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By bike or car, exploring the winery-studded Shenandoah Valley.

Unspoiled Shenandoah Valley offers natural beauty and serenity to visitors to Amador County's wine country. May brings warm, sunny weather, with a whisper of breeze, as the green hills go gold. Twelve wineries dot the valley, in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento. Explore the area by bicycle or in a car; traffic is light. Weekends are the best time to visit, since all but one winery are open for tasting. (Call ahead at Clock-spring Vineyards; 209/245-3297.) Wineries were a major industry here from the time of the gold rush. But mine closings, a population exodus, prohibition, and phylloxera did in all but a few. Today winemaking is experiencing a renaissance in the area, particularly in spicy, rich Zinfandels (the valley's main varietal), as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and Barbera. The wineries are small, and the atmosphere is low-key.

An 18-mile figure-eight tour on winding, gentle grades

Start at the general store on State Highway 49 in Plymouth, and follow Shenandoah Valley signs. Head north on Shenandoah Road to Shenandoah School Road and then to Steiner Road; come back down Shenandoah. If you like, detour north off Shenandoah on Bell Road. For the best views of the valley, visit Shenandoah Vineyards (10 to 5 daily; 245-4455) and Amador Foothill Winery (noon to 5 weekends and holidays; 245-6307). Sobon Estate (formerly D'Agostino; 10 to 5 weekends, noon to 4:30 weekdays; 245-6554) is a good place to glean local wine history. Charles Spinetta (8 to 4 weekdays, 10 to 5 weekends; 245-3638), Santino (noon to 4:30 daily; 245-6979), Shenandoah, and Sobon all display art. Montevina (11 to 4 daily; 245-6942) has an arbor-covered patio with several tables. Amador Foothill, Charles Spinetta, Santino, Shenandoah, Sobon, and Story (11 to 5 weekends; 245-6208) also have picnic areas. Kenworthy (10 to 5 weekends; 245-3198) is a modern winery inside an historic white barn; Baldinelli (10 to 4 weekends; 245-3398) sits atop a knoll. Buildings at TKC (10 to 5 Saturdays, noon to 5 Sundays; 245-6428) are almost buried in a hillside; the vines at Karly (10 to 4 weekends; 245-3922) grow beside a small lake.

On May 20--art and music festival at four wineries

The third Sunday in May, Amador Foothill, Charles Spinetta, Santino, and Shenandoah present art and live bluegrass, baroque, jazz, and country western music. Take a free shuttle or walk from one to another; they're all within about a mile. Tickets, $12 in advance, may sell out; call 223-6368 soon. Box lunches costs $5. To reach Plymouth from Sacramento, take State 126 (Jackson Road) east 32 miles, and State 49 north 3 miles. For details on nearby food and lodging, call the chamber of commerce at 223-0350.
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Title Annotation:California
Date:May 1, 1990
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