May 23, 2008
A Prospector Returns to Foothills

Wine enthusiasts venturing into Amador County's Shenandoah Valley this Memorial Day weekend for a bit of tasting will have a new winery to check out.

Jeff Runquist, who honed his winemaking palate as an intern at the Shenandoah Valley's Montevina Winery while attending UC Davis in 1979, has returned to the appellation to put down permanent roots. Runquist just opened his striking Gold Rush-theme facility along Shenandoah Road, directly across the street from where he lived from 1981 to 1984 while making wine at Montevina.

The place is kind of bare right now, but Runquist, whose "R" wines consistently show up in the gold-medal column of various competitions, expects to have all his equipment and barrels on the premises in time for this year's harvest. He established his brand in 1995 and has been making his wines at McManis Family Vineyards south of Lodi, where he also is the winemaker and where he will continue to make many of his releases.

Why has he been eager to return to Amador County? "This is where I've produced my marque wine, the 'Z' zinfandel. And while I make wines with grapes from around the state, there's not another appellation that I make five wines from," says Runquist. On top of that, he's long enjoyed the valley's congenial atmosphere and support from other vintners.

Jeff Runquist Wines, 10776 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, is open regularly for tasting 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, but the tasting room also will be open Monday this weekend; (209) 245-6282.

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