Tucked away in the Sierra Foothills is one of the more concentrated tasting adventures in California or anywhere else: the town of Murphys, with 24 tasting rooms within easy walking distance along a one-mile stretch of Main Street. The wines carry Calaveras County, Amador County, Sierra Foothills and California appellations. Winemakers have mastered warmer weather varietals from Spain, Italy and France, plus do well with the California classic red: Zinfandel.
Murphys is less than two hours from Sacramento Airport and close to one of the more impressive state parks in California, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, with its well-marked trails among huge sequoia trees. Enjoy a few leisurely hours with nature, then take time to taste your way along Main Street. A few highlights of our visit are below.
Main Street, Murphys, before the hordes of wine-tasters arrive
Allegorie (owned by Jonathan Phillips of Val du Vino), 2010 Bene Gusto (85 percent Sangiovese, 14 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 1 percent Syrah), $29 – Complex mint, chocolate, peppery nose, hints of wood; balanced; long fruity finish. Bonus: tasting room is in an art and custom jewelry gallery.
Hovey, 2010, Tempranillo, Calaveras County, Rolleri Cuvee, $22 – Rioja-like character; berry, wood, tobacco nose; round, soft finish; fine food wine.
La Folia, 2010, Pinot Grigio, Sierra Foothills, $18. Fresh, stone fruit, peachy nose; mid-high viscosity; round, ripe; summer sipping wine (with appetizers).
Lavender Ridge, 2009, Estate Cotes du Calaveras Red (41 percent Syrah, 39 percent Grenache, 20 percent Mourvedre), $20 – Excellent value in tasty blend of Rhone varietals. Earthy nose, mint, spice, light Grenache layer; mid-body; stylish, complex finish.
Milliaire, 2009, Clockspring Zinfandel, Amador County, $26. Double gold winner, California State Fair. Dark, Port-like color; mint, wood, spice, mothball nose; big body, but not hard; deep fruit; grabs the palate (with barbecue).
Val du Vino, 2009, Spanish Dragon (95 percent Tempranillo, 5 percent Grenache), Dragone Vineyards, $32 – Fresh, fruity varietal nose, hints of wood (25 percent new French oak); balanced, good structure, ripe grape flavors, long rich finish.
Val du Vino tasting room; only working winery in downtown Murphys