• UPCOMING EVENTS: Irish Day, March 16; Grape Stomp and Street Faire, Oct. 5.; Day of the Dead, Nov. 3-4; and Open House, Dec. 6.
• DIRECTIONS: From Manteca: North on Highway 99; take Farmington Road exit and make a right onto Farmington/Highway 4; left on Murphys Grade Road; slight right onto Main Street.
• WEB: www.visitmurphys.com.
MURPHYS – She gathered my hand in hers as we traced our way through the Gold Country; traced our way back through time.
As we climbed higher and higher out of the Valley, the noise and static of our day-to-day life dropped off until...
There was nothing; nothing but the sound of anticipation and the wind in our window.
What would we do? What would we eat? Where would we stay?
She smiled at me devilishly, because only she knew the finer details of this adventure. This was her Valentine’s Day gift to me – a quick getaway to Murphys for some wine and fine dining.
Just her and I. No kids. No puppies. No bills, yard work, soccer games or gymnastics to pull us in opposite directions.
Only we weren’t alone.
The world turned its focus on Murphys last weekend, transforming this sleepy retirement community of about 2,000 into a pulsating, sometimes combustible, meeting of wine connoisseur and wine consumer.
Thousands lined Main Street for a two-day event known simply as Presidents Wine Weekend, toting their glasses and conversations from one tasting room to the next.
The event was hosted by the Calaveras Winegrapes Alliance and showcased the foothill’s very finest reds and whites.
We dabbled, of course. Our Saturday afternoon stroll went something like this:
We began at Chiarella, a family owned winery with a tasting room near Murphys Historic Hotel. Husband worked the lobby – pouring wine from one hand and clutching a broom in the other. His wife worked the bar and handled the money.
We moved on to Newsome-Harlowe for a few pours and left impressed more with the outdoor ambiance (read: fire pits, couches) than the wine itself. That’s no knock on their reds – the lounge was ahhh-some.
Our afternoon took off at Twisted Oak, where a sign near the bar seemed to set the mood. It read: Wine in, secrets out.
True to form, the room was alive with chatter and big-belly laughter. We met a local couple that introduced us to Twisted Oak’s signature draw: The Potty Mouth, a peppery, award-winning red.
We later paired our wine with chocolate at Frog’s Tooth and then enjoyed a front-yard atmosphere at Hovey Winery’s downtown home. All that was missing were Red Cups and a horseshoes pit.
At 5 o’clock, we dipped into Zucca Mountain Vineyard’s three-level tasting house for an after-hours glass. We were seated in the courtyard by a fire pit, where we recounted the successes (Twisted Oak, Newsome-Harlowe) and failures (wine-stained shirt, purple lips) of our stroll.
We left shortly before noon on Sunday, just as Main Street began to fill with the Day 2 crowd.
Couples young and old collected in the nooks and sitting areas, waiting for the shops and taste rooms to unlock their doors. A steady stream of cars and trucks roared off Highway 4. And though we were all reminded of how fragile and fleeting life can be – an early morning fire gutted Renner’s Winery, shaking the tight-knit community – there was a familiar sense of anticipation and excitement in the air.
We vowed to come back, drunk off the charm, slow pace and isolation the “Queen of the Sierra” had shown us.
And there’s good reason to come back.
Wine Weekend marked the beginning of Murphys’ event calendar.
On March 16, Main Street will be blocked off as revelers and vendors paint the street green for Irish Days. Locals are bracing for tens of thousands of visitors.
Then there’s the Grape Stomp and Street Faire on Oct. 5, the Day of the Dead celebration on Nov. 3-4, and Murphys’ Open House – a Christmastime celebration – on Dec. 6.
In other words: Three very good reasons to leave the noise and static of your day-to-day life on the Valley floor.
If only for a night.
— JAMES BURNS
209 staff reporter