There are many great joys of the wine world and one of those is making a new discovery. For us at AdVINEtures, one of our better recent discoveries has been El Dorado County, just outside of Sacramento, California. We were first introduced to this gem of a wine region at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2017. A highlight of that conference was a presentation on El Dorado County put on by a number of their winemakers. That is where we met Justin Boeger, winemaker at Boeger Vineyards, as he poured his Barbera for the group and told us about his family winery. After that presentation we decided we had to check out El Dorado and definitely make a stop at Boeger Winery when we there.
Boeger in many ways is the most important winery in El Dorado County. It was one of the very first and it has grown into one of the largest. As such it has had a lot of influence on how the world perceives El Dorado and it has been important in spawning some of the people growing wine in this region.
Justin’s parents, Greg and Sue Boeger were living in Napa when they decided to build their own winery in 1972. Greg grew up around winemaking. His grandfather was Anton Nichelini who founded the Nichelini Winery in 1890, in the Chiles Valley, a sub-region in the northeastern part of the Napa Valley. They made the roughly two hour journey by car from Napa Valley to El Dorado County where they found the Forsatti-Lombardo homestead. The old homestead grew nuts and fruits and had vineyards as well. Prohibition put an end to the winemaking and when Greg and Sue purchased it there was no vineyard on the land, just peach orchards. Using the old buildings that were on the property they created their winery, the first in El Dorado since prohibition. Greg had learned winemaking at the hand of his grandfather and with the help of Sue they gradually built up their production and now make some 35,000 cases annually. Today Greg tends to the vineyards while his son Justin makes the wine.
Boeger is a beautiful property. The vineyard area is a patchwork of rolling hills. The original buildings have been converted into tasting rooms and entertaining areas and have been preserved to reflect their original use and remind visitors of their historical importance. It is fabulous place to visit; it has beauty, calm and tranquility.
The arrowhead logo pays homage to the family name, Boeger which means “bowman” in German. Tracing the family history, the Boegers not only come from a long line of archers, but also blacksmiths. It just so happens that the winery has a working blacksmith shop on the property that’s on the site of the original blacksmith shop that stood there more than a hundred years ago.
Tasting at Boeger is a lot of fun and it can be a great education about different grapes varieties: the Boegers grow 27 different varieties! As Justin explained to us they have a tremendous diversity in El Dorado with many different micro-climates, 5 different major agricultural soil types, and elevations ranging from 1200 to 3500 feet. At Boeger they express these grapes both as varietals (wines made from a single grape) as well as blended wines. Both white and red wines are made at Boeger and their major focus is on Barbera. Barbera is an Italian grape that produces fruity wines with relatively low tannin and higher acids that are meant to be enjoyed young. California’s plantings of the grape, about 7,000 acres, are second only to Italy’s. Most of the wines that we tasted at Boeger were of either Italian or Spanish origin. Zinfandel is also a major focus with 3 or 4 different Zins offered each year. The Boeger house style is to produce wines that are enjoyable to drink. These are wines that don’t need lots of time in the cellar to show their best. Yes, their wines can age but we found them very approachable, though most of what we tasted was only two or three years after the vintage. These are wines that offer high quality at very fair prices. It’s definitely worth seeking out their wines and their tasting room is a great place to try them.
Lots of golden delicious apple with hints of tropical fruit and melon. The finish is long and minerally. There is a California ripeness to the fruit which contrasts it with many of the Spanish versions we have tried. Back-end acidity provides nice focus as well as balance.
Very Good+ (US$20 at the winery)
This rose is made from 100% Primitivo (the Italian variety that was transplanted in the US and named Zinfandel). Strawberries and raspberries gain complexity from the spicy notes and show the traits of the variety. There is good structure and body in this rose, a bit more masculine than most. The mineral streak comes out on the finish. Refreshing but with enough heft to go well with a main course of shell fish.
Very Good+ (US$18 at the winery)
Brimming with red fruits, we pick up notes of raspberry, red delicious apple, and cherry. Showing traits of both Ribera del Duero and Rioja, the two Spanish regions best known for vinifying this grape, this is a grape that clearly works well in El Dorado County. The body is medium+ and there is enough structure to cellar this wine but it is showing very well right now as the tannins are ripe and polished.
Very good/Excellent (US$20 at the winery)
We walked in this hillside vineyard while we were at Boeger and it is meticulously maintained. Barbera is known to produce fruit forward wines that get most of their structure from acidity and not from tannin, and this wine was no exception. Cherry and plum flavours combine with earthy notes to create a profile that emphasizes the fruit but retains a nice savoury dimension. The mouthfeel is round and very approachable. This is one of only a few reds we can recall that really does not need the accompaniment of food to show its best. Very tasty & excellent value. Very Good/Excellent (US$22 at the winery)
Made from estate fruit, it combines 89% Zinfandel with 11% Petit Verdot. There is a freshness to the red and blue fruit profile which makes it approachable now. Interest is added from the back-end earth and spice components. The body is medium + and the mouthfeel is round and seductive. The tannins are polished enough to give the wine definition without making it in need of cellaring. Black pepper notes add complexity and a bit of spice to the long finish.
Very Good/Excellent (US$24 at the winery)