Though its home to oldest Zinfandel vines in California—and some of the oldest on Earth—it's easy to overlook Amador County's Shenendoah Valley. But smaller crowds, cheaper tastings, and some darn good wine are all compelling reasons to make it your next weekend jaunt. Here are just some of the attractions:
1. Drink some serious reds: Of course the Zinfandel is worth sipping up here—especially those made with grapes from the Original Grandpere Vineyard, one of the oldest zin plantings in the world. Those grapes are used by several local wineries, including Vino Noceto, all of which are worth tracking down. But there's also a wide range of less well-known Italian variatals, like the Sangiovese that Vino Noceto grows and bottles on its estate. Also worth stopping into: Turley Wine Cellars tasting room and Jeff Runquist Wines. Lucky for you, they're right across the street from each other. There's more than 40 wineries up here all told, so it's hard to go wrong.
2. Westward ho the wagons: From the 25th to 29th of September, the Kit Carson Mountain Men Wagon Train and Days of 49 Celebration will be rolling along. The 15 horse-drawn wagons will be departing from Cooper Vineyards on the morning of Thursday the 25th before arriving in the town of Jackson for the weekend festival. Gunfights, historical re-enactments, and gold panning. What more do you need?
3. Take a taste: Downtown Plymouth isn't much more than a few intersections, but that doesn't mean Taste restaurant isn't worth a drive out from the big city. Mark and Tracey Beckner's restaurant was just named one of Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Wine Restaurants in America—and the Monday night prix fixe menu offers things like horseradish-crusted prawns, roasted pork loin with goat cheese pierogi, and gruyere gougeres, all for less than $30.
4. Stay at a contemporary Victorian: The National Hotel in nearby Jackson was built in 1852 and was once used as a brothel. But thanks to a recent $150 million upgrade, its crystal-flecked charm makes it a perfect base camp to explore the region.