A county fair and top-notch restaurants enliven this winery-rich region.
When you first pull into Plymouth, you may ask yourself where the “there” is—this is the epitome of the one-horse town. But Plymouth is the real working heart of Amador wine country, and its quiet charm grows on you, particularly if you want to see what country living is really like. Bonus: Two of the region’s best restaurants are here, across the street from one another, and the wineries of the Shenandoah Valley are just five minutes up the road. Amador Vintners Visitor Center: 9426 Main St., (209) 245-6941, ci.plymouth.ca.us . Area code is 209 except as noted.
What do miners do when they don’t find gold? They settle down to plant zinfandel, or at least that’s what they did in the Shenandoah Valley, one of the oldest winemaking areas in California. Turn off Highway 16 (an extension of Highway 49) onto Shenandoah Road and you’ll find yourself amid rolling, oak-studded hills where cows and lambs graze on one side of the road and tidy rows of grapevines climb the other. Wineries within five or 10 minutes of central Plymouth include Terra d'Oro (20680 Shenandoah School Rd., 245-6942, terradorowinery.com  ), Wilderotter Vineyard (19890 Shenandoah School Rd., 245-6016, wilderottervineyard.com ), and Young’s Vineyard (10120 Shenandoah Rd., 245-3005, youngsvineyard.com ). Find planning tips and a map at Amador Vintners Association: (888) 655-8614, amadorwine.com . Held every July since the 1930s, the Amador County Fair is an old-time county fair complete with a rodeo, large and small animal judging, a horse show, and loads of country crafts. 18621 Sherwood St. (enter on Locust Street), 245-6921, amadorcountyfair.com .
Stop in to Amador Vintage Market and the offerings will plan your picnic for you. Glass cases house a huge deli selection, including curried chicken salad and grilled vegetables. If the Thai-style chicken soup is offered, don’t pass it up. Pick up chef Beth Sogaard’s homemade hummus by the tubful and scoop it out with fried tomato basil flour tortillas. 9393 Main St., 245-3663, amadorvintagemarket.com . Quiet Plymouth seems an odd setting for a restaurant as sleek and citified as Taste, but that’s by design. Owner/chef Mark Berkner’s small bites are perfectly suited to cap off a day of winetasting. Start with the mushroom cigars wrapped in phyllo dough and just keep going. The menu changes with the seasons, but the lamb and seafood (such as scallops) always rate. 9402 Main St., 245-3463, restauranttaste.com .
To find a place to stay, visit AAA.com/hotels .
Photography by Gary Crabbe 
This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Check out the rest of our Gold Country  package:
Amador City : Antiques and boutiques
Angels Camp : More than Mark Twain
Jackson : Main Street meets mining town
Murphys : Tasting rooms and gold lore
Sutter Creek : A handsome Gold Country base camp