The 2020 Edition of the Sierra Nevada Region Wine Tour took place over the weekend of October 23-25, as club members travelled from Reno to the tiny metropolis of Murphys in Calaveras County, California. Originally scheduled for August, the California wild fires and falling ash forced a postponement of the tour to October, when blue skies returned and daytime temperatures moderated to the 70s and low 80s. Evening temperatures were a different matter as we shall visit later.
The Reno/Sparks folks met at the Wedge Parkway McDonald’s at 9:30 am and left at 10 am to meet up with the Minden/Gardnerville folks in Genoa. Now eleven Porsches strong the tour left Genoa at 11 am with Graeme Biagi and Beverly Babcock in the lead and Ron and Denise Lewis as sweep, winding their way westward first on Foothill Rd and then on CA 88, up over Carson Pass and past Caples Lake before making a comfort stop at Silver Lake. Then it was on past Tragedy Springs, Ham’s Station, Cook’s Station and Buckhorn to Pioneer, CA, where we made a left onto Defender Grade Rd, then several miles later a right onto to CA 26. We followed CA 26 through West Point, Sandy Gulch, Rich Gulch and Happy Valley, resisting the temptation to visit Bummerville, until we reached Mokelumne Hill where CA 26 intersects CA 49. After a brief stop there the tour was under way again heading south on CA 49 through San Andreas to Angels Camp where we turned left on CA 4 and headed east toward Murphys.
Before reaching Murphys we detoured to our luncheon destination, the Twisted Oak Winery in Vallecito, CA.
There in an outdoor picnic area we enjoyed sandwiches and potato salad, sampled some wines, and were regaled by the owner who explained why a rubber chicken was displayed on each picnic table. Some interesting names to the wines here, who could forget “Chicken Bubbles”, “River of Skulls” and “Murgatroyd”.
Leaving Twisted Oak refreshed we proceeded directly to Murphy’s and checked into our lodgings at Murphys Suites. We were on our own for dinner that Friday night but most of us ended up dining with our favorite uncle “Al Fresco” at Rob’s Place, a short walk from our hotel. The food was good, portions were large, prices were reasonable and the space heaters were appreciated.
Saturday morning we walked to breakfast at Hillbillies, an even shorter distance from the hotel than Rob’s. At Hillbillies we were seated indoors, four to a table, and with the social distancing between tables so great that we needed binoculars to see who from our group was seated at another table.
Now properly fortified for wine tasting adventures we returned to the hotel and independently did our stretching in preparation for team limousine gymnastics. At 11 am the stretch limousine arrived at the hotel and we were off to the Chatom Winery in Vallecito, where the limo needed to make 3 trips to get everyone to the vineyard. The limo was a tight squeeze with limited headroom and no windows, but we got some good exercise climbing in and out and it was only a short distance to the winery. Those that had attended the 2019 wine tour reminisced fondly of the shuttle bus from that tour. Sadly, this limo had no pole, thus there was no pole dancing competition this year. Beverly assures us that the shuttle bus with pole will be back for the 2021 edition of the SNR Wine Tour.
Once we were reassembled at Chatom the tour director lead us inside their warehouse and sat us down at a long table, where we were surrounded by hundreds of French oak barrels happily at work doing what they do best, aging fine wine. What wonderful smells emanated from those barrels. Duly impressed by the size and scope of the warehouse, we concentrated on our work, diligently sampling wines from three different labels: Chatom; School Street; and, Hatcher. When our work was completed and our wine purchases made we re-boarded the limo in batches and returned to our hotel.
We left the hotel again at 1 pm to limo to Ironstone Vineyards for lunch. What a beautiful setting this winery is in, one of (if not) the best our wine tours have ever visited. Our lunch (shown below) consisted of 6 canapes, each paired with a sample of a different wine. The dry aged ribeye with a balasamic glaze, paired with old vine zinfandel, was by consensus the biggest hit.
Returning once more to the hotel we were free for the remainder of the afternoon to tour downtown Murphys with its tasting rooms or just relax at the hotel. Then Saturday evening we travelled by Porsche to the Old Murphys Hotel for cocktails at 6 pm, followed by an outdoor plated dinner. As it turns out,
Murphys is much cooler in the evening in late October than in August and the Old Murphys Hotel does not put out its space heaters until November, no matter how much their patrons shiver. Hence after an hour or so, while waiting for our dinners to arrive, many of us discovered that the coats and jackets that we were wearing were not quite up to handling the evening temperatures. We were forced to modify social distancing in the interest of survival and to return to the parking lot to retrieve blankets and additional clothing from our Porsches. Dinner when it came, much later than scheduled, was excellent and consisted of our choice of House or Ceasar salad and our pre-selected choice of entree (Surf &Turf, Stuffed Chicken, Roasted Duck, Pork Roulade, or Vegetarian Raviolis). Nobody abandoned the dinner early for warmer environs, either because Nevadans are a hardy bunch or we had paid for our dinners in advance (your guess). It was a great time and a fitting ending to another memorable wine tour. Beverly received a well deserved round of applause at the end of the evening for all her efforts in planning and re-scheduling this event.