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A California Wine Region You May Not Have Heard Of!

Posted by on May 3, 2016

Disclosure: I was invited on a Roots to Wine Press Trip to Explore the wines of YOLO County this past April.  All opinions are my own.

By now, you’ve realized that it’s become a huge goal of mine to visit all of the Wine Regions within California.  The more I explore the wine regions, the more I uncover, and the more I realize HOW many wine regions are out there.

Yolo-County-WinesProperty of Route 3 Wines

But recently I was invited out to a Wine Region that may slip through the cracks.  A wine region that has been experimenting for the past 30 years or more, and one, that people should start paying attention to because, guess what? They’re not afraid to experiment.  They’re not afraid to try something new, and they’re not afraid to stand by what they make and create.

Let me introduce you to the Wines of YOLO County, or the wines that lie in the Dunnigan Hills AVA, Capay Valley and Winters. This region lies just south of Sacramento. It is a group of family-run wineries and vineyards that have been working hard, behind the scenes, to create some pretty damn good wines.  And guess what? I’m hear to tell you about some of them!

Route 3 Wines:


Our tour began on the property of Route 3 Wines where we met with Vineyard Manager Gio Ferrennelli, and National Sales Manager Ian Johnson.  There, we tasted 3 of their wines: Their 2014 GDT (Greco di Tufo), a white wine varietal that is very RARE in California.  Currently less than 100 acres are planted in California!


Their Detour Red Wine was a happy accident! And, the name Detour couldn’t have been more perfect.  Gio’s son even designed the label.  Their Detour wine is a blend of 90% Barbara (a popular varietal in California) and 10% Merlot.  Retails: 16.00

Our 3rd Taste included their Grenache.  Retails: 18.50.

Route 3 Wines was a great introduction to the Dunnigan Hills AVA, and it truly showcased the uniqueness of this region, and how winemakers aren’t afraid to try new things out here!

About Route 3 Wines:

Route 3 Wines was born in 2007 as Yolo Vineyards explored new ways to survive in an increasingly difficult wine grape market. All of the grapes used in production of Route 3 Wines come from Yolo Vineyards’ historic Hucke Ranch. The Hucke (hook-key) Ranch was named after the family who originally owned the ranch and farmed dry land grain and sheep on the same hills that produce our wonderful wines today. We chose to name our wines Route 3 because we like the symbolism of the connection to our history and our commitment to the future of our farming.

Matchbook Wine Company:

First, let me tell you this.  You must spend an afternoon at their beautiful tasting room property, the views, and the hospitality found throughout the tasting room are spectacular in Zamora, California.


Matchbook Wine Company have been true pioneers of the Dunnigan Hills AVA and Yolo County Wines.  For the past 30 years, they have tried new things, failed at some, succeeded at others, to truly find their craft in wine.

Matchbook-Wine-CompanyInside the Matchbook Wine Company Tasting Room

Over those 30 years, they’ve found that Dunnigan Hills does quite well with Spanish Varietal Wines, so, this is where a lot of their wines have come to be crafted: Tempranillo, Chardonnays, Syrah, Petit Verdot, etc.

But, where they got their name, has a fun story behind it:

As farm kids growing up in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the Giguiere brothers were veritable pyromaniacs, setting numerous things on fire—including the family wheat fields. Fearing total ruin of house and farm, the boys’ father one day left them at the city jail for an hour’s “stay” to impress upon them the dangers of their fascination with fire. But it was to no avail. They soon graduated to launching rockets, which resulted in more uncontrolled blazes and calls to the fire department. Over time, the Giguiere boys outgrew their fascination with the flame. But even today they look at the Matchbook brand with fond memories of the fires they once stoked.


A favorite of mine at this winery was their Tinto Rey Red Blend.  Tempranillo, being a huge wine varietal for them, was the basis for this blend mix of: Blend: 50% Tempranillo, 27% Syrah, 11% Petit Verdot, 8% Graciano, 4% Tannat.

Be sure to stop in to try it, along with their Chardonnays, and Tempranillo varietals.

Taber Ranch:

If you’re LOOKING for a great place to host a wedding or special event, you just may want to check out Taber Ranch, because, let me tell you, they know how to put on an event!

BUT, with that being said, they are just beginning to create wine.  They have big dreams of opening their own tasting room, and that may just be happening sooner than later.


To start off with their winemaking, they have begun with their, “Wedding Hill White” wine, and their Taber Ranch Red Wine.  These wines are made to pay tribute to all their wedding guests on the property, and to pay tribute to their Wedding Hill, where many of their guests choose to get married:


With views like that, I see why so many choose to get married on their Wedding Hill.  But, they also do a top notch job of catering to the events held at their venue.


Simas Family Vineyard:

Simas Family Vineyard, and the Simas Family, are truly the reason why I love exploring smaller, California Wine Regions.  For me to get out to meet the hard working families behind the wines, but to also support those families that are working so hard to make their dream a reality.

And, the Simas Family are EXACTLY that!

The journey for Simas Family Vineyard  began in 2001 when Chris and Bonnie Simas purchased 25 acres in the Capay Valley and dreamed of planting a vineyard.  Two years later in 2003, Chris with the help of his father, Bob, prepared the fertile soil and planted several varieties of Rhône grapes.  Rhône varietals were selected to pair with the soil and climate of the area.

Simas-Family-VineyardMembers of the Simas Family: Bonnie Simas and her 4 boys.

All members of the Simas Family help with the operation of this 8 acre Family Vineyard that focus on Rhone Varietals.  The first harvest took place in 2005 with the picking of a small amount of grapes. And the first release under the Simas Family Vineyard label took place in 2009 with their 2008 Marsanne Varietal.


Shown above, 2 varietals: Their Capay White and their Mourvedre.

This was such a GREAT introduction to this area, but one thing I took away from it, is that this is a wine region worth paying attention to because a lot of interesting winemaking is happening.  And it’s something worth noting.

So, if you’re looking to get out and explore, make a weekend trip to this special area of Yolo County, and explore all that their wines have to offer!




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