Our last stop and lunch destination was Metate Hill Vineyards tasting room in downtown Murphys. Where Brice Station is the highest winery on Highway 4, Metate Hill’s winery is the lowest and the first one you come to when headed up the hill. Metate Hill has occasional tastings at the winery where you can see the metate (Native American grinding rocks) the winery is named after but Murphys is where the main tasting room is located.
The owner, Mike Stange, is also on the board of the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance and has held a two tastings of Calaveras County wines at Fine Wines of Stockton. His wines are Spanish varietals, Albarino, Tempranillo, Graciano, etc. Mike has done extensive traveling in Spain and is an expert on Spanish wines. Interestingly he makes two Albarino’s, one unoaked (Acero) as traditionally made and one that spends some time in barrel (Barrica). The Barrica has a darker color and a deeper flavor than the Acero. Mike mentioned that it is age-able for several years while the Acero is a drink now wine.
He also makes two Garnacha/Carinena blends, a Joven and a Crianza. The Crianza is left in the barrel longer than the Joven. It was interesting to taste the difference between the two. We also tasted two Tempranillo from consecutive vintages, it is always interesting to see the vintage differences.Along with the tasting room with a beautiful curved bar, concrete that looks like granite, there is a banquet hall and apartment upstairs that can be rented out. They can handle groups up to fifty and have a kitchen and can cater meals. When we arrived Mike had it all set up for our lunch with a small wine bar and a selection of Spanish cheeses, olives and spreads with crackers. There was a three piece band set up playing music and we really felt welcome.
We started off tasting the various wines and eating tapas as George and Gail unpacked the box lunches they had brought for everyone. Nancy and I split a lunch since we had had so many tapas. Mike put a couple of bottles of wine, one white and one red, out for us to have with lunch plus we could continue re-tasting any of the other wines. Mike talked about his wines and his wine making philosophy and indicated which tapas went best with each wine. Fun and educational!
After we finished lunch and had enough wine for the day we spent an hour or so wandering around the town of Murphys. Lots of stores of various kinds along with ice cream and cheese shops. Then it was time for the bus ride home. Other than the driver I don’t think anyone stayed awake for the trip. Overall a very fun wine tasting trip and we have a new appreciation for Calaveras County wines.