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"A Gold Rush Tasting"

  by Fred McMillin

Shenandoah VineyardDigging for gold in the Sierra Foothills created a great thirst...for wine. In northern California, in 1860, those Foothills vineyards produced the most wine of any region, Sonoma County produced the best wine. (Gen. Vallejo and Count Haraszthy, both of Sonoma, won the tasting competitions.)

One hundred forty years later, does Sonoma still make the better wines, at a given price? To get an answer, we paired eleven Sierra Foothills wines with eleven Sonoma counterparts of the same vintage, the same varietal and the same price. Here are the winners of each match. The wines that won by the largest margin are listed last.

Place Winning
Price The Wine
11th 0.1% Sonoma $12 Zinfandel by Pedroncelli, Mother Clone, Dry Creek, '97
10th 1.2% Foothills $15 Zinfandel by Sierra Vista, Reeves Vnyd., El Dorado, '96
9th 3.8% Sonoma $19 Chardonnay by La Crema, Cold Coast Vineyards, '97
8th 4.0% Foothills $13 Sangiovese by Sobon Estate, Amador County, '97
7th 6.0% Foothills $12 Chardonnay by C. Mitchell, El Dorado, '97
6th 6.5% Foothills $12 Cabernet Sauvignon by Shenandoah Vineyards, Amador County, '97
5th 7.7% Foothills $16 Zinfandel by Renaissance, No. Yuba, '96
4th 11.2% Sonoma $18 Pinot Noir by Alderbrook Russian River Vly., '97
3rd 13.1% Foothills $15 Merlot by Sierra Vista hills El Dorado, '97
2nd 20.5% Sonoma $18 Cabernet Sauvignon by Field Stone, '95
Winner 38.9% Sonoma $13 Zinfandel by Pedroncelli, Petroni-Bushnell Vineyard Dry Creek Vly., '96

Why Sierra Foothills Claims Victory

Sierra Foothills wineries won six of the eleven matches.


Why Sonoma County Claims Victory

Sonoma had three of the four largest winning margins. Sonoma's average winning margin was about 15%, while the Foothills average edge was only 6-1/2%.



There may not be agreement on who won the tasting, but we can agree on this. At a given price, Sierra has caught up with Sonoma. Somewhere, some forty-niners are smiling.


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