We make it to Murphys!

It’s Monday, and the crowds are gone in Murphys. There are parking spots on Main Street; this is a tourist destination, so many businesses take Monday and Tuesday off. But the sun is shining, and it’s a glorious day, and we are even in shorts! Off we go.

All smiles at Tanner Vineyards!

First off is Tanner Vineyards. We discovered this gem years ago, and are both heads-over-heels in love with it. We are hoping that they have some wine left after the crowds at the wine festival in Murphys this last weekend. The door has an Open sign, so we are hopeful. Christie greets us as we walk in, and shows us a tasting menu, which looks really promising. 

We start off with a 2020 Jaqueline Rose; typically, both Terri and I love Rose’ for summer sipping on hot summer days on the patio, but this one leaves us both underwhelmed. We quickly move on to their T Brut Sparkling, and are blown away. It’s the best sparkling wine I have tasted the entire trip. Made from French Colombard and Chardonnay grapes, it is full of flavor, rich and full-bodied for a sparkling wine. And it does seem to have maybe a wee bit more sugar, which fits nicely with the grapes.

Next is their 2019 Med Red, with 70% Mourvedre, 15% Barbera and 15% Petite Sirah. Oh.My.Gosh. Giant and juicy with mildly tannic fruits and a great mouthfeel. A bit spicy with dark berry and a loooong finish. Why do they call it Med Red? Because this will definitely go with tomato-based dishes from the Mediterranean, from pasta to pizza. 

On to a 2019 Barbera. Oh so rich and luscious! Their notes say Strawberry Preserves; I almost got cherry cough syrup, but in a good way. Some wines just don’t show up for me unless they are paired with food, which always makes both the food and the wine sing together. This wine, for me, is exceptional just by itself, and would need big and bold food to stand up to the massive flavors. 

We finish with a 2018 Reserve Petite Sirah. We’ve tasted a LOT of Petite Sirah on this trip, and found several we loved. We found this one to be true to the grape, with balanced but reticent fruit, and a very light body with a shorter finish. Oh well, saved me a bit of $$ there. We made our purchase, and had them hold it while we continued to check out Murphys, including a couple of recommendations Christie made for us.

The old Murphys Hotel is right next to Tanner, which another couple who was tasting recommended for lunch; since our favorite restaurant was closed, we decided to give it a try. This historic charmer was built in 1855, and is still going strong today. Who stayed here in the past? Mark Twain (he got around), Horatio Alger, General U.S. Grant, Black Bart, Susan B. Anthony, John Jacob Astor and J.P. Morgan. While it suffered some damage in the Great Fire of 1859, the damage was minimal as it was built of stone, and had steel fire doors.

Murphys Hotel has a large outdoor dining area shaded by large trees, and an old horse-drawn covered surrey used to transport guests as a focal point. Terri had a Portabella sandwich with roasted red pepper, and I had a Southwest Chicken wrap. They were both quite good, and it was an enjoyable place to dine. Thus fortified, we headed back out.

Next up, Newsome-Harlow Cellars. The building itself has kind of an odd layout, as the storefront is set back from the street by maybe 50’. This creates a kind of narrow courtyard perfect for outdoor tasting. We meet River, a delightful young woman who is a wonderful ambassador for this winery. She starts us off with a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc “The drinking water of Murphys” according to their tasting sheet. Terri liked it a lot; enough to buy a bottle. The 2021 Rose’ of Sangiovese was okay, but didn’t quite meet the mark to buy a bottle. Ditto with the 2019 Derailed, a Cab-Mer blend that was a bit tannic, with the fruit somewhere in the background.

What’s this? A Carignane? (Or is that a Carignan?) No matter, it wasn’t on the tasting list, but what a wine! Typically this is a blending wine – in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen or tasted it as a single varietal. I found it really hard to categorize what I was tasting, finally settling on red apple peel. Terri gave me a quizzical look – “I get nutmeg” she said. We both found it very appealing, a revelatory look at an overlooked grape, nicely produced with just the right amount of fruit with smooth tannin’s playing a supportive role in the background. 

The big – and I mean big – surprise was the 2019 Foothill Zin. Seriously, it was every bit as good as what we had tasted in Sonoma. My notes say “Fruit – not too big, not small. Spice, well integrated with tannin’s. Bargain – like $45 Sonoma.” For only $25? Even with ALL the Zin we bought earlier, I could not pass this up.

On to the 2019 Sirah. Nice! Really great fruit, great body and spice with a hint of earthy herbs on the finish. We finished up with a 2019 Petite Sirah. Hmm,all I said was “Maybe a bit young, with promise to get better as tannin’s decline.” Well, that was fun! 

Christie had recommended a couple of other wineries – Jazz, known for their Pinot Noir, and Broll. Unfortunately, Jazz was closed, and Broll – well, the interesting thing is that it appears their wines appeal to a substantial number of people, just not us.

Last but not least, the smell of fresh waffle cones lured us into an ice cream shop, where we forced ourselves to limit our purchases to two scoops each. So good, and a perfect way to wrap up our visit. And cut! What a fun day, wandering this charming  town, reading the historical plaques, checking out small shops, eating good food and tasting great wine. Murphys, we will return!

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