Wine & fire in Amador

Fire-roasted Mediterranean cuisine pairs well with Amador County’s Mediterranean-rooted wines at the Four Fires Festival this Saturday in Plymouth

Photo courtesy Amador Vintners Association

Four Fires takes place Saturday, May 5, 11am-4pm at the Amador Fairgrounds, 18621 Sherwood St., Plymouth. For tickets and info visit

It’s one of the most unique outdoor wine and food events ever conceived, and it’s happening in our backyard. Festivals abound, but few have this level of focus on the particular strengths of a wine region. And few are held at such an historic venue, complete with authentic 19th century buildings, complemented by infrastructure designed to handle a really big crowd. That’s code for there are plenty of real bathrooms (not porta potties) and places to sit and enjoy your food.

What I love most about Four Fires is its organization: There are four huge tents, each with wineries pouring Amador-grown varietals whose origins hail from Southern France (think Rhône), Iberia (think Spanish and Portuguese varieties), Italy (think pinot grigio, Barbera, sangiovese, etc.) and Heritage California (think mission and zinfandel). Each tent is flanked by local chefs cooking foods of these regions over open flames, which makes for a fragrantly tantalizing affair. Think lamb, pork, beef and chicken, even peach cobbler, grilled or spit-roasted, and served with tasty accompaniments.

Now in its fifth year, Four Fires is being run for the first time by the Amador Vintners Association (AVA), so there are some exciting new additions. The basic premise, though, of focusing on the unique wines and cuisine of the four Mediterranean wine regions that thrive in Amador, remains intact. You'll taste wine from 45 different wineries, all of which have depth in one or more of these areas, and you won't go hungry, unless you don't like food.

AVA's Jack Gorman reports that the whole-roast lamb and pork, venison, grilled steak and gourmet hot dogs come from Sacramento's premier butcher shop, V. Miller Meats. Each main dish is accompanied by farm-to-fork sides including polenta cakes with caramelized onion, lentil salad with goat cheese, lemongrass risotto, and pasta with fire-roasted veggies.The smores come on homemade graham crackers.

Gorman is particularly excited about the lineup of panels and seminars this year. “Our ‘Women in Wine' panel will include five award-winning Amador County winemakers and guests will get to hear firsthand about their winemaking experiences and philosophies.

“With more and more second and third generation Amador natives working in their family wine businesses, they are beginning to change the face of Amador Wine Country. Guests will get to hear from six of them on our ‘Next Gen' panel.”

Each of the five participating chefs will give a cooking demo, visitors will be able to visit a “sensory station” featuring barrel woods, soils and other wine-related stuff to sniff. Throughout the day, scheduled talks include “Wine Tasting 101” and “Wine & Food Pairings: There are no rules” with wine experts.

Plus, there's live music, on a real band stage, with ample seating and yes, a dance floor.