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Calaveras County Continued...   But the area also attracted farmers and merchants during the 1850s, many of whom were from Italy and France. These immigrants brought with them grape vine cuttings and winemaking skills from their homeland and soon Calaveras had a thriving wine trade. The Mission grapes originally brought by the Spanish were quickly replaced with European varieties more common to the areas the immigrants had just left. One grape that was a favorite for its great fruit and robust tannins was the Zinfandel. Here was a grape capable of producing wines similar to those the immigrants had made in Italy and Slovakia and it thrived in the Mediterranean climate. Like many of the great wine regions of California, Calaveras still has a few of those old vineyards in production today creating fruit with incredible depth and complexity of flavor.

Laraine winesThe wine region flourished for years and was soon one of the largest in the state with wineries numbering roughly 100. But then gold fever died here like it had in the rest of the state and the demand for local wine died with it. At the same time Europe was recovering from the Phylloxera epidemic and the drop in demand for California wine created a glut. That combined with the loss of the railroad and the passing of Prohibition pretty much spelled the death of the wine industry in Calaveras for half a century.

This all changed when Barden Stevenot, a 5th generation resident of Calaveras County, purchased the Shaw Ranch in the 1960s. He planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfandel vineyards and then followed with Stevenot winery in 1978. Steve Millier, with Milliaire Winery in 1983, followed Stevenot a few years later. The success of these two wineries encouraged many others to follow, and today there are eighteen family-owned and operated wineries that call Calaveras home. These wineries produce an incredible array of fine wines based on the multitude of microclimates and the significant elevation change found in this section of the foothills. The area offers a large number of great Zinfandels as well as some wonderful Cabernet Francs. There are several wineries that produce a wide selection of Spanish style wines as well as Rhone and Italian varietals.

Currently there are twelve wineries with one or more tasting rooms located in the historic Gold Rush town of Murphys making a weekend trip to the area a great adventure. Beyond the tasting rooms, shops, restaurants and over night accommodations the town offers a great deal of historic attractions that can make the trip fun for the whole family. But don’t forget to visit the other seven wineries that call Calaveras home or you will certainly be shortchanging yourself. It is well worth the short trips beyond the tasting room cluster to see all the area has to offer. Oh, and be sure to tell them Sierra Wines sent you! Back to Page 1