El Dorado County offers a taste of California wine country with a twist. Unlike its southernly and westerly cousins, El Dorado has a secret sauce in its high-elevation vineyards. Mountain terroir is a unique combination of soil, climate, and elevation, and our well-drained, rocky soils contribute to our grapes’ concentrated flavor.

Combined with the tenacity directly resulting from our Gold Rush history, our small, family-owned wineries deliver memorable wines and experiences that may surprise you.

Mountain-Grown Wines

El Dorado’s vineyards climb high in the Sierra Foothills, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000+ feet. Even during the height of summer, it means cool nights. When coupled with warm days, the significant temperature swing creates grapes with intense flavor and balanced acidity. Also, thicker skins! Unlike foggy coastal areas, El Dorado gets plenty of sunshine, resulting in full-bodied and vibrant wines.

The result? Mountain-grown grapes translate to wines with a bolder mouthfeel, capable of aging gracefully and developing even more nuanced flavors over time.

Independent Wineries

Our wineries are fiercely authentic in their love for mountain-grown wines (including the occasional weather challenges!). Most are small, owner-operated family affairs, and in many cases, the winemaker wears several hats, including vineyard manager, tasting room employee, and quality control supervisor. Having the owner or winemaker serve you in the tasting room is not unusual, allowing you to learn about the wines from the experts first-hand!

Being small also means we possess a can-do spirit, which some say is part of our Gold Rush heritage. But we’re jumping ahead…

Gold Rush History

The Gold Rush literally began here in 1848, which was also when our winemaking industry was born. History informs El Dorado in many ways, including our culture, geography, names, and attitudes.

For example, Skinner Vineyards is named for the family’s Scottish great-great-great-grandfather James Skinner, who established one of the first wineries in the country in 1861!

At Boeger Winery, which happens to be the first modern-day (post-Prohibition) winery in the El Dorado AVA, you can learn about how the estate was first homesteaded by the Fossati-Lombardo family during the Gold Rush and how some of the original vines remain today.

That pioneering spirit continues today. Wineries like Boeger, Madrona Vineyards, and Lava Cap Winery paved the way for our region in the 1960s and the latter half of the twentieth century. El Dorado was designated an American Viticulture Area (AVA) in 1983 and today boasts a variety of award-winning wines.