Sierra Foothills AVA is an American Viticultural Area in north-eastern California established in 1987. It covers the foothills on the western side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains which rise to 1,220 metres (4,000 feet), above the grasslands at the eastern edge of the Central Valley. Wine grapes were introduced to the area in the nineteenth century during the California Gold Rush, after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1849. By the late 1880s, there were 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of vines and 100 producers, mostly Italian, but also including French and Spanish. They replaced the Mission grape with Zinfandel, amongst other varieties. Production tailed off before Prohibition, after which it was virtually extinguished. A number of Amador County vineyards were maintained over the four decades after Prohibition as a source of grapes for home winemakers from Sacramento and other towns. The wine boom of the 1960s, when the area’s unique Zinfandel was re-discovered, brought revival and rapid expansion.

Geography | The Sierra Foothills AVA stretches from Yuba County in the north to Mariposa County in the south, along the western portion of the Sierra Nevada, with Amador County, El Dorado County and Calaveras County in the centre. The blanket Sierra Foothills AVA covers 1.05 million hectares (2.6 million acres) of land and incorporates five other AVAs. These are California Shenandoah Valley AVA (in Amador and El Dorado counties), El Dorado AVA (El Dorado County), Fair Play AVA (El Dorado County), Fiddletown AVA (Amador County) and North Yuba AVA (Yuba County).

Soils | Heavy decomposed granite and volcanic soils, older and less fertile than Coastal soils.

Vineyard area | The total winegrape vineyard acreage in the Sierra Foothills AVA is 2,306 hectares (5,700 acres). Zinfandel has the largest amount of plantings with 9,712 hectares (2,400 acres), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon with 253 hectares (625 acres), Syrah with 226 hectares (559 acres), Chardonnay with 120 hectares (297 acres), Merlot with 115 hectares (283 acres), and Barbera with 99 hectares (244 acres).

Vineyard area & wine production | The region crushes about 0.6 percent of the state of California’s total winegrape production. Vineyards generally located between 457 to 914 metres (1,500 to 3,000 feet) where elevation creates a four-season climate. The shallow, mountainside soils create moderate stress on the vines, producing low to moderate yields and high quality.

Wineries

Certified Biodynamic | Narrow Gate

No certification | Clos Saron. | La Clarine Farm.

Bibliography

Wines of California.