I drove through Amador County Monday en route to my family holiday, and somewhat out of character for me, stopped to taste some wines.I had just enough time to visit two sites, Deaver Vineyards and Vino Noceto, both in the vicinity of Shenandoah School Road. Deaver's facility was gorgeous, and its tasting menu lengthy. I liked the carignane and one of the zinfandels, a blend of 10 different clones. My second stop was Vino Noceto, another family-run vineyard, one that specializes in sangiovese and zinfandel. The winemaker also produces barbara, but the latest vintage has yet to be released, and apparently is so small it's allocated mostly to club members and those who happen to be at the right place at the right time. I very much enjoyed both sangioveses, and a zinfandel made from reportedly some of the oldest vines in the United States. While my visit there this week was limited in terms of what I could taste, I will absolutely return when I have more time. The soils of Amador County are iron rich and full of sandy clam loam, which makes them able to retain more of the region's limited rainfall. These conditions, naturally, make an area ideal for the cultivation of high-quality wine grapes. The first vineyards in Amador County were planted around 1849 after the start of the Gold Rush. Today, many of those old zinfandel vines still grow earthy, spicy wine and represent the region's best known varietal. Other grape varietals the region showcases are the Italian varietal barbera, and syrah, as well as sangiovese, petite syrah, sauvignon blanc and viognier. Vineyards now represent approximately 50 percent of the region's agriculture.