Below is an article recently published in SFGATE. Just one more reason why Murphys needs to be on your list for your wedding ceremony! Contact me for more information about our beautiful town, and the Forest Meadows Golf Course! A beautiful golf course venue!!
The lone bartender slid the wine glass across the stone-topped bar toward me, saloon-style. I was the only person in the grotto-like tasting room, and received full attention from the black Lab at my feet, as well as the woman behind the counter.
“Want to start from the beginning?” she said.
The beginning of an eight-wine tasting list is certainly a good place to start. Justin, the Lab, stretched out on the floor as I took my first sip of a Calaveras County Fair Gold Medal-winning 2008 Pinot Grigio.
I’d come to Murphys for Hatcher Winery’s semi-annual wine club event, a dinner and nearly unlimited tasting, however, I had time to scout out some more wineries before committing to the evening bacchanal.
Late fall and winter, when few leaves actually turn and drop in the Sierra foothills, are ideal times to wander through town without the summer heat and crowds, and to get a comfortable spot at the bar in one of the many tasting rooms.
The town of Murphys is known to Gold Rush historians as having been one of the state’s richest “diggins.” But this sweet, small town increasingly is becoming known as a wine destination, where boutique wineries are particularly welcoming of visitors seeking tasting and tours. With some 20 wineries in Calaveras County (and just three stoplights), oenophiles can spend a long weekend in the area and still not be able to make it to all the tasting rooms.
Established in 1848 by gold-mining brothers Daniel and John Murphy (which is why the name Murphys is plural, not possessive), the town boomed to 3,000 by 1852 – complete with with taverns, boarding houses, restaurants, blacksmith shops, sawmills and a bowling alley. It still has a Gold Rush vibe and a few boomtown-era buildings, including the Murphys Hotel (where John Muir once stayed), but the town’s modern gold is in the form of wine tourism.
Most of Murphys’ wine tasting rooms are conveniently located within walking distance of each other on elm-shaded Main Street. My plan was to start with the Hatcher Winery (where I’d eventually end the day), which is a short distance from downtown Murphys. Hatcher’s operation uses only native fermentation (no addition of yeast) and is completely solar-powered. Between the quality wine and the lack of natural light in the downstairs tasting room on Main Street, it’s easy to lose track of time. The 30-inch-thick walls in the 1859 building keep the tasting room cozy in the winter and cool in the summer.
A short staircase climb brought me to a beautiful golden-stone building, home to the tasting room for Lavender Ridge. Specializing in Rhone varietals, this winery produces hand-crafted, unfiltered wines in small quantities. The tasting room also features artisan cheeses, organic olive oil and lavender products – perfect nonalcoholic souvenirs from gold country.
To maintain enough energy for a few more hours of wine drinking, I needed to take a fuel break at one of Murphys’ nice restaurants. I didn’t have to walk far (just across the street) to find Grounds, a local favorite with an outdoor patio, where the grilled chicken sandwich includes spicy green chiles and homemade bread. Top it off with a side of sweet potato fries and it’s enough to support a few hours of wine sampling.
Next stop: the Newsome Harlow tasting room, just a few doors down and across the street. Like Lavender Ridge, the winery limits production, using premium grapes from carefully selected vineyards. This is the place for red wine – Zinfandels, Syrahs, Meritage and other red blends – so it’s easy to blaze through the tasting menu without even touching a white. Cuddle up around the wood stove, and it won’t matter what the weather’s like outside.