Tuscan-inspired Montoliva Winery more than doubling its vineyard

SOME OF THE ORIGINAL SETTLERS OF CHICAGO Park, a bucolic hamlet nestled between Colfax and Grass Valley, were first generation German- and Italian-Americans who came from Chicago in the mid-1800s to reconnect with their agrarian roots.

The area became famous for its stone fruit, wine grapes and other fruit. In 1915, pears from a Chicago Park orchard won first prize at the Panama-Pacific world’s fair in San Francisco, now celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Now, Chicago Park is home to Bierwagen’s Donner Trail Fruit, Dinner Bell Farm, Narrow Gauge Farm (whose owner is Chef Alan Tangren at Tess’ Cooking School), Solune Winegrowers, and Montoliva Vineyard & Winery. The area’s wine business is expanding too.

New Zealander Riki Pollock is opening Katoa Cellars along the Colfax Highway, and Montoliva owner-wine-maker Mark Henry is more than doubling the size of his vineyard.

Founded in 2000, Montoliva creates Tuscan-inspired wines. Mark’s wines regularly win medals in the prestigious San Francisco Wine Tasting Competition, including “Best of Class” and golds.

Montoliva’s estate vineyard of Sangiovese, Moscato and Aglianico was planted in 2000. Now Montoliva is expanding its estate vineyard, more than doubling in size, adding Negroamaro and Primitivo to his plantings.

“It has always been our goal to grow all of our own fruit,” says Mark, who chose Chicago Park for his vineyard, because its geology and climate are similar to Tuscany. “When our neighbor presented us with the opportunity to purchase the adjoining 6.5 acres, including a beautiful red bard, we saw our goal come that much closer.”

Mark has launched an “Adopt-a-Vine” program. It is a crowdfunding program where wine enthusiasts adopt a Primitivo or Negroamaro vine in the new vineyard for $75.

Donors receive a signed adoption certificate, a personalized plaque over their vine, invitation to a wine family picnic and the opportunity to prune and harvest the fruits of their vine. All told, it’s an entertaining, educational and unique local experience. Visit Montoliva.com for more information.

Wine 174

Experience Wine 174. Montoliva, Solune and Katoa Cellars are teaming up to create a regional wine trail along the Colfax Hwy., or state Hwy. 174.

It’s going to be called “Wine 174” and will feature all the area has to offer, including the three unique wineries.

The wineries are located just 10-15 minutes from the junction of I-80 and Colfax. The road runs along the historic Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad line, as well as the famous 49er Fruit Trail.

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