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El Dorado Rising Wine Summit

El Dorado Rising… a three-day summit to highlight the wines and beauty of the El Dorado AVA (one of the sub-regions of the Sierra Foothills) got off to an amazing start last night at Starfield Vineyards.

An impressive group of media members, wine writers, wine educators, and other winos were treated to a four-course tasting menu prepared by the Sacramento Catering Collective at Starfield Vineyard (owner Tom Sinton pictured above). Each course was interestingly paired with 3 El Dorado wines to demonstrate the region’s diversity and flexibility.

The winners of the night for me were the 2020 Albariño from Edio Vineyards (one of El Dorado’s newest wineries that had the misfortune of opening during a global pandemic) and the 2017 Grenache from Di Arie Vineyard and Winery, a delightfully clean and crisp example of what foothills Grenache can be in deft hands. And, of course, the world-class Lava Cap Cab Franc was a scene-stealer.

The summit is hosted by the El Dorado Eight, a collection of 8 wineries that have stepped up to promote the entire region in the truest sense of community. Last night’s was the first of eight events that will be held at each of the wineries over the next couple of days.

Day 2 of the El Dorado Rising wine summit was a day of meeting with legendary winemakers. The day was topped off by an amazing dinner in the vineyard at Lava Cap catered by Off the Vine Catering out of El Dorado Hills featuring produce from 24 Carrot Farm and meat from Kings Meats.

But this day was all about the winemaking and highlighting the influx of multi-generational talent that is flowing into and being homegrown within the region. The group includes two Napa transplants (Steve Leveque at Kehret and Joe Norman at Lava Cap), a mad scientist and expert in flavors (Chaim Gur-Arieh at Di Arie), a fresh, up-and-comer (Jonathan Peck at Gwinllan), and a Foothills legend (Marco Cappelli, pictured above) who is passing the baton to an exciting new visionary (Fernando Abarca at Mira Flores).

With 40 wines tasted (one from each of the El Dorado Eight at each of the five stops), it was hard to pick a wine of the day, so I picked three. The Edio Vineyards Mourvèdre-based GSM won for its beauty. The Starfield Aglianico won for its unmatched power. And the Lava Cap Estate Cabernet Sauvignon won for its depth and typicity.

That’s 2 straight wins for both Edio and Lava Cap… will today be the rubber match or will one of the other eight step up?

Day 3 brings the El Dorado Rising Wine Summit to a close but not before visiting rising star Edio Vineyards at Delfino Farms. This new winery has the elusive trifecta: top-level hospitality, amazing wines, and an incredible story. The story is straight out of a Hallmark movie… grandkids get together to take over and expand the family farm started by iconic grandfather… but this one is absolutely true. Italian immigrant, Edio Delfino, became legendary in the 1960’s when he spear-headed the planting of apple orchards to deal with the county’s ongoing and devastating pear blight. Edio created Defino Farms, and when his French wife, Joan, started making pastries to sell on the farm, well the rest is history, and Apple Hill would go on to become one of the largest agro-tourism events on the planet each fall. Fast-forward: three grandkids, who grew up working the farm and idolizing their grandfather, along with their dad hatch a plan to continue the family tradition and add a wine operation. They planted five new acres of vines at the farm to go along with some old vines Edio had planted nearby. Christine, at the age of 17, orchestrated a let’s-do-this plan where she would handle the hospitality side, younger brother Peter would handle winemaking, and youngest brother Derek would take care of the vineyard. Then off the three went to Cal Poly to study and learn their respective specialties. It was time to open! And then a global pandemic hit. Undeterred, they’ve made it work. Christine has created an upscale tasting room and experience (finally proper stemware up here!) while maintaining an homage to the past. Peter’s wines are amazing… three straight days of having one of the Wines of the Day, today’s being a delicious Bandol-ian Rosé to go along with Day 1’s Albarino and Day 2’s GSM. Most interesting to me is a delicate, old-worldish Cab Sauv from Edio’s nearby 3000-ft, own-rooted, low-yielding and cantankerous vineyard. I’m hoping they add a powerhouse, reserve version to the repertoire. I think it could have some serious aging potential, and I’m here for it! Oh, and did I mention the pastries made from Joan’s recipe? Oh-là-là


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