In the just over a year we’ve been publishing WINEormous, we’ve visited the Temecula Valley and Paso Robles extensively and have toured the Santa Ynez and Napa Valleys as well as the states of Washington, Texas, Idaho, Maryland, Virginia and Texas. We’ve barely begun to scratch the surface. Recently we visited Calaveras and Amador Counties on our way from Lodi back to Paso Robles. I’m already itching to go back.
Heading out of Lodi our first stop was at Twisted Oak Winery in Vallecito. Chris Johnston, owner/winemaker at Middle Ridge Winery said this was a stop we needed to make and I’m so glad he did. You know you’re headed for someplace a bit different when you spot the “Speed Limit – 9 Miles Per Hour” and “Slow – Adults At Play” signs along with dozens of rubber chickens hanging from the trees. We reached the end of the, yes, twisted, driveway and arrived at their tasting room. There’s a sense of playfulness everywhere you look, but the wines are dead serious, despite names like *%#&@! (Potty Mouth Red) a Rhône-style blend with Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache and River of Skulls, a Mourvèdre/Syrah blend. Why the name? Calaveras is the native word for skull. We thoroughly enjoyed our tasting, bought a couple of “Are You Twisted?” t-shirts and a bulls**t megaphone and made our way to the next town over, Murphys.
You really start to get the feeling that you’re in Gold Country when you pull into Murphys. The downtown is quaint and charming and it would have simple for us to stop there for the rest of the day. We walked into Lavender Ridge‘s tasting room where the aroma of lavender is the first thing to hit you. Lavender Ridge is owned by Rich and Siri Gilpin and features stunning Rhône-style wines. We especially liked the Côtes du Calaveras Blanc and their Mourvèdre. Their tasting room also offers a nice selection of lavender products, olive oils and dark chocolates. We walked down the street to Newsome-Harlow and found their wines to be exquisite. Their tasting room is simple elegance and they pour a magnificent Sauvignon Blanc, several beautiful Zins and a few blends, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and a white dessert wine. The fact the several of these wines are sold out speaks volumes.
Another winery we kept hearing about was Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys. Ironstone sits at the end of Six Mile Road. The grounds are spectacular, featuring a pond at the edge of the vineyards and brilliantly colored flowers lining the entrance. The Kautz family began building Ironstone in 1989, blasting their way through limestone and schist rock to forge the aging caverns. The tasting room is immense and the wines, excellent. We grabbed a sandwich from the deli and sat on the sun-drenched deck. Ironstone’s concert series kicks off with Crosby Stills and Nash on June 6th and features Chicago, The Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow and others throughout the summer.
It’s not every day you see a yacht in a pond at a winery, but that’s precisely what we found at Young’s Vineyard in Plymouth as we made our way into Amador County. Young’s is an oasis and you almost feel as if you have stepped back to a gentler time. They offer great wines, including Cab, Barbera and Zin and the ideal spot for a picnic by the water. Our last wine stop of the day was at Drytown Cellars, where we met winemaker Allen Kreutzer. The winery was a cacophony of sound as they were in the midst of bottling, but we tasted some wine and had a nice visit. Allen is also a musician and plays at the local watering hole. We took the short drive to Somerset to visit our friends, have a bite to eat and rest up for the drive to Paso Robles the following day.
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