TN: 1980 Nevada City Cellars Zinfandel, Amador County. PAGING TOM HILL

1980 Nevada City Cellars Zinfandel. Mind. Blown! No idea the history of this winery (paging Tom Hill), but I am absolutely floored at how good this is, not just from a novelty perspective (1980 is my birth year), but in regards to all around quality and straight up deliciousness. Bought at auction for a song because it looked interesting and had VERY low expectations. Cork came out with with my Durand, and although it was fully saturated, it smelled great at PNP, and the color was much darker than I expected (all good signs - check out the pic). On the palate, I am absolutley floored at how good this is. Beautiful notes of cranberry, cherry, and mixed baking spices. Medium bodied with waves of acidity. Blind, I’d probably be leaning a 10 year old Ridge due to the color, flavor profile, and mouthfeel that seem VERY similar to some of the top Geezers I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. THIS…is exactly why it’s fun to take a stab at older birth year wines from CA when you can get em for cheap. Top 3 wine from 1980, and honestly, one of the better bottles I’ve had this year (prob excluding the Bedrock Bonanza I just had with Alex in MKE). Life is good!!

[media] Rich Brown on Instagram: "1980 Nevada City Cellars Zinfandel. Mind. Blown! No idea the history of this winery but I am absolutely floored at how good this is. Top 3 wine from 1980 (birth year) that I've ever had. Wildly unexpected" [/media]


Very nice!

Changing the subject line so that hopefully Tom Hill sees this. So damn impressed by this wine - would love to see if he (or anyone) knows the backstory of the winery. Thanks in advance!

Sorry, Rich. Not much help here.
I tried 4-5 of their wines around early ‘80’s because it was a new growing area that I thought had some potential. The few I tried were underwhelming… on the rough/rustic side. So blew them off. Don’t recall the folks behind it.
Very surprised this Zin was that good.

There is a NevadaCity Wnry that advertises itself as the oldest wnry in Nevada Cnty. But it is undoubtedly not the same folks as NevadaCllrs. Nothing I can find out there with Google on NevadaCllrs.
I’ll see if I can find out something from Darrell or MikeDunne.

Thanks so much for the feedback Tom, and definitely no need to put any work into finding out more info (although I really appreciate it!). I was just literally amazed at how good this was. No clue how these were when first released, but damn has it aged well. Gotta love it when a random wine that you paid very little for WAY overdelivers. What keeps you coming back for more with this ‘hobby’

Thanks for sharing Rich. Love seeing tasting notes for old wines especially Zinfandel and Petite Sirah which are two of my favorite varietals!

Man, I think Nevada City Cellars and Nevada City Winery are one in the same.

We used to race bicycles and that was the first winery I ever visited. (Fake ID.) They had a…gasp!..white zin called Alpenglow that was drier than other white zins at the time and I found it palatable. (Plus, we’d drink it at the rock slides in nearby Washington, and take it to the mountain lakes and the name was lovely.)

They had a red zin, a kind of cabernet wine, and a sweetish white…perhaps a Gewürztraminer?

They had a different name, then I think they took over the current name after either buying or assuming the Nevada City Winery name from the original Nevada City Cellars, but my mind is cloudy.

Damn Anton your street cred just jumped up with your knowledge of White Zins even before you were of age [worship.gif]


Seriosely when I opened this thread I thought the poster was talking about Nevada City Winery instead of Nevada City Cellars. I do bet there is a connection. I fondly remember some really decents cabs and one vintage of pinot noir from the Sierra Foothills in the '80s. Haven’t visited in over a decade but there was always one or two wines that were worth the tariff.

Ha ha! Love this story Anton! Using a fake ID to slug down white zin - absolutely classic!

I’m guessing your right that these wineries are one in the same, as I havent been able to find anything on Nevada City Cellars…and if Tom Hill doesnt know them, I’m guessing nobody does.

Anyway, thanks for the story bud - great stuff!

Tom did mention he was going to ask Derrell Corti about Nevada City Cellars. If he doesn’t know a connection someone else has to come forward.

Amazing - thanks so much guys!

Dont think I’ve ever been more impressed with an older wine from a random producer I’ve never heard of, so would be really cool to find out the history.

A 2014 available on Wine Bid for $25.

Rich, I’m also an ‘80. What other wines from that year have you enjoyed?

