El Dorado Gold
Maggie and Paul Bush have roots in the El Dorado Hills
High up in the El Dorado Hills, at elevations ranging from 2,750 to 3,000 feet, you’ll find 85 acres organically farmed across three vineyards by Maggie and Paul Bush for their two brands: Madroña, which focuses strictly on estate wines, and Rucksack Cellars, which sources grapes from other El Dorado sites.
The couple write his-and-hers blogs where they both have plenty to share about their wine-centered lives. A visit to the outdoor tasting patio of Rucksack, adjacent to a newly planted vineyard in Apple Hill, offers views of the Crystal Range in the Sierras while you taste some lip-smacking wines and have a chat with the amiable duo.
Paul Bush planted his first vines when he was six years old, as part of the family business. However, he’s no poster boy for the wine industry. “Having grown up in the family’s vineyards and winery, I couldn’t wait to do something—or anything—different. I did indeed graduate from UC Davis in 1989, but my degree is in macroeconomics.”
Paul Bush managed to escape the wine business for almost 25 years, and then, it pulled him back in. Today, the couple grows 29 different varieties, among them barbera, cabernet franc, riesling and nebbiolo. He loves them all, but feels barbera, with its abundant acid and low tannins, is the ultimate wine for pairing with meals.
“It’s like the red version of riesling—extremely versatile. You can embrace its acidity, or go for the plush, ripe style,” he says. Maggie Bush especially loves the bright, crisp barbera rosé under the Rucksack Cellars label.
Cabernet franc has also captivated the pair. There is something pure in these pulsating, thrilling red-hearted wines. Check out the four-pack of different franc impressions under the Madroña label.
Says Paul Bush: “I love growing grapes, and then finding the purest expression of our vineyards in the wine. Given the choice, my office would be a tractor and my time spent purely in the field—that is where the true quality of wine comes [from].”
Asked his thoughts on the 2017 vintage, Paul Bush says, “Overall, I’m finding a bit more richness, with lower overall alcohol levels, especially given the mature fruit characters. Tannins on the reds seem to be a little more rounded, but I attribute that to some decisions in the winery rather than the vintage. I think the 2016 vintage may be more ’classic,’ and the 2017 may be more approachable, especially at a younger age.”
Paul Bush adds that he’s really excited that 2017 yielded a lot of wines under 14 percent alcohol while exhibiting “phenolic maturity”—optimal ripeness—and good fruit. “As I get older, I tend to like the balance of a lower alcohol wine,” he says. “and I can have that second glass, too!”