Pleasant Valley is a remote, beautiful valley sandwiched between Apple Hill/Camino and Fair
Play in El Dorado County. The region could be included with Apple Hill/Camino, but we believe
it is distinctive enough to be its own sub-region.
Pleasant Valley has geology quite different than its neighboring sub-regions. Pleasant Valley is
actually not a valley, but instead is a gentle elongated depression within an elevated uplift.
Positioned between the American River system and the Cosumnes River system, there is no
major rivers that flow through Pleasant Valley, leaving it relatively uncarved. As a result, the
valley floor is at a higher elevation and soils tend to be more sedimentary and alluvial. On the
edges of the uplift, though, there can be extremely steep slopes and soils more typical of the rest of the Foothills. Along the south edge, vineyards can take advantage of both the steep south-facing slopes and free-draining soils on the south side of the edge and the more gentle north facing slopes and richer soils on the north side. This, of course, leads to a wide variation in grapes and styles.
There are only a handful of wineries in the valley, largely due to the lack of population and
tourist traffic, but the ones that are here are of exceptional quality. There are also numerous
vineyards that supply fruit to wineries in the more famous sub-regions and even beyond the
Foothills. It is simply a grape-growing paradise for the knowledgeable and experienced
Holly’s Hill Vineyards
Don’t let the folksy charm of the tasting room and the modest demeanor of the staff fool you;
this is some exceptionally high-quality wine. Holly Cooper’s family owned a cattle ranch on the
south edge of Pleasant Valley. The cattle ranchers had no idea the steep south-facing slopes
and thin soils were actually ideal for Mediterranean grapes. Holly and her husband Tom decided
they wanted to move to the ranch to try their hand at growing, fortuitously, the Rhone-style
grapes that they loved. Daughter Carrie got the itch and honed her skills at producing wines in
the Rhone style and then met and fell in love with another winemaker, Josh Benedick. Together
the two have crafted distinctive Rhone-style wines that are some of the best in the state.
Holly’s Hill grows only Rhone varieties. This includes the standards grown throughout the
region, such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache Bland, Roussanne, Viognier, in
addition to many less common varieties, like Counoise, Carignane, Cinsault, and Picpoul Blanc.
Carrie and Josh produce single-varietal versions of many of the grapes, and some complex
southern Rhone style blends they refer to as Patriarch and Patriarch Blanc.
The tasting room is beautifully perched atop the southern edge of Pleasant Valley and offers a
southerly view towards Fair Play and Amador County. The staff is friendly, and the tasting flights
are nicely designed. Food and cheese pairings are often provided on the weekends, and if you
are lucky you can stumble onto one of their vertical tastings of Patriarch. The only problem with
Holly’s Hill is their own success. They have a very loyal following and wine club, and many of
the wines sell out quickly.
3680 Leisure Lane
Placerville, CA 95667
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10:00-5:00
You turn off Sly Park Road and then a short backroad drive on Four Springs Trail seemingly transports you to the Old World. The rolling 252 acre property invokes images of the Tuscan countryside. 45 acres of vines surround an opulent tasting room that features century-old wooden beams from the Oakland Ferry Building and 200-year old stone flooring from Europe.
Marco Capelli, a Foothills legend, was the long-time winemaker here and still consults. Now, young, visionary winemaker Fernando Abarca has taken the reigns following a longtime apprenticeship with Marco. Miraflores has a wide range of wines and styles, all of exceptional quality, but their dessert wines are particularly noteworthy. The Botricelli is made from botrytis-affected Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The Angelica is made from Mission grapes and is inspired by the wines produced centuries ago by Spanish missionaries. The Black Muscat and the Muscat Canelli are both amazing, as well.
The tasting room staff is knowledgeable and friendly. Food pairings are common so call ahead to see what’s in store.
2120 Four Springs Trail
Placerville, CA 95667
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10:00-5:00
Foothills Wino Wineries to Watch
Narrow Gate Vineyards
One of the only certified biodynamic vineyards in the Foothills, husband and wife team Frank
and Teena Hildebrand offer small lot, hand-crafted wines in their tasting room in the wine cellar
tucked into the pines. Frank handles the vines and the winemaking, and Teena handles the
business and marketing end and usually can be found in the tasting room telling the story of the
winery’s development and the transition to biodynamic. A wide range of interesting wines, some
of which are outstanding, are offered.
Thurs-Sun 12:00-5:00 (opens at 11:00 Fri, Sat)
Sierra Vista Vineyards and Winery
Sierra Vista is one of the oldest post-prohibition wineries in El Dorado county, dating back to the
early 1970’s. The property is located on the north side of the southern edge of Pleasant Valley
with gentler slopes and a nice view of the Sierra’s. Strides have been made recently to elevate
the quality of the wines, and we are very encouraged by the results.
Ursa is an intriguing and little-known winery, located atop the rolling hills of Pleasant Valley,
owned by married and highly reputed winemaking duo Greg Stokes and Deborah Elissagaray.
Deborah’s family connection to the Pyrenees shapes the direction of the Ursa wines. The wines
we’ve tasted are wonderful, with the Tannat and Tannat Rose being particularly interesting. We
are excited to try more.
Tasting by appointment only