Eureka! This historic mining town in California’s Gold Country is becoming known for its riches of the vine.
The town of Murphys in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills is known to Gold Rush historians as having been one of the state’s richest “diggins.” But this sweet small town is increasingly becoming known as a wine destination too. With the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance advertising “20 wineries, 3 traffic lights … what’s stopping you?” oenophiles can spend a long weekend in the area and still not be able to make it to all the tasting rooms.
Here are my top choices for wine tasting in Murphys. All are conveniently located within walking distance of each other (no driving!) on Main Street, so you can stumble along at your leisure. In addition, they have wine clubs, so if you live in a state where wine can be shipped, you’ll be able to keep your collection up long after you’ve returned home.
Owned by brothers Matt and Sewell Hatcher, Hatcher Winery uses only native fermentation (no addition of yeast)—and the winery is 100 percent solar-powered. Since I’ve been a wine club member here for years, I have a slew of favorites, especially a second-crop zinfandel that I still dream about. My current fave? It’s a tie between the 2006 Estate Zinfandel and the 2006 Syrah. The 2008 Pinot Grigio is a mighty tasty white wine. Tasting room: 425 Main St. Tel. 209-605-7111. hatcherwinery.com
Specializing in Rhône varietals, Lavender Ridge produces hand-crafted, unfiltered wines in small quantities. The tasting room, a beautiful stone building on Main Street, also features artisan cheeses, organic olive oil and lavender products. My favorite: the 2006 Petite Sirah. The 2006 Syrah and 2006 Côtes du Calaveras are also very nice reds. If you’re a white wine fan, try the 2008 Côtes du Calaveras Blanc or even the 2007 Grenache Rosé. Tasting room: 425-A Main St. Tel. 209-728-2441. www.lavenderridgevineyard.com
Newsome Harlow also limits production to small quantities, using premium grapes from carefully selected vineyards. If you’re a red wine nut, this is the place for you. Featuring zinfandel, syrah, meritage and other red blends, you can blaze through the tasting menu without even touching a white wine. My favorite: I’m torn between the 2007 Shake Ridge Ranch Zinfandel, 2007 The Donner Party Zinfandel and 2007 Petite Syrah “El Portal.” White wine enthusiasts, check out the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and The Dash—a white dessert wine. Tasting room: 403 Main St. Tel. 209-728-9817. www.newsomeharlow.com
There’s always a place for the irreverent, and here it is in Murphys—decorated with rubber chickens. Taste Twisted Oak’s hand-crafted wine on Main Street, or go to the source in nearby Vallecito, where the four-level gravity flow winery, 300-foot barrel cave and the 350-year-old California blue oak (which adorns the label) can be found. My favorite: the 2007 Calaveras County Torcido. The 2007 Sierra Foothills Ruben’s Blend is great for white wine lovers. Tasting rooms: 350 Main St., Murphys. 4280 Red Hill Road, Vallecito. Tel. 209-736-9080. www.twistedoak.com
Activities: Wine Tasting
Great guide, thanks! I love Murphy's, but haven't hit the wine trails yet.
Great article! I've visited Murphys before but never knew about all these wineries. I'm definitely going to need to head back there soon . . . reading about all the yummy-sounding wines available has made me thirsty!