Daytrips & Getaways: Wine and architecture in Amador County

Be sure to sample the wine aged in concrete at Andis Winery in Plymouth.

Be sure to sample the wine aged in concrete at Andis Winery in Plymouth.


Miss picks 39 through 58? Click here to see our picks for the best Arts & Festivals this summer.

59. Tour gold country

For more than a century, the Sierra Foothills have beckoned.

At first, it was the promise of gold. Now, it’s the fine wine.

More than 50 wineries sit throughout Amador County, a land of natural beauty and historic gold rush architecture less than an hour east of Sacramento. Find most wine tasting opportunities around the Shenandoah Valley in Plymouth, which is known for high temperatures and high-alcohol reds. Think big zinfandels, food-friendly barberas and spicy sangioveses.

Transport yourself to France at Karmere Vineyards & Winery (11970 Shenandoah Road in Plymouth,, with pristine landscaped gardens and a French-style chateau tasting room. Sip inside a barn or tour a wine cave at Helwig Winery (11555 Shenandoah Road in Plymouth, For an ultra-modern, state-of-the-art winery built with sustainability in mind, check out Andis Wines (11000 Shenandoah Road in Plymouth, Ask about the wine on tap—and definitely the wine aged in concrete—before working off your buzz at the bocce court.

Regardless of where you go, the tasting fees are minimal or free and the friendly people make you feel at home. You don’t have to ask—or pay—to picnic on the grounds. Unlike Napa and other wine country destinations, Amador holds no stuffy pretense or expense.

Architecture nuts are sure to marvel at Preston Castle (900 Palm Drive in Ione,, a gleaming example of the Romanesque Revival style. Find mining-era buildings in gold rush towns like Amador City, Jackson and Sutter Creek, which are now occupied by cute cafes and antique shops. Lots of antique shops.

And, of course, you’ll need to eat. Head to local favorite Andrae’s Bakery (14141 State Highway 49 in Amador City, for some fabulous sandwiches, pastries and other goods that would make for a prime picnic at a winery. Or, make a reservation at Taste Restaurant (9402 Main Street in Plymouth, for the sort of upscale and beautifully plated New American fare you’d expect in a big city. J.B.

Read on to see our favorite places to run away to close enough for a short drive from Sacramento.