Amour in Amador County: California’s Historic Wine and Gold Country

Bride getting married in Plymouth, California - Amador County

Imagine a region with old-growth vineyards on rolling foothills for as far as the eye can see. Along the same narrow country roads are sprinkled cattle ranches and farms, and in the distance, the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range. Nestled here and there are streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs hidden within lush forests. These regions of countryside and wilderness are punctuated with tiny towns reminiscent of the glory days of the Gold Rush.

This is Amador County, whose footprint is all of 605 square miles with a total population of 41,400. The county is truly rural, and it sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, with the west side of the county at a 250-foot elevation and the east at 9,000 feet.

What makes Amador County perfect for wine country weddings? Glorious vineyard scenery set amidst rolling hills and ranches, top-drawer catering and world-class wines, sophisticated venues with rural charm, luxurious accommodations and small-town hospitality.

Amador County proudly grows vineyards at the highest elevations in California and was the state’s first wine trail. Thanks to the county’s unique set of varietals and expanses of old-growth vines (60-plus years old), it is experiencing a much-deserved renaissance.

Wine buffs will enjoy old-world varietals that emanate from Italy, the Rhône Valley and Iberia, namely Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, Grenache, Vermentino, Tempranillo and Aglianico—and varietals not found elsewhere.

Amador County offers not only scenic beauty but also many cultural and agricultural treasures. In addition to exuding a rural ambience, the region boasts gourmet culinary delights, world-class wineries and sophisticated event venues. What’s more, all of this is just a 45-minute drive from Sacramento, a city renowned for having some of the best wedding vendors in California. And the city’s airport serves as a convenient gateway for those planning a destination wedding in the area, ensuring a seamless and stress-free travel experience.

Wine Country

Friends enjoying wine at Teneral Cellars in Plymouth, California
Photo courtesy of Teneral Cellars

In this county of many small towns, a great center point for weddings is Plymouth, which is within a short drive of many exceptional wineries and other towns worthy of exploration, namely Sutter Creek, Amador City, Fiddletown and River Pines.

Highly rated tasting experiences can be enjoyed at Helwig Winery, Scott Harvey Wines, Turley Wine Cellars and Rombauer Vineyards (both with Napa Valley roots), Amador Cellars, Iron Hub and Teneral Cellars at Wilderotter Vineyard.

The Teneral Cellars and Wilderotter labels are favorites for wine tasting with their formidable lineup of varietals—a list one is hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Some standouts among their collection are the Blanc de Noirs, Vermentino, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Reserve Estate Zinfandel and other hard-to-find red varietals such as the winery’s Nebbiolo and Primitivo. To fully savor the tasting experience and become acquainted with all their varietals, consider doing tastings on more than one day or purchasing a couple of mixed cases to take home and enjoy at your leisure.

Teneral Cellars wines are an especially worthy investment as the winery is a woman-owned and -operated producer of sustainable wines of exceptional quality. CEO Jill Osur is fully committed to producing intriguing wines of the highest quality. She believes great wine is the perfect catalyst for connecting and bringing women together to work for good.

Teneral Cellars is run by a diverse team of women, and Osur strives to connect primarily with women-owned suppliers and partners. Teneral Cellars also donates 10% of all profits to organizations that empower women and promote gender and racial equity.

Intimate Weddings Grand Reserve Inn

The Grand Reserve Inn in Plymouth, California
The Grand Reserve Inn

Connected with Teneral Cellars and Wilderotter Vineyard and Winery, and a stone’s throw from the tasting room, are the Grand Reserve Inn and Wilderotter Vineyard House—hands down the region’s most beautiful and well-appointed accommodations and event spaces.

The Grand Reserve Inn is perfect for elopements, micro-weddings or as a center point for VIP guests or the wedding party. Rooms are luxurious and stylish, with elegant outdoor spaces for relaxing and enjoying wine country scenery. The common area spaces, indoors and out, are perfect for group breakfasts and brunches, rehearsal dinners, intimate wedding reception dinners, and wine and hors d’oeuvres welcome receptions.

The inn’s proprietors offer an in-house chef and have connections to restaurant-quality catering, and they will see to connecting brides and grooms to services and vendors that are at the level expected by those who enjoy what the inn has to offer. Proprietor Osur is committed to providing the highest-quality services, welcoming a diversity of couples, family and friends, and supporting the LGBTQ community.

Additional Venues

The Barn at Amador Cellars in Amador County, California is a popular venue for weddings and can handle weddings year-round for 120 to 140 guests.
The Barn at Amador Cellars

For those looking to do a larger event, several nearby venues blend beautifully into Amador’s wine country-chic ambience while offering all the needed amenities to pull off the Big Day without stress or worry. Peak season for weddings in the region is from March through November, though some venues are able to accommodate the less predictable weather during the winter months.

