Wine Time in the CA Gold Country with Raquel Johnson


May 24, 2016~Nestled in the Gold Country foothills is one of Northern California’s best kept “secrets.” I mention “secrets” because this entire region of California has been keeping one for a long time! But the secret’s out now: It’s their wine!  While many flock to visit the Napa Valley a couple of hours away, those who know about the Gold Country Wine Trail are not only treated to a another beautiful area of NorCal, they’re also saving money, and enjoying some of the best vino on earth–and you should too!

This lifestyles writer likes to travel and explore the Gold Country Wine Trail as often as possible, usually with my husband, or friends, or both. When we do, there’s a special vineyard we like to visit every time. It’s the Dono dal Cielo Winery. So why do we like this place so much? Quite frankly, what’s NOT to like about this place?  First of all, when you walk in the door you’re treated like family. It’s lively, it’s casual and the people running the place are so down to earth, like Raquel Johnson.

Recently, I had an opportunity to interview Raquel and get the behind the scenes scoop on Dono dal Cielo. Let’s check out what she had to say:

raquel Mostajo-DonoDelCielo LR

Raquel Johnson~Estate Concierge

OMG: Raquel, I need to know the backstory, how did you get involved with wine industry?

RJ: “To be honest, I call it a lovely kind of fate… that just kind of crossed my path.  I wasn’t really looking for it.  I spent my entire career as a wedding planner in Southern California and then moved to Roseville and started working at La Provence (restaurant) as their wedding planner.  The restaurant carried Dono dal Cielo’s zinfandel.  I had met the owner’s son, Hunter McGillivray, a few times for tasting events and then after meeting the rest of his amazing family, they had asked if I would be the Estate Concierge and manage the Tasting Room.  It’s one of my favorite spontaneous decisions I’ve made.”

OMG: I’m sure Dono dal Cielo appreciates that quick decision!  So now that you’ve been working there for about four years, what have you found to be special or unique about the winery?

RJ: “I feel like when you are at Dono, it’s a home away from home and I really mean that.  You can come in and relax and feel like you are part of something.  We have an amazing outside space.  Plenty of tables inside and also outside under our covered patio.  Adjacent to the tasting room lays a beautiful and expansive grassy area with a small family gazebo. It’s perfect for picnic blankets and lawn games.  Set on our Zinfandel Hill above the winery is a breathtaking view of our two lush Zinfandel vineyards with an incredible pergola for families and friends to spend the day.”

OMG: Well I think you forgot something: Pearl!  To me Pearl makes Dono feel super special too…of course she should, since that sweet, friendly Great Pyrenees is the official winery greeter!  You know Raquel, no one in Napa has a “Pearl” at their wineries! So besides being a very dog-friendly winery, why else should people ditch Napa and head over here to the Gold Country for wine?

Pearl~Official Winery Personal Greeter

Pearl~Official Winery Personal Greeter

RJ: “I can speak from experience as I have been to Napa recently. Coming from the Placer Wine Trail and then spending the day in Napa, I really missed the small ‘mom & pop’ feel of our wineries back home. Although Napa is absolutely stunning, I didn’t enjoy how extremely busy they all were and having to fight the crowds just to get to the tasting bar (*she laughs*)…and it’s so expensive to taste.  I guess I’ve just been spoiled with our little boutique wineries on the Placer Trail.”

OMG: I love our boutiques wineries too, and that everyone seems to promote each other. There seems to be mentality for everyone to help each other be successful here in the Gold Country, and I guess when you know that the neighboring vineyards are also putting out quality wines it’s easy to say, “Hey, check out my friend’s winery too.” Also, there’s always something going on at the wineries. It seems like yours is always hopping! What do you have coming up?

RJ: “We always have live music every Saturday and it has become a very popular day for us.  We have planned a few exciting quaint parties for our wine club members.  And so far this year have released 7 new wines of which we are really proud of.”

OMG: Ok, I’m gonna put you on the spot Raquel. Tell us what your top 3 favorite Dono wines are, and why?

RJ: “This is a tough one because I love them all for different reasons, (kinda like your kids). I adore every vintage of our Sauvignon Blanc and it has ruined me in the Sauv. world as nothing compares to our crisp refreshing pineapple grapefruity glass of love!!!  I also like our current 2014 Zinfandel as it’s more jammy and fruit forward this year than ever which I really appreciate.  I also love our Davenport 6100.  It’s such a unique late harvest in that it is much lighter than a normal port style wine and with chocolate, VOILA!  It’s dessert for sure, with less calories.”

OMG: Oohh!  I love those too, (and I love that diet tip with the port). I don’t think there’s ever been a Dono wine I didn’t like, and I hope there never is! Thanks so much for sharing with us today Raquel.

To go check out Dono dal Cielo, here’s their link for more
Their wines really are WONDERFUL, and I gotta say, when we have out-of-town guests, we always bring them there. Our friends are never disappointed with the experience.  (By-the-way, when you go, be sure to say hello to Pearl for me)!


If you have any questions for Raquel,  please leave them here in the comments section below:

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