Ignore that date on the calendar that signals the first day of spring; in wine country, spring starts in February with the first blanket of wild mustard blooms in the vineyards and the first mention of the Mother Lode Daffodil Show at Ironstone Vineyards (the Spring Obsession poster unveiling is a signpost, too). Judging by the large caravan of visitors to Calaveras County over the past couple of weeks, spring is definitely starting early, as more people are getting out of town and up to the Gold Country for wine and recreation.
When I think of spring I think fresh berries, daffodils and painted eggs, and luckily there is a wine whose color and flavor nuances blends perfectly with spring. Rose has grown in popularity and had its largest peak in 2016, surpassing all other varietals in growth in the marketplace. It turns out that younger millennials love Rose and the biggest rise in demographic was seen in men. As young men who grew up with parents who wore pink polo shirts from the preppy handbook spouting the phrase “Real men wear pink,” they have happily embraced the blush-colored vino with its tickle of strawberry on the palate and hints of jasmine on the nose. Men across the country have eagerly taken to their handheld devices to shout #YESWAYROSE and, being the social creatures, they followed in their parents’ legacies to coin a new moniker: “Brose.”
A favorite Rose in Calaveras comes from Ayrael Vieux Winery, where a dry Rose with hints of strawberry, peach and citrus and soft floral and spice notes is produced. Only 45 cases are made of this small-production organic Rose from estate-grown Sangiovese grapes. Tanner Vineyards has a beautiful, bubbly Rose and Black Sheep Winery’s Lily Pad Rose is an off-dry style with loads of bright strawberry flavors. Both of these Roses are true spring in wineglasses.
For the ultimate parlay into spring, be sure to visit Ironstone Vineyards for the 22nd annual Mother Lode Daffodil Show on March 18 and 19. Master Gardener Larry Ringland – who has worked for the Kautz family for 45 years, much of that at the winery near Murphys – is responsible for planting what has grown to an estimate of more than 700,000 bulbs, more than 300,000 of them being daffodils. During the event staged by the Northern California Daffodil Society and the Calaveras County Garden Club, visitors take in stunning views and pots of flowers and bulbs as well as 1,000 individual cut daffodils in every color and size imaginable on display for judging in the Heritage Room.
While at the winery, visit the Spring Obsession Art Show in the music room and pick up some Obsession Symphony wine, a white, or the new Red Obsession blend, which will be offered at a special promotional price during the month of March.
When you think of aging wines, you typically think of dusty oak barrels hidden away underground or piled high in a warehouse, but one centuries old winemaking technique that is being resurrected consists of aging wine in giant concrete eggs. Typically reserved for white wines, the use of egg-shaped concrete containers has been around for centuries in Europe, but is catching on here in Calaveras County. The egg-shaped vortex is said to produce a more complex wine than stainless steel, due to the lack of edges and the porous concrete. This produces a better mouthfeel and lets the fruit take center stage.
Some winemakers believe there is special power in the egg shape and that an upright egg concentrates the celestial energy, which connects the energies of the cosmos to the energies of the Earth. As for our local winemakers’ theories, you’ll have to ask Rich Gilpin of Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Winery and Coppermine Winery, or Scott Klann at Newsome Harlow for their takes on the biodynamics of winemaking. Both are proud owners of concrete eggs and are currently producing varietals from these mystical capsules.
For more about concrete eggs’ use in wine production, the Calaveras Wine Alliance debuts its newly formatted Calaveras Uncorked Wine Education Series, which was rebranded and restructured from its previous incarnation that has grown to become very familiar to wine consumers here: Wines of the World. The new series will utilize existing members and winemakers who will provide more in-depth tastings and discussions of their wines, their winemaking practices and their histories here in Calaveras. An emphasis on Calaveras wines will be prominent with each winemaker host offering comparison tastings of various wines from our neighboring or global markets.
Kicking off the new series on Thursday at 6 p.m. is winemaker and winery owner Gilpin, who has more than 30 years in the wine industry and is respected for his winemaking history and experience with Rhone and Bordeaux varietals and his family’s passion for organic farming and culinary arts. Gilpin specializes in native yeast-fermented French wines and has utilized ovoid egg tanks in his production methods, which will be tasted Thursday along with a few other wines that use the same methods.
Save the date for the next education series presentation on June 8, when winemaker Steve Millier showcases the expansive portfolio of Ironstone Vineyards’ wines and discusses its commitment to sustainable farming and winemaking. Ironstone Vineyards reserve wines, along with Lodi appellation counterparts produced by the winery will be featured.
For more about the Calaveras Uncorked Wine Education Series staged at the Murphys Hotel, or to purchase tickets to either of these events, visit calaveraswines.org or download the Uncork Calaveras mobile app to stay up to date on wine events in the county and future education topics and guests.
There is plenty of live music around Calaveras to get you into the spring groove. Stevenot Winery’s Wine Down Friday series has Lucks playing on April 7. The tasting room at 458 Main St., No. 3, Murphys, offers small cheese plates and wine by the glass every first Friday of the month and it’s a great way to relax and usher in the weekend.
Keep an eye out for announcements from Vino Metate’s new tasting room in downtown Angels Camp, where some great music and events are planned around St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. The tasting room is known for its after-hours music scene in Murphys when that tasting room was across from the Murphys Hotel and the owners look forward to bringing that same excitement to Angels Camp.
Milliaire Winery continues its Locals’ Night Barrel Room Bash on Saturday, April 8 with live music by the Experimentalist with food on sale. Admission is free and the music begins at 6 p.m. Visit milliairewinery.com for more; this winery always seems to keep its wine club members hoppin’ with events and activities.