49 Kudos for 49 Wines: Former Investment Banker creates Warm Welcomes in his Downieville CA Shop

I simply can’t say enough wonderful things about 49 Wines, Will Clark’s shop in Downieville where he makes each customer feel so very welcome. The motto of the shop is “Taste the Gold in the Mother Lode”. The wine selection is terrific, with a lot of value-priced nuggets to choose from, but the real gold is Will.

Will Clark readily admits that his passion in life is California Foothill wines. He retired from investment banking in the early 1990’s, and with wife Jeanne, opened up his shop at 200 Main Street in Downieville. Jeanne runs the antiques and collectibles shop next door.

“We came here to do what we really wanted to do,” said Will. “People don’t expect us to be here. But really, Downieville is the first town north of Nevada City where you can find good food, lodging – and major historical lore about the area.” It all comes together in a mountain setting at the confluence of two rivers, with an enormous amount of Gold Country history. Will boasts a stock of around 50 wines. Here are some of my favorites from the tasting:

2006 Hatcher Cabernet Sauvignon, Sierra Foothills. Will believes this is his current best value in a Cabernet Sauvignon. The Hatcher winery is located in Murphys, Calaveras County, and they source most of their fruit from vineyards near Angels Camp. The fruit for this wine was sourced from the vineyard of Lori Kautz. Winemaker Matthew Hatcher has crafted this wine to have aromas of tropical fruit, volcanic minerality, anise and other exotic spices. Flavor is lush and ripe with flavors of melon, ginger, and spice, ending in a clean finish. Enjoy with spicy Asian foods, BBQ, lamb. 14.6% alcohol. $17.50/bottle at 49 Wines.

Perfecta Arroyo Seco red wine is a blend of 62% Grenache and 38% syrah. A Rhone-style wine, it won a Gold in the 2009 SF Chronicle Wine Competition. It is elegant and structured, and Perfecta winery takes pride in the fact that they use grapes from sustainable-method farms. 14.3% alcohol, $14.00/bottle.

Foxglove 2008 Chardonnay San Luis Obispo County , bottled by Varner, was called by one wine reviewer “outrageously delicious”. Indeed, its pear and apple taste is scrumptious, and tropical fruit and tangerine tones add to its marvelous flavor. It has a nice acidity, medium body, and is complex, reminding us of a crisp Chablis. 14.4% alcohol. $15/bottle at 49 Wines.
James Creek Vineyards, located in Pope Valley (Napa), produces a yummy 2005 Zinfandel. James Creek Vineyards is a small family run boutique winery, and its vineyards are ideal for the production of Zinfandel, as they are above the fog line with extreme temperature fluctuations between the day and night. Scott Brown, owner and winemaker, planted his first vines on site in 1972. The Zinfandel features exotic aroma of fruit and spices, and tasting reveals a smoothness with blackberry flavor that is not at all jammy. A touch of vanilla on the finish. 16.5% alcohol. $18/bottle at 49 Wines.

The 2005 Cooper Vineyards Primitivo is the proud result of grape farming in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County for five generations. Fruit for this wine is sourced from this valley, and Cooper wines continue to win many awards. Primitivo is an Italian varietal, reminiscent of Zinfandel with which it shares much DNA . This wine has notes of plum and spice, but with a structure that’s Old World. You’ll find it earthy, rustic, fruit-forward, yet spicy. 14.4% alcohol. $22/bottle at 49 Wines.

49 Wines is open at 200 Main Street, Downieville from 10-6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, closed Mondays. (530) 289-2782.

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© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in July 2009.


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