Wine Tasting in Historic Sierra Nevada Gold Country

Wines of El Dorado County are on the rise!

Wine grapes have been growing in the Coloma Valley since folks came in search of gold and brought their grape vines with them back in the 1800s. The diverse landscapes, elevations, and microclimates in this region make for exciting winemaking in various styles.

If you enjoy wine tasting outings, stay an extra day at American River Resort and visit the wineries in the El Dorado wine region.


Our Sierra foothills range from 1,200 to 3,500 feet and hundreds of microclimates perfect for nearly 50 grape varieties. All of our artisan winemakers have a passion for experimenting and for this place; that’s what sets El Dorado apart.


Want to know what gives El Dorado wines their intense flavors and deep colors? Our mountain vineyards are on steep hillsides with warm summer days and cool night air. It’s an environment that gives wines luscious fruit, an alluring balance, gentle tannins, and body and depth that valley floors just can’t match.


California’s Gold Rush began in El Dorado County 1848 with James Marshall’s discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, on the South Fork of the American River in Coloma. As legions of people flocked to California to claim their fortunes, the region’s winemaking industry was born.

By 1870, El Dorado County was among the largest wine producers in the state, trailing only Los Angeles and Sonoma counties. The local wine industry flourished until just after the turn of the century, when there were approximately 2,000 acres of vines in the county. Shortly thereafter, El Dorado began a gradual decline, brought about by poor economic conditions and a diminishing local population. Prohibition was but the last straw.

Between 1920 and 1960, viticulture virtually disappeared from the county. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that winegrowing made a resurgence. Following the development of several experimental vineyards, it became apparent that both the climate and soil of El Dorado County were ideally suited to the production of high quality, dry table wines. With the opening of Boeger Winery in 1973, El Dorado was once again on its way to becoming an important winegrowing region.

Today, the county has more than 2,000 acres of vines, is home to more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms, and produces some of California’s most sophisticated wines. El Dorado was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983.

Established in 1983, the El Dorado American Viticultural Area (AVA, also referred to as an “appellation”) includes those portions of El Dorado County located between 1,200 and 3,500 feet in elevation, bounded on the north by the Middle Fork of the American River, and on the south by the South Fork of the Cosumnes River. El Dorado is a sub-appellation of the 2,600,000-acre Sierra Foothills AVA — one of the largest appellations in California — which includes portions of the counties of Yuba, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolomne and Mariposa.

The El Dorado appellation is unique due to its high elevation and complex topography. El Dorado’s mountain vineyards are perched at elevations high above the valley, where cooling breezes off the Sierra Nevada and the mountainous topography create a diversity of microclimates and growing conditions not found in other regions in valley settings.

These microclimates provide ideal locations for growing a wide variety of grapes identified with the world’s finest wine regions, including Bordeaux, the Rhône, Germany, Italy and Spain. El Dorado grows about 50 different varieties of grapes, ranging from Gewürztraminer, which does best in the higher and cooler portions of the county, to Zinfandel and Barbera, which ripen perfectly in warmer climates.

El Dorado is cooled by elevation rather than by the fog that is common to the coastal regions. This means the grapes receive more direct sunlight, thus ripening fully without retaining excess herbaceous characters or acidity that is out of balance with the fruit flavors. El Dorado’s relatively cool temperatures also allow the grapes a long “hang time” for uniform ripening.

In conjunction with the climate, there are three basic soil types determining the characteristics of the region: fine-grained volcanic rock, decomposed granite and fine-grained shale. Varying in elevation and topography, each soil offers good drainage and the nutrients needed to encourage vines producing rich, deeply flavored grapes.

3 wineries within a 10-minute drive from American River Resort:

David Girard Vineyards

Spectacular setting and award winning wines. 530-295-1833

Wine tasting is by appointment only.

From American River Resort, turn left at Hwy 49, proceed straight onto Cold Springs Road, follow Cold Springs Road to David Girard Vineyards on your left.

Gold Hill Vineyard and Brewery

Estate grown, with a focus on Bordeaux style reds. Also home of Gold Hill Brewery. Wine Down Fridays, 2nd and 4th Fridays until 9pm, live music, beer and wine by the glass. 530-626-6522

Year round: Thurs. – Sun., 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

From American River Resort, turn left at Hwy 49, proceed straight onto Cold Springs Road, turn left on Vineyard Lane.

Hart 2 Hart Vineyards

Newly renovated boutique winery featuring estate grown premium wines. Stunning views. 530-885-9463

From American River Resort, turn right at Hwy 49. Follow Hwy 49 to address 5821 Hwy 49 in Pilot Hill.