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Murphys - The Other Wine Country & Calaveras Big Trees State Park
By Lynn Upthagrove

This is a really fun day trip, but could require a designated driver for visits to all the wine tasting rooms! From Groveland head down the hill on Route 120 to Highway 49 north, then follow to Angels Camp, about 45 minutes. Take a right onto Route 4 and follow past Murphys, and Arnold to Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

If touring the Sierra side of California, the groves of Big Trees from this park are wonderful, we think they are far better than the Groves one finds in Yosemite. The trees are easily accessible from the parking areas and there are far fewer tourists to contend with for the trails and photo opportunities here. There are miles of trails, and not all of them go up and down hills. We enjoy tramping about the wilderness for an hour or two before heading back into Murphys for the rest of the day.

When finished with a Big Trees adventure, head west again on Highway 4 to Murphy's. Entering Murphy's you will see a sign that claims to be the "other wine country." We fully agree. Our last trip to Murphy's we did a stop at most of the vineyard tasting rooms, starting with the country-side setting of Ironstone Vineyards, the only tasting room surrounded by their hillside grapes. To reach Ironstone, take a left at the old Murphy's Hotel and follow the signs, anther 2 miles.

Once at Ironstone, enjoy the tasting room and surrounding gift shop. Ironstone is a great location to have a nice lunch from the deli counter with views of the vineyards. We enjoyed the calm setting along with a glass of the reserve chardonnay. Ironstone is famous also for their 500,000 daffodil bulbs that all bloom together in March and their well-kept year round flower displays.

While at the Ironstone complex, take time to explore the museum and jewelry center. Having done two summer seasons of gold panning in a pre-innkeeper life, we were thrilled with their gold specimen, a huge 44 lb flakey nugget found in 1992 at the Jamestown mine and housed in true bank vault.

Ironstone has oodles of regular public events including concert series, black and white movie nights, parking lot sales of wine and more. From Ironstone return to Murphy's and explore the many tasting rooms in the downtown area. We always make time for Zucca Winery, found just off the main street up a bit from the park stepping down into a cave. The ambiance is warm and the wine most tasteful! We left with a bottle of port.

Next walk around the corner to Hatcher, one of our favorites both for the wine and the charm of Matt and his tasting room team. Victor thinks this year's Zinfandel is most outstanding. We bought a magnum. Twisted Oak with their whimsical gift shop and fun approach to everything is another worthy stop and their wines are good too!

Murphy's is a great walking village with good window shopping. We ventured into several galleries and antique shops and even found a good sign to use at the hotel: Gone Fishing carved in the side of a wooden fish. If we ever do get out fishing, we are now ready with a proper sign!

Don't overlook the antique plumbing store on the left, just beyond the old Murphy's Hotel, for bit of fussing about old porcelain and plumbing pieces. Even I had fun here. Amazingly they have the clawfoot tubs on the third floor, how did they get there and why the third floor? The Murphy's Hotel is a true step back in time. Here we tried an Australian wine and another local wine and enjoyed the impromptu guitar-sing-a-long performed by some regulars.

Lynn Upthagrove, along with her husband Victor, own the Hotel Charlotte, in Groveland, on the way to Yosemite.

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