A few years ago some friends of ours were telling us about their wonderful weekend-wine-tasting-get-away to Murphys CA. They invited us along and now it’s become a yearly tradition. While I love exploring and flying by the seat of pants when traveling, sometimes I wish someone would just give me an itinerary to follow with the best places to go, from tried and true experiences. That’s what I’m doing for you here. Granted, everyone’s pallet is unique, but it’s hard to go wrong in Murphy’s with the selection of wineries/tasting rooms and food choices. Murphys is an old mining town above Angels Camp and below Arnold. My wife grew up in Angels (as they call it), so it’s good to make this pilgrimage and also wander around Angels if we have time on the way up to Murphys. As you may know, Angels Camp is home of the annual frog jumping contest, which Mark Twain made famous in some of his writings. Murphys, however, is the home to over two dozen family-owned wineries, which most have tasting rooms all on one street! Here’s the run down and basic plan to follow:
IRON STONE VINEYARD
Since this one is not on the main street, it’s a great place to start. They have a solid selection of reasonably priced wines and a café for a great lunch on a sunny balcony. Iron Stone also has a great concert venue amphitheater with a fun line up. I think there is some special treatment if you belong to their club (like a buffet and wine service before the concert?).
After Iron Stone, I recommend just starting out at one end of town, walk down the stret, and check out whatever looks good along the way. There are a bunch of fun shops and restaurants if you need another snack (There’s a great pizza place, an antique hardware store, and a fun outdoor adventure shop I like). Also a creek runs through town where they built a local park next to it. In the summer, the kids and play in the water, or it’s relaxing to get a bottle of wine and have a picnic.
This trip our friend got a head start and went to Lavender Ridge winery. I’ve always thought their wine is just okay. However, they will win you over when they start pairing cheeses, honeys, and other treats (which they sell) with their wine – some say that drinking wine by itself is a very American thing to do. Or, rather, one should always have food with wine to bring out it’s essence (thoughts?). Our next step was Newson Harlow, one of my wife’s favorites. Some of their higher end wine is pretty good. We walked away with a bottle of their zin and petite syrah. The year before, the wives even got conned into buying matching baseball caps! Things we do (and buy) when wine tasting.
Next we hit up a place called Kola Farms. This is a new hipster winery. The staff don’t know much about the wines, but they like to have fun…. so I guess you could say, we had fun. They recommended our next stop, so props to them for sending us to Frog’s Tooth. This is a newer spot which I’m so glad we found. It’s a block off of the beaten path, so you may miss it if you don’t venture up the side street. For us, this was a winner! They have a young, ambitious wine maker and friendly staff. We bought a bunch of their wine… I hope it’s as good when we open it months from now with a clear head – ha ha ha.
[There my wife getting friendly with the winemaker – mmmm hmmm . I’m like, “Can I get a discount?]
Seems like 3-4 wineries is the magic number for not passing out, if paced, with snacks along the way. We had a dinner reservation at 7:30pm, so we had a few hours to kill. The tradition has been to run back to the hotel and get some “rest” in one form or other, so we could be fresh for dinner. The restaurant, Grounds, has become our favorite go-to dinner spot (and next morning breakfast spot). They have a great selection of menu items from steak, pasta, seafood, and eggs benedict in the AM). This year we shared a bunch of small plates and entrees – The brussel sprouts were cooked perfectly! We highly enjoyed the mussels and French bread for dipping in the spicy sauce. And, I couldn’t get enough of the mushroom risotto. We had to have some coffee to ramp up for an evening of fun.
[Char being silly at dinner – RIP Bowie!]
After dinner there are a few options, but not many. Only the Murphys Hotel and a few other newer spot stay open late. The Hotel is a blast from the past – the kind of saloon where you could imagine miners and cowboys getting into fights, breaking chairs over each other’s heads… Now, it’s just a fun place to mingle with the local and meet some other out-of-towners. Everyone is friendly and the ladies love to dance, dance, dance.
[Then and now]
If you’ve been to Murphys, or go soon, let me know your favorites, or how you liked your visit.
Keith Klassen, Real Estate Broker – 916.595.7900
Specializing in Residential Sales and Property Management (Sacramento, CA & maybe soon in Murphys)