Nevada County, like much of the Sierra Foothills, drew prospectors from around the world to its mountainous climes during the Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s. During that time, miners, many of them of European descent, planted vines around their diggings, especially as panning for gold started to show diminishing returns. By 1890 there were more than 100 wineries in the region, including in Nevada City, as noted by Leon Adams in “The Wines of America,” originally written in 1973 with updated editions through 1990.
Prohibition put an end to all that, and viticulture eventually moved to the irrigated fields of the Central Valley, where yields were much higher and it was easier to transport grapes to other counties and states.
Viticulture in this inland region began to return largely as a result of growing urban sprawl along the coast of California, with acreage planted to grapes in Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado and Nevada counties increasing threefold in the years between 1965 and 1987, from 720 acres (291 ha) to 2,475 acres (1,002 ha).
Today it remains a popular wine region known for hearty reds like Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, with small wineries operating in and around the towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley. Nevada County is less active in wine production than most of the other counties within the Sierra Foothills AVA.