State of Zin: Tour the Gorgeous Wineries of Gold Country


After driving through a stretch of flat farmland east of Sacramento, the landscape slowly changes to rolling hills of ancient oaks and finally, to the bucolic Shenandoah Valley in the Sierra Foothills.  This is the Mother Lode of Zinfandel with a history going back to the Gold Rush but today’s vintners are revitalizing the revered wine region with a bold new look and modern, fruit-driven wines.

1. Andis Wines: making a statement

Jutting out atop a high knoll, this modern prefabricated metal and glass winery stands as a beacon to Amador wine country.  When owners Andy Friedlander and Janis Akuna decided to build a winery in 2008, they knew they wanted a different look from the traditional barn style wineries in the appellation, as a statement of change.  To execute their vision, they found perfect partners in Pam Whitehead and Paul Almond of Sage Architecture, whose designs emphasize clean, simple lines, green construction and unity of indoor and outdoor spaces.


Barrel stave screen at Andis Wines. Photo: Andis Wines


The building, completed in 2010, was designed to “grow from the land” with the eastern end set lower in the ground, unifying the modern winery with the rolling green vineyards that surround it.  Inside, the sustainable lyptus wood used on the tasting bar and barrel vault ceiling adds warmth.  Adding textural dimension to the dramatic lines of the winery are a series of screens on the north face made from recycled gray washed barrels staves, installed in alternating direction to create a basket-weave design.


2. Helwig Winery: a nod to the past


Helwig Winery tasting and events buildings

Driving north on Shenandoah Road, one catches the arresting sight of Helwig Winery on the hilltop.  Helwig, Sage Architecture’s second winery project, reflects the simpler time, rustic feel and communal draw of Old West towns with the cluster of hospitality-driven tasting rooms and picnic pavillion designed with shed roofs and board and batten wood siding.  The north-facing and south-facing buildings maximize views while their sloped roofs play off the landscape.


Helwig Winery tasting room


Pressed tin counter faces and Western decor in the tasting room complete the integrated design.


3.  Renwood Winery – fast-forward


Renwood’s main tasting room. Photo: Renwood Winery


Acquired by a new owner in 2011, the 1990s era Renwood Winery was dramatically redesigned by Sage and opened last October.  Renwood’s main tasting room now has a modern metro lounge look with dark custom walnut cabinetry, contrasting white Corian countertops and a dropped soffit to lend intimacy to the tasting experience.


Wine as art display at Renwood. Photo: Sage Architecture, Inc.


The quality of the Renwood’s wines are highlighted as works of art, displayed on space-saving floating shelves against crisp, white panels.


Renwood’s outdoor spaces. Photo: Sage Architecture, Inc.


To create a more open, flowing hospitality space through the large storefront windows of the tasting rooms, Sage converted Renwood’s former asphalt driveways to outdoor lounging areas with comfortable all-weather wicker seating.


To explore Amador County wine country, attend their signature tasting event Behind the Cellar Door March 2 and 3, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  $50 pp for weekend pass or $35 pp Sunday only.  Check the website for special winemaker dinners.


Renwood lounge after Behind the Cellar Door winemaker dinner. Photo: Renwood Winery


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