Thursday, November 20, 2014



"I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree..."  Thank you Joyce Kilmer.
I love trees.  I like flowers OK, white or faded pink peonies come to mind... or white or pink French tulips... but I love trees... the firs, oaks, maples, even dogwoods and birches I grew up with in Bayside, Queens, Long Island, New York... and all the trees I've met on the roads I've traveled. I love hiking, or just meandering in woods and forests, but nothing prepared me for the 10.15 square miles of Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Mark Twain country.

At the suggestion of my brother Bob, we all decided to take a break from wine tasting, get a picnic lunch and go to Big Trees, a forest he had explored before.  We set out early, making a pit stop for sandwiches at the deli in the Ironstone Vineyards tasting room and set out for our adventure in the woods.

I've seen tall trees before -- stately redwoods along side the road to Mendocino for example, but nothing prepared me for Sequoias.  Tall, yes!  But the circumferences of these trees were staggering! 

This 'stump' was once used as a dance floor

 Hollow out the lower part of the trunk and there would be enough room for a family of four to live comfortably.  Well, maybe not comfortably, but you get my point.

Tunnel in fallen tree trunk

Grab a cot and move in
We hiked the trails as I continued to be awed at the Sequoia's size and beauty.

And like most forests, the aroma was sooooo sweet.  It was the best of times.

Did I mention I love trees?  Here's a pictorial ode to them.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park
1170 California 4
Arnold, California 95223

Saturday, November 8, 2014

PANNING FOR GOLD - Ironstone Vineyards

Ironstone Vineyards

Who knew when my brother Bob suggested we all meet in Angel's Camp, California, Gold Rush country, that we'd find liquid gold?  Well, Bob did even if I didn't.  Mark Twain might have lived here in his one room cabin and panned for the elusive nugget with the miners back in the day...

...but today's gold is definitely the wine made from the region's thriving vineyards. 

Ironstone is no exception. But Ironstone offers more than good wine.... it's a cornucopia of caves...

Bob & Nguyen exploring the caves

... waterfalls...

... wooded paths...

... a museum...

... a gift shop, a terrific deli, and one of the largest gold nuggets on the planet. This is what a 44-pound gold nugget looks like!

It's almost as tall as Nguyen
Put in a cot, throw in a pillow and you could live there.

And just below the tasting room is the Alhambra "Robert Morton" pipe organ saved from the Sacramento famed Alhambra Theatre before it was demolished.

Just sit down...

... turn it on and be engulfed in the "Phantom of the Opera."

To reach Ironstone, you drive past the vineyard...

 ...and up to the beautiful stone building that houses the tasting room/museum/gift shop/deli. 

 Inside, you find yourself in a vast room with a tasting bar, wine displays, stone fireplace and that deli.

 Richard, Bob, Nguyen and I would explore the rest of the property later -- but first it was time to do a little wine tasting.

Kathy was our barista...

...and the first pour of our flight was the 2011 Elevation White ($17.85), a viognier blend that had a hint of nutmeg.  Loved it.

The 2013 Chardonnay ($11.99) was a tarty apple and pear wine with vanilla and oak notes.  Lovely.

Next was the 2013 Obsession "Symphony," a blend of muscat and grenache grapes that would pair well with Thai or Indian food.

On to the reds:  The 2013 Cabernet Franc ($11.99)  had rich berry flavors, coupled with a toasty vanilla 'nose.'  Sound good?  It was.

The 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel ($11.99) is a wine with subtle pepper flavors mingled with hints of ripe red fruit.  Rich and delicious.

2010 Elevation Red ($23.00) is a medium bodied wine, with spice and clove aromas and tastes of chocolate and vanilla.  This Elevation was a revelation.

Next was the 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($25.00) with dark blackberry and plum flavors and scents of cassis, black currents and vanilla beans.  My nose and tongue were both happy.

My favorite wine of the flight was the 2010 Reserve Deaver Old Wine Zinfandel ($28.00) which had all the aromas and flavors of a fine zin... berries, cherries and chocolate.  Delicious.

If you find yourself in the Sierra Foothills, venture over to Ironstone in the town of Murphys.  Enjoy the museum, walk the paths, explore the caves, have lunch - but most of all - try the wine.  Moderately priced with expensive 'tastes' this is one time you'll get champagne taste on a beer pocketbook.


Ironstone Vineyards
3675 Six Mile Road
Murphys, California