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Posted September 2006

Murphys: Ironstone Vineyards

A Winery Destination

(MURPHYS, CA) – Ironstone Vineyards is a Tasting Room Destination. You can spend a full day at this winery and still maybe not explore everything it has to offer. Definitely the granddaddy of Calaveras wineries, Ironstone (still family owned) dwarfs most of the nearby facilities. The Ironstone compound sits on more than 1,100 acres and features at its center a 75,000 square foot, seven-story hospitality center.

At the heart of the hospitality center you will find the wine tasting bar, deli, and gift shop carrying clothing, gourmet food products, and other food related items. The grand space features a historic bar from 1907 that sailed around Cape Horn to its original home in a port outside of Sacramento, and a 42 foot high fireplace that is built of solid limestone and Calaveras Schist rock excavated during the construction of the wine caverns. Two patios allow deli patrons to enjoy the outdoors, and many indoor tables are set among an interesting collection of area antiques.

Opposite the entry to the wine tasting bar is the Heritage Museum and jewelry shop. The museum contains geological and historic artifacts from the area’s mining, agricultural, ranching and Indian communities. In a separate vault the world’s largest Crystalline Gold Leaf Specimen is kept. Weighing forty-four pounds, this piece of gold was discovered by the Sonora Mining Company on Christmas Day, in 1992, only fifteen miles from its current home at Ironstone. Estimated at more than $3 million dollars when it was found, the specimen is now considered priceless.

The Heritage Jewelry Shoppe showcases gold-in-quartz jewelry, natural gold nuggets and nugget jewelry, as well as a collection of diamond, emerald, turquoise and other precious and semi-precious gem artistry. You can even work with the staff to create your own design or one-of-a-kind piece. The Jewelry Shoppe also features collector pottery, Reidel stemware and rare objets d’arte.

The caves – blasted, picked, and shoveled through10,000 square feet of limestone and schist rock -- are what gave Ironstone Vineyards its name. The task to dig them took ten months to complete. The rock was so hard and difficult; the miners often said it was like blasting through iron. Thus, the name “Ironstone Vineyards” was born. Besides storing one million gallons of wine in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, the caves – and the breezeway located just outside -- are used for private parties, wedding receptions, plays, music shows and other events. If you are lucky enough to get a tour, there is something inside this cave that most wine caves don’t have – real bats.

Speaking of outside, there are 14 acres of gardens that are given over to mining displays, and opportunities to pan for gold with a real prospector. A riot of color in the form of rotating flower displays starts with 300,000 daffodil bulbs that bloom in March. Numerous public and private events all year long, including concerts, weddings, picnics, barbeques and games are held in the gardens and at the amphitheatre: of note among those is the spectacular Concours d'Elegance classic car show, and the summer concert series that hosts names like Heart, Kansas, and Bonnie Raitt (September 2006). For information on what’s playing at Ironstone, check out the events listing on or check out

If it is entertainment that you like with your wines, Ironstone hosts a series of silent movies, as well. Guests can enjoy dinner and the unique experience of watching the movie with live accompaniment on the Alhambra Theatre Pipe Organ. A 1927 theater organ saved from the Alhambra Theatre when it was torn down.
Culinary demonstrations and classes are the focus of the Culinary Center. The Center is equipped with overhead video cameras, television monitors and surround-sound acoustics. It is next to the Alhambra Music Room, and located on the 5th floor of the 7-story complex. The 1,560 square foot Culinary Center host group luncheons and private dinners.

The beautiful grounds are a favorite with wine country brides, and Ironstone is happy to facilitate many weddings – usually around 80 a year, most of which are booked a year in advance. Ironstone has a Bridal Room located by the Heritage Jewelry Shoppe that gives couples a place to look at wedding photos and talk to event coordinators. The Heritage Jewelry Shoppe offers bridal accessories, and selection of gifts, as well as a bridal registry.

If you are interested in visiting Ironstone, the tasting room is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm (6pm in the summer). Check out their website for more information, or to plan a visit.

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