The winemaking history of the Sierra Foothills is long but sporadic. It began in 1849 with some particularly resourceful gold miners who remembered to pack in some grapevines. After the gold ran out and Prohibition hit, the wine industry became all but obsolete. That changed in the 1970s when the area was rediscovered by winemakers from Napa and Sonoma counties, who saw a new motherlode in the inexpensive quality land in the Sierra Foothills. These foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains form a belt 170 miles long, ranging from 1,000-3,000 feet high. It encompasses 2.6 million acres covering parts of eight of central California’s 12 counties. Well over 100 wineries are at home in the foothills now, where they grow everything from hardy and bold Zinfandels to elegant and graceful Sauvignon Blancs. Generally, this section of the mountain range has warm days and cool nights. It is much cooler here than on the Central Valley floor and the Foothills receive less rain than the more mountainous neighboring appellations. The soils are decomposed granite, formed by mountain erosion over centuries, forcing the vines to probe deeply for nutrients and water. The result is wine that is dense with ripe fruit and plentiful structure.
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
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