California often garners attention from wine enthusiasts for its wineries and vineyards in Northern California, especially in Napa and Sonoma. These are indeed some of the best wineries in the state, and even in the country, but the eastern side of the state, near Lake Tahoe, is also home to a number of award-winning wineries.
Check out the following list of three of the best wineries in the Lake Tahoe area.
Saluti Cellars Vineyards, Winery, and Bed & Breakfast
Located in the El Dorado wine region, Saluti Cellars Vineyards, Winery, and Bed & Breakfast sits in a 250-acre canyon. The winery’s name, Saluti, comes from the Italian word for “greetings,” and the owners have created an estate that makes visitors feel at home. Located in the Sierra Foothills AVA, Saluti Cellars produces the intensely flavored wines that the area is known for.
The winery has won a number of awards, including the Gold Medal in the 2016 El Dorado County Wine Competition for its Capisce, which is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Sirah and features currant and blackberry flavors as well as aromas of maple syrup and blackberry.
Saluti’s other red wines include a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Malbec, and a Bordeaux blend called 18 Hands. The winery also makes a Chardonnay with unique flavors of guava, honeydew melon, and a bit of baking spice. Its dessert wine, Vino Dolce, is a Ruby Port that won the Gold Medal in the 2014 El Dorado County Wine Competition.
In addition to making outstanding wines, Saluti Cellars offers breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery. The estate’s picturesque grounds, including fountains, ponds, and wine caves, frequently serves as a venue for couples looking for a small, intimate wedding setting.
Saluti’s bed and breakfast offers guests cozy fireplaces and private decks, as well as a fitness center and spa. For outdoor activities, the grounds are home to a bocce ball court, a horseshoe pit, and numerous hiking trails.
Also in El Dorado County, Element 79 is located in the Fair Play AVA, which has the highest average elevation of all California AVAs. Sitting at 2,400 feet above sea level, the 70-acre estate devotes 32 acres to vineyards, an upper and a lower section. The lower vineyard features Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Syrah, while the upper grows Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier.
The winery’s current red wines include the 2015 Alloy, the winery’s signature Zinfandel blend, and the 2015 Petite Sirah, which comes from grapes grown at 2,401 feet. The white wines include Chardonnay and Viognier, as well as 2016 and 2017 Abby’s Rosé, which is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Viognier.
Started by Allison Yonto and Jessica Stanley, Illanta Wines is the result of a collaboration between two friends who share a passion for wine and outdoor adventure in the Lake Tahoe area. The winery is named in honor of Yonto’s great-grandfather, who, after emigrating from Italy, changed the family name from Illanta to Yonto. The Illanta estate is reminiscent of the beautiful vineyards and estates found in Italy’s diverse wine country.
The winery sources its grapes from vineyards in Sonoma, Napa, and the Santa Rita Hills, focusing on growers who demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. The result is a menu of excellent small-batch wines capped at 300 bottles. Illanta Wines’ current offerings include a 2013 Zinfandel made from grapes sourced from the Beatty Ranch Vineyard in Napa. The wine is aged in new and used French oak barrels and features red mountain berry flavors and soft tannins.
In addition to its two other Zinfandels, which come from grapes grown in Sonoma County, Illanta Wines sells a Chardonnay with grapes from Santa Barbara Valley and a Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes from Napa Valley’s Yountville AVA. The latter wine features a unique blend of stone fruit, grapefruit, and baking spice.
In addition to sampling the wines on-site at Alpine Meadows Road in Tahoe City, wine lovers can find Illanta’s wines at Uncorked Wine Bars in Tahoe City, Truckee, and Squaw Valley. Additionally, River Grill in Tahoe City serves the winery’s Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, and the Rita Hills Chardonnay is available at Trokay Restaurant in Truckee.