The Barn at Amador Cellars is especially popular and can handle weddings year-round for 120 to 140 guests. This rustic barn venue is surrounded by working vineyards, with a large lawn area for the ceremony and a side outdoor terrace for a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception.

The barn is perfect for a sit-down dinner, either with great tables or rounds and with plenty of space for dancing and a bar. As is the case with all winery weddings in California, a full bar is not available, and it is expected that the wines served will be those of the winery hosting the event.

The winery offers some event furniture, which helps to keep costs in check, and it can refer couples to all the other services that best fit its venue for rounding out the event. An on-the-day planner and wedding-day liability coverage are both required, which is par for the course in the region.

Helwig Winery in Amador County, California offers a contemporary rustic vibe and can accommodate up to 150 wedding guests.
Helwig Winery

Helwig Winery offers a contemporary rustic vibe and can accommodate up to 150 guests. Weddings at the winery take place from May through October, as the majority of the event spaces are outdoors. Ceremonies are typically held in the property’s impressive amphitheater, which looks out onto vineyards and rolling hills. Cocktail hour can be done in the massive wine cave, which is perfect on steamy summer evenings, and dinner and a dance reception are held in the outdoor pavilion.

One of the great features of Helwig events is that nearly everything is included as part of the rental package—furniture, linens, tabletop, bar, heaters, lighting, etc.—and full event and on-the-day coordination is provided, something not found elsewhere. Liability coverage is still expected.

Bridal party at Rancho Victoria, private vineyard estate in Amador County, California.
Rancho Victoria

One of the region’s most charming rustic ranch settings is Rancho Victoria Vineyard. Rancho Victoria is a 640-acre private vineyard estate that is surrounded by a lush green landscape that includes hundred-year-old oak trees and rolling vineyards. The property has a beautiful farmhouse for doing on-the-day preparations and offers multiple event spaces that accommodate all parts of the wedding day—ceremony, wine and hors d’oeuvres reception, dinner and dancing. Rancho Victoria’s proprietors are especially welcoming and flexible, and they can help connect couples to all the services needed to round out the venue for their event.

Accommodations

Food from Taste Restaurant in Plymouth, California

Connected in proximity to these lovely event venues is not only the Reserve Inn but also tasteful accommodation at Rest in Downtown Plymouth. Rest offers 16 guest rooms of various configurations, all of which are beautifully appointed. The hotel also offers breakfast daily, happy hour in the late afternoon, complimentary snacks and s’mores by the firepit in the evenings. Rest is in the epicenter of Plymouth, across from the town’s park and next to its top restaurant, Taste Restaurant and Wine Bar.

Taste Restaurant and Wine Bar is one of the other gems in Plymouth. Dinner and cocktails at Taste are not to be missed. The nightly prix fixe menu includes amazing entrées such as rack of lamb, seared black cod, duck leg confit and grilled pork chop, as well as vegan and gluten-free options. The mission-style main dining room and event space are perfect for intimate wedding groups. Brides and grooms can rest assured their guests will enjoy an exquisite meal, perfectly served. Taste pairs perfectly with weddings done at a church or in a nearby vineyard setting, like the Grand Reserve Inn. Post-dinner, guests can walk 10 paces to their accommodations at Rest, which is right next door.

What to Do in Amador County

Biking in the wine vineyards of Amador County, California.

Besides being one of California’s top wine-growing regions, and now a hub for micro-breweries, Amador County is well-known for its Gold Country heritage. The small towns throughout the region hearken back to the Gold Rush and many offer historical walking tours, plus attractions like the Kennedy Gold Mine, various museums, mining displays, Preston Castle, Indian Grinding Rock State Park and the working Knight Foundry. There are also three active theater companies and live entertainment at dozens of venues, plus a bustling nightlife at the county’s two casinos.

Amador County offers numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking and biking in the rolling foothills and the High Sierra peaks, various types of water sports, and fishing, skiing, cave exploring and more.

Simply driving around the hundreds of miles of back roads to enjoy the scenery makes it worth upgrading your car rental to something worthy of a romantic excursion. Favorite tourist activities include exploring the Black Chasm Cavern, golfing at Castle Oaks Golf Club, fishing at Silver Lake and Lake Camanche, and hiking at El Dorado National Forest and on the Mokelumne River. For more on all the county has to offer, check out VisitAmador.com and the Amador Vintners Association. Amador County is perfect not only for weddings but also for sightseeing and a honeymoon!

Sunset in Amador County, Plymouth, California vineyards