Skinner Vineyards in Fair Play-El Dorado County is Worth a Visit

The Fair Play AVA is unbelievably beautiful right now, and an afternoon at Skinner Vineyards is a perfect way to experience these delights. The new Tasting Room at this new winery in the Fair Play AVA of El Dorado County features a state-of-the-art GreenTech winery, as well. The Skinner heritage in the wine business goes back to 1861 in El Dorado County.

Winemaker Chris Pittenger (left) and
Tasting Room Manager Ryan Skinner

The Skinner family has both a passion for winemaking in the Foothills and a dedication to continuing the Skinner winemaking tradition there. The new winery was designed with care to encompass many forward-thinking eco features. Winemaker Chris Pittenger often escorts visitors through the winery and vineyard manager Bryan Rahn has created a first-class vineyard, the Stoney Creek Vineyard, and you may have an opportunity to walk through there, too.

Skinner Vineyard’s winery is primarily solar powered; they installed a 55 kW PV system. They also situated the building so the sun side (south) maximizes the solar-power generating potential, and the solar panels line up to give the largest potential area for sun exposure.

In the winery, they strategically situated the barrel rooms on the north, more-shady side, of the building for better energy efficiency. Each of the four barrel rooms and the main cellar were built with temperature-controlled sensors, which allows for cooling to be supplied by the cool outside air.

All of the fermentation tanks are located within the winery, rather than being isolated outside. This simple design reduces energy costs significantly. The result is the use of much less electricity in order to keep the must and wines at a stable temperature in the tanks. The trellising systems optimize fruit temperatures, and the rows are run up and down the hills to minimize soil disturbance during development, preserving the topsoil and improving erosion control.

Skinner’s flagship wine is its Eighteen Sixty-One. This is a Rhône-style blend, a red wine made in the style of a Châteauneuf-du-Pap.

The vineyard’s warm days and cool nights, coupled with its well-draining granitic soils, provide the ideal growing conditions for Rhône varietals. Skinner Vineyards' current collection includes 10 Rhône grape varieties, in addition to several legacy grapes grown by James Skinner himself. The first releases included a 2007 Viognier and 2007 Syrah, both made with fruit sourced from the Skinner family’s Stoney Creek Vineyard, and also a 2008 Grenache and 2008 Grenache-based Rosé from El Dorado. Skinner Vineyards offers another Rhône-style blend – the Seven Generations white wine, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier.

Mike Skinner, co-owner with wife Carey Skinner, has inherited his ancestor’s passion for growing high-quality grapes and producing premium wines that reflect the unique spirit and heritage of the Sierra Foothills. The Skinner family set out to reestablish the family legacy by planting vines just a short drive from the original vineyard location. In keeping with the spirit of the original ranch and distillery, Mike and Carey designed the new winery in Fair Play by using a drawing dating back to 1885 and the old sepia photographs as their inspiration. The adjoining tasting room, situated at 2,700’, has a breathtaking 360-degree view of the majestic foothill landscape; perfect for enjoying a glass of wine while viewing the snow-peaked Sierra during winter or the rolling acres of green vines during spring and summer. For more information and tasting room hours, call (530) 620-2220 or visit

Disclosure:  I assisted Skinner Vineyards with marketing communications for their grand opening in May 2011.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

© 2011 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 "Wine Adventures" in August 2011.

Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".

No comments:

Post a Comment