Terra d'Oro Zinfandel Port
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
For more than 150 years, fortune seekers have been lured to California’s rugged Sierra Foothills. Though they once came for the gold, these days they come for the wine—Terra d’Oro, to be more specific. Handcrafted from some of Amador County’s most historic vineyards, these wines are rich indeed, full of the character and intensity that perfectly captures the essence of this "Land of Gold." As the first new post-prohibition winery in the Sierra Foothills, Terra d’Oro helped to return both Amador County and Zinfandel to the attention of fine wine aficionados everywhere and to remake the Sierra Nevada foothills as one of the best wine regions around.
Terra d’Oro quickly gained a reputation for crafting robust, full-flavored wines. They now have 400 acres of magnificent, sustainably grown estate vines- including historic, old vine vineyards producing delicious Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Chenin Viognier, Barbera, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and more. Their historic tasting room in Plymouth welcomes those seeking world-class wines.
As the lower part of the greater Sierra Foothills appellation, Amador is roughly a plateau whose vineyards grow at 1,200 to 2,000 feet in elevation. It is 100 miles east of both San Francisco and Napa Valley. Most of its wineries are in the oak-studded rolling hillsides of Shenandoah Valley or east in Fiddletown, where elevations are slightly higher.
The Sierra Foothills growing area was among the largest wine producers in the state during the gold rush of the late 1800s. The local wine industry enjoyed great success until just after the turn of the century when fortune-seekers moved elsewhere and its population diminished. With Prohibition, winemaking was totally abandoned, along with its vineyards. But some of these, especially Zinfandel, still remain and are the treasure chest of the Sierra Foothills as we know them.
Most Amador vines are planted in volcanic soils derived primarily from sandy clay loam and decomposed granite. Summer days are hot but nighttime temperatures typically drop 30 degrees and the humidity is low, making this an ideal environment for grape growing. Because there is adequate rain throughout the year and even snow in the winter, dry farming is possible.
Blended from the most important red grapes of the Douro Valley, Port is based on Touriga Nacional with over 80 other varieties approved for use. However, typically only four other varieties play a major role: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Touriga Franca. Other wine regions of the world can produce fortified wine of a similar style from the same grapes or other grapes.
Tasting Notes for Port
Port is a sweet, fortified wine with numerous styles: Ruby, Tawny, Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), White, Colheita, and a few unusual others. Ruby Ports usually pack the most value and are ready to drink once bottled. Typical characteristics are ripe cherry and blackberry flavors with stewed plums, cocoa and dates. Tawny ports are “tawny” in color and have flavors of toffee, caramel, toasted pecans, vanilla, dried apricot, citrus peel, green figs and roasted espresso. The age designation on a Tawny indicates the average age of the grapes in the bottle. These are not intended for age once bottled. When Port is made with high quality grapes selected from a single notable vintage, it is called Vintage Port. Some of the best recent vintages are 2016, 2011, 2007, 2003, 2000, 1997 and 1994. Vintage Port is complex full-bodied with many flavors possible: concentrated blackberry, black cherry, raspberry and spice, smoke, coffee and chocolate. Vintage ports tend to improve in the bottle up to approximately 30 years from the vintage. LBV Port comes from a single-vintage Ruby Port and may spend six years in the barrel before being bottled. These are ready to drink 3-6 years after release. Serve most Ports slightly chilled at around 55-65°F.
Perfect Food Pairings for Port
Pecan pie, biscotti and crème brûlée are perfect food pairings for Tawny Port. Molten chocolate cake, dark chocolate covered cherries and chocolate trifle work well with Ruby Port. An assortment of nuts and cheese will pair with almost any sort of Port.
Sommelier Secrets for Port
Colheita is best explained as a Tawny port from a single vintage. These must be aged in wood for at least seven years before release, though most are aged longer.