El Dorado County Wineries | E16 Winery | Fair Play AVA

To drive up California Highway 16 is to experience the Sierra Foothills in its full glory.  Beautiful rolling hills are interspersed with pines as well as oak trees—bringing people to a historical time and place. Serenity and calm await the casual observers as they make their way off the main stretch of El Dorado County Wineries and find themselves within the Fair Play AVA at E16 Winery, named in honor of the historic highway. 

E16 Winery – El Dorado County – Fair Play AVA

Established by Robert Jones and winemaker Daniel Moore, E16 Winery is a culmination of Jones’ initial Firefall label and Moore’s success making exceptional pinot noir in the Russian River Valley.

For Jones growing up in the Central Valley in the 1940s, he saw his grandfather planting vineyards and living off the land. A simple life that placed high agrarian moral values at the center and which ultimately could create a legacy for years to come. A 1985 Montevina Barbera drove Jones’ aspirations forward—he knew he wanted to make nuanced and naturally acidic wines.  Fellow vintner Scott Harvey advised Jones to head to a higher elevation. The Fairplay AVA with elevations between 2000-3000 feet provided just that right terroir Jones was looking for as he bought the property-sight unseen- while heading out on an international trip.   “I started from the ground up like my grandpa in chasing his dream by clearing the land, bringing in water, electricity, and the vines,” said Jones.

In the early 1990’s, as Jones was getting his Firefall label off the ground he was participating in a Wine Industry Group that had a keen interest in Burgundian style wines, which resulted in a chance meeting with Daniel Moore.  A winemaking veteran of the Russian River Valley, Moore was involved early in developing Pinot Noirs for Martinelli Winery and Lynmar Estate.

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Eventually, the two would partner on starting E16 Winery, truly a blend of both their wine varietal interests and passions. They would source high quality grapes from coastal California to make pinot noir and chardonnay while also leveraging Eldorado County’s Sierra Foothills topography to create high quality Italian and Rhone style wines.  “I just love balanced, complex, fruit forward, silky and elegant flavors—I fell in love with these voluptuous varietals,” said Jones.

Just above the fog line at 2350 feet, Baby Rattlesnake Estate Vineyard is the primary source for E16’s Rhone-style Firefall wines. At 15.2 acres, the vineyard has produced award-winning and high-scoring wines while being known throughout the Sierra Foothills for its high-quality fruit. Based on research conducted by the winery,  of all the El Dorado County Wineries, as evaluated by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, of current vintages 2014-2018 of a total of 127 wineries, E16 has more 90+ scores- more than any other winery with 26. In addition, E16 has seven 94 scores.  “The high elevation in El Dorado County provides a unique combination of warmer days and cool nights to produce the ripe fruit flavors balanced by the cool acidity needed for balanced and elegant wines. The soils are a sandy decomposed granite that creates beautiful drainage to make the vines struggle for a robust wine,” said Jones. 

Times have not always been easy at E16, but when the chips are down he channels the lessons he learned from his grandfather.  “Live with integrity; love unconditionally; and respect the earth as we do each other. The vineyard is still with me and so is my Grandpa.”

The Tasting Room is open to the Public from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Friday– Sunday.  Hours vary seasonally so visitors should call ahead to (530) 620-6200 or check the website at http://www.e16wines.com

E16’s Winery Tasting Room was created to share their wines and educate visitors about the wine, history, and diversity of El Dorado County and the Fair Play AVA.

OVERVIEW of E-16’s Wine Tasting Room

  • Who – E-16 Winery – Owner Robert Jones – Winemaker – Daniel Moore
  • What – Wine tasting room in Somerset, California
  • When – 11am to 5pm – Fri, Sat, Sun
  • Where – 8085 Perry Creek Rd., Somerset, CA  95684  
  • Reservations – can be made by visiting e16wines.com or calling (530) 620-6200 or emailing robin@e16wines.com

E-16 Wine Recommendations

2017 Estate Barbera, Baby Rattlesnake Vineyard –  dark concentrated fruit flavors with a little tobacco while showcasing both a beautiful texture and generous mouthfeel. This wine would pair great with simple cold cuts, toasted bread and a little olive oil.

2018 Estate GSM, Baby Rattlesnake Vineyard – black cherry and pepper flavors with a touch of spice that gives the wine depth and a nice balance. A composition of 43% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 27% Mourvèdre this would go great with a pork loin.

2017 Pinot Noir, Doctor’s Vineyard – beautiful garnet in color with flavors of black cherry, cranberry and a touch of spice. At 14.1% ABV this wine showcases both texture and balance. The grapes are sourced from the Doctor’s Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands at approximately 700 feet above sea level in a sandy loam soils, which enhances this wine’s depth.

2016 Pinot Noir, Martaella Vineyard – black cherry aromatics on the nose with flavors of strawberry, cherry, and pomegranate.  At 14.2% ABV,  this wine would go great with braised lamb.  The grapes are sourced from the Martaella Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, which gives the wine its classic dark cherry texture of the appellation.

2018 Estate Grenache Blanc, Baby Rattlesnake Vineyard – floral bouquet on the nose with flavors of apple and pear. A nicely balanced wine with a crisp finish.  At 13.2% ABV, this wine would pair nicely with a Margherita pizza.

About El Dorado County Wineries

El Dorado County became famous for being the site of the 1848 gold discovery that sparked the California Gold Rush. Its name is derived from the Spanish meaning “the gilded/golden”.

Today, the region is better known for its visitor attractions, agriculture, and history. Grape growers in the region produce a large diversity of varietals, including  Zinfandel, Barbera, and Syrah and Rhône varietals. 

Today, the county is home to more than 2,000 acres of vines, over 70 different varietals. The county is home to approximately 40 to 50, mostly boutique, or small production wineries. El Dorado was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983.

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