By Linda J. Bottjer

Striking it rich was what brought many to this region starting in the mid 19th century. 162 years later seekers of riches now know it is the fermented liquid of crushed grapes that puts Calaveras County on the map of exploration for wine lovers of all levels.

(credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

Irish Vineyards
2849 Highway 4
Vallecito, CA 95251
(209) 736-1299

A bold spirit prevails in winemaker Russell Irish. Making wine before he was able to legally able to
drink it he and his wife Joan, now offer a full range to be enjoyed with any meal or budget. Under the De Irey’s label Tempranillo, Petite Sirah and Merlot are offered along with a Late Harvest Zinfandel. A full-flavored Barbera is welcome wherever grilled meat is served. Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Pinot Grigio are among the white offerings along with a Malvasia Bianca. The Irish’s Celtic heritage is joyfully celebrated with their Kilkenny and Blarney whites and reds and the Pog Mo Thoin. The latter is a Gaelic response, regarding lips and butts to those who are snobby about wine.

Chatom Vineyard owner Gay Callan (credit: Maria Camillo)

Chatom Vineyards
1969 Highway 4
Douglas Flat, CA
(209) 736-6500

Whatever the season – a sense of gracious serenity prevails at Chatom Vineyards. Owner Gay Callan is key to the contentment she and her staff offer guests with the pouring of the wines. Over 30 years ago she was a pioneer in the county’s renewed wine industry when her first vineyard was planted. Now her passion coupled with the skills of winemaker Mark Künz offers a diversity of wines. Citrus and stone fruit aroma and taste define their Semillion while the Sauvignon as a spiced herbaceous nose.

The often-buttery Chardonnay characteristics are replaced with the brightness of pears, peaches and tart apple flair. Red wines feature Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Curvee has deep dark chocolate with a bit of spice as the Gitano – Sangiovese is lighter with a white chocolate and cheeried taste accented by fruit and a bit of anise.

(credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

Lavender Ridge Winery
425 A Main Street
Murphys, CA
(209) 728-2441

Step into the stoned tasting room of Lavender Ridge and your nose is greeted with a vast array of aromas. Like its name lavender can be found in both food and therapeutic products along with an alcoholic sweetness of wines and the pungency of cheese. The winery’s dedication to the pairing of food and wine is confirmed with a case stocked by local cheese monger Judy Creighton who is also a core instructor at the Cheese School of San Francisco. Wines available include a spritely Roussanne and Grenache Rose. Syrah is available on its own and founded blended with Mourvedre, Grenache, and Alicante Bouschet in the Cotes du Calaveras. Finish a meal with the Vin Doux Dessert Wine redolent with of a summer day’s smell and flavors of honeysuckle, violets and peaches.

(credit: Linda J. Bottjer)

Twisted Oak Winery
4280 Red Hill Road
Vallecito, CA
(209) 736-9080

Bring your sense of the absurd whether you visit Twisted Oak’s tasting room either in Vallecito or along Main Street in Murphys. The former location can be approached by either a normal ascending road or a winding trail through the Rubber Chicken Forest, with its rubberized fowl found on signs or hanging from trees. They are also in Murphys, but have to share the facility with the curious ghost. Spirited frivolity is the hallmark of owners Jeff and Mary Stai as is the ability for Twisted Oaks’ wines to please many. A Rioja-style blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha defines the Spaniard. Parcel 17 is another big blend made from Monastrell (Mourvedre), Mazuelo (Carignane), and Graciano (Graciano). Viognier and Petit Sirah celebrate their Rhône Valley inspirations while the kitchen blend of Ol’ Chumbucket can be found in a wine loving pirate’s musings of great taste.

Linda Bottjer is a full time writer whose love of California wine leads her on many grape adventures. Her
work can be found at