This Rhône inspired producer in the Sierra Foothills has a great story that there is not space for here. Suffice to say that the current generation of Skinners discovered that their great, great, great, great grandfather, James Skinner, had established a winery and vineyards here during the Gold Rush and were sufficiently inspired to buy the land back and set up the winery once more, 150 years later. In the 1860’s James Skinner had planted the popular grapes of the time that grew well in his region. This included Mission, Zinfandel, and several southern french varieties such as Grenache, Carignan and the now-obscure Petit Bouschet.
These are the varieties that Mike and Carey Skinner have planted once again, and they are ideally suited to the climate, topography and geology. The Skinners landed a coup in persuading rising star Chris Pittenger to join them as winemaker (ex-Marcasssin, Williams Selyem etc.). He has bought into the Skinners’ enthusiasm and conviction that this is area, with its mountain soils and nuanced microclimates is one in which Rhone varieties can thrive.
Skinner’s vineyards are located at two separate sites in El Dorado County. Stoney Creek Vineyard is at the winery in Fairplay, on a saddleback ridgeline at 2,700 feet (800m+). The high altitude means that temperatures are around 2-5 degrees cooler than other foothills regions. The White Oak vineyard is in Rescue adjacent to the original property. At 1,400 feet elevation, its soils are alluvial in nature, a result of sediment and soil coming down from the Sierra. These Skinner wines combine ripe fruit with freshness and (dare we say it) minerality with very moderate alcohols and fine balance, really making the most of the Rhone varieties they have chosen to focus on.