery in the area.  Fast-forward to today and he’s in good company, over 80 wineries, 40 of them with tasting rooms, are found here.

“It’s closer compared to Napa, the wines are half the price and our quality is just as good!”  Boeger proclaimed.  Read on to discover what this unexpected wine region is all about!

1800s History

Boeger didn’t reinvent the wine wheel-he reestablished it.  Wine in El Dorado County goes back to the 1800s; in fact, in 1870 El Dorado County was the third-largest wine producer in the state.  A series of events, prohibition being one of them, changed that and from 1920-1960 winemaking disappeared from this region.

Boeger 4

Enter Boeger, a UC Davis agriculture economics and viticulture graduate.  He grew up in the business, as his grandfather Anton Nichelini grew grapes in the Napa Valley. Boeger himself loved the Sierra Foothills and decided to make his wine mark in the Sacramento, not Napa, valley.

Boeger Historic

The land he chose had coincidentally already housed a winery from 1860-1920, it was run by a family much like his own, of part Swiss-Italian decent.

Boeger 2

History is alive and well at this winery.  You’ll find the original 1800s winery smack dab in the middle of the modern day operation.  A hundred-plus year old blacksmith shop is here too, and you can watch the craft in action.  Talk about a trip back in time.

Location, location, location

This is a mountain region.  The elevation is higher, making the climate cooler, and that cool factor is needed for growing grapes.

Boeger 3

“Napa Valley has coolness because of marine air inflow, we have coolness due to elevation, we have some of the same benefits, but not a lot of detriments of fog and misty weather that can cause rot and mildew in your grapes,” said Boeger.

He grows 31 different grape varieties and that has to do with location too.  The hilly land means vast differences in elevation, slopes and sun exposure, and an environment where many different types of grapes flourish.

“You get a dramatically different microclimates and you can tailor your grape variety to the different locations you have.  This allows us a lot more flexibility than other regions that have a more uniform climate.”

Wines…lots of wines!

The end result?    Many different types of wine.  Boeger Winery makes 15 different varietals and blends.  While Greg grows the grapes, son Justin, another UC Davis viticulture alumni, makes the wine.  They produce Zinfandels, Merlots, Cabernets, and more, but are well known for known for their Barbera.  The Barbera is a northern Italian variety that does very well in the foothills as it mimics the slopes and valleys where the grape originated.

So raise a glass to the Sacramento Valley, a great place to see and sip wine at its finest.