Amazing year, amiright Joshua :wink:

I’m constantly taking stabs at random bottles from 1980 - some misses for sure but also some nice hits, like this zin the other day. Some other highlights include:

1980 Heitz Chardonnay (incredible wine, and one of the better bottles I had last year

1980 Beaulieu Vineyards Burgundy from 1.5L

1980 Carneros Creek Cabernet

1980 Ridge - both Geyserville and Zinfandel Howell Mountain

Any good ones you’ve opened??

I checked a few of my old wine books on Calif wines. BobThompson refers to NevadaCityWnry and says their first crush was 1980. And that they have DouceNoir planted. Not heard back from Darrell yet.

Mystery solved, I believe. I just checked a few references to California wine and found the following info.

Pocket Encyclopedia of California Wine by William Kaufman (1982) mentions Nevada City Cellars and notes their first releases are due that year, from the 1980 vintage. It also notes 80 acres to be planted in 1983. Mentions that it’s the first winery in Nevada County since prior to Prohibition. Varieties mentioned are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Douce Noir (Charbono), Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Tony Norskog. Head of the owners’ partnership Allan Haley.

Pocket Guide to California Wine by Bob Thompson (1990) mentions Nevada City Winery and notes that a “partnership-turned-corporation” bought the winery in 1986, when it was six years old. Says that several of the owners are growers but does not mention any names. Same grape varieties noted other than not mentioning Petite Sirah and adding Gewürztraminer.

The Wine Atlas of California by James Halliday (1993) has an entry for Nevada City Winery and says it was founded in 1980 by Allan Hayley (slightly different spelling than in the other book), who had run a wine distribution business in Hawaii among other things. Proprietary wine labels included Douce Noir, Alpen Glow, Rough and Ready Red, Bicycle Blanc, and Victorian White.

So it seems certain that the two similar names belong to the same winery, with the name change of “Cellars” to “Winery” most likely occurring when the winery was sold to new owners in 1986. All this info matches up perfectly with what several people have posted here.

Rich - that 1980 Zinfandel would have been from the winery’s inaugural vintage!


Thanks for all the homework, Ken. All makes sense.
I remember it attracted my interest from the DouceNoir. And I remember the R&R Red. Both were pretty rustic wines.

Wow, seriously can’t thank you guys enough! Always makes it more interesting knowing the history on an older surprise like this, so I really appreciate the time you put into figuring this out!

All said and done…seems like this zin had zero business being as great as it was (gotta love when that happens!). Thanks again fellas!!

Nevada City Winery was mentioned briefly while I was reading a book about Zinfandel.

In the author’s survey of Madroña Vineyards, she writes:

“…Madroña’s winery was bonded in 1980, which was also the year that Dick Bush made his second vintage. In the beginning, Dick had taken it upon himself to be winemaker, with the assistance of a consultant until 1985. That year, he brought Mark Foster on as winemaker. In 1992, Mark left to become winemaker at Nevada City Winery. Hugh Chappelle replaced him” (99).

from A Zinfandel Odyssey by Rhoda Stewart

This information contributes little in the way of better understanding of Nevada City Cellars/Winery as it was in 1980 or its history. Nevertheless, the passage reminded me of this thread.

Tony Norskog was the original winemaker for Nevada City Cellars, which was founded by Allan Haley.

Mark Foster served as the winery’s winemaker from 1992 until retiring last year. Nevada City Winery just hired Hal Hanifl, meaning that it has had only three winemakers since it first opened its doors.

The Union
“Rod Byers: The Art of Wine: A Conversation With Winemaker Mark Foster”

by Rod Byers
June 2019
"Nevada City Winery winemaker Mark Foster, the dean of Nevada County winemakers, is on the cusp of celebrating 40 years of winemaking.

“He began his career at Smothers Brothers Winery in 1981. Over the next decade he honed his winemaking techniques at Chalone and perfected his style at Madrona. He arrived at Nevada City Winery in 1992 and has been making award-winning wines there ever since, including winning Best of California awards for Syrah and Cabernet Franc…”.
Tony Norskog now focuses on organic wine at Orleans Hill.

from CA Corks profile of Orleans Hill Winery:

“Tony Norskog, winemaker and partner, has been making wines for over 25 years. His career includes a stint as head winemaker for Nevada City Winery along with various adventures through the Central Coast of California and France as chief tank washer and grape crusher.”

According to the following blog entry, Orleans Hill Winery is also known as Nevada County Wine Guild. I thought it was based in Mendocino County…?

Earth Wine Blog
“Orleans Hill Winery, California – Tony Norskog and Donn Berdahl”

April 10, 2012

Nevada City Winery website:



Drew, greatly appreciate your post. Hope your health is good and life is better.


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