ABOUT FOOTHILLS WINO
What We Are
Foothill Wino is an independent website dedicated to providing objective and unsponsored information about the wines and wineries of the Sierra Foothills. Our goal is to help wine lovers make sense of this complex and hard-to-navigate region. It is hard to know which wineries to visit and which ones to avoid, so we are here to help.
About Guy Tucker
Foothills Wino is owned and operated by Certified Sommelier Guy Tucker. Guy, who holds a WSET Level 3 certificate, with distinction, is currently a WSET Level 4 Diploma student with hopes of continuing onto the Master of Wine program. Guy has worked harvests and has worked as a Sommelier in numerous settings.
Guy and his wife Abby moved to the Sierra Foothills from the Bay Area in 2016. They own and operate Sangreal Vineyards™ where they are growing many varieties of grape vines that will one day produce grapes that will be made into wines at a microwinery of the same name.
About Star-Awarded Wineries
At Foothills Wino we use a star-award system in the style of the Michelin Star rating system for restaurants. There are literally hundreds of wineries in the Foothills, and we have tried to visit all of them multiple times so we can help you know the best ones to check out.
Our focus is on the wines and on the experience of tasting those wines. In addition to outstanding wines, we expect wineries to have (i) friendly, attentive, and welcoming staff, (ii) staff that meets a minimum level of knowledge about wine in general and the winery specifically, (iii) staff that can either answer reasonable questions or that can direct guests to the answers, (iv) tasting pours that are at least 1 ounce and preferably 1.5 or more ounces (a standard Sommelier pour is 1.7 ounces), (v) well-kept, tidy, and hygienic tasting room, (vi) a clear and accurate tasting menu, and (vii) an overall environment conducive to a pleasurable experience.
Additional amenities, such as outdoor seating, food pairings, and live music, can add to a winery’s score if done well or can detract if executed poorly. Owner and/or winemaker availability in the tasting room is a huge plus, especially for smaller wineries. Specific things that will lower scores include the application of overbearing pressure to join a winery’s club, loud or inappropriate background music, the presence of scents or perfumes, the use of improper glassware, and unruly or obnoxious “regulars” that act like barflies.
The wineries on our Watch List are wineries that for one reason or another show potential for being awarded a star within the coming years. Some may be new wineries, have new ownership, have a new winemaker, have a new dedication to quality wine, or may just be showing steady improvement. Some Watch List wineries are very close to being Star worthy, but we simply had a bad experience in the tasting room. We recognize that staffing a tasting room in remote rural regions can be a challenge, and we want to give such wineries a chance to improve the tasting experience they provide.
We judge wineries based on making numerous winery visits, some announced and some anonymously, and by evaluating the wines by our Panel of Sommeliers.
We do not ask for any money, wine, or benefits from any winery we evaluate. No one can buy their way onto our site. A winery must earn their way on… and stars must be earned every year.
We constantly revisit wineries that are not on our Star-Awarded list or our Watch list. It is our hope that many more wineries will make the lists in the coming years.
To see our Star-Awarded wineries click here.
In addition to highlighting wineries to visit in the Sierra Foothills, we also evaluate and rate wines. This evaluation is independent of the winery experience and sometimes even includes wineries that have no tasting room.
The thing that most distinguishes the Foothills region is its diversity of wines. We illustrate this diversity by rating wines within multiple categories. In each category, we select our favorite wines using a Panel of Sommeliers. The Panel is made up of certified wine experts who have a passion for the Sierra Foothills wine region. To qualify to be on our Panel, a Sommelier must have passed either the Court of Master Sommeliers Level 2 (CMS2) exam or the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 3 (WSET3) exam. Both exams include a rigorous test of knowledge and theory and a blind-tasting exam where unknown wines must be identified and characterized.