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Gold Country: Murphys, Calif.

Upscale tasting rooms and a fine vegetarian restaurant mix with a bit of gold lore.

Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys California, image
Photo caption
Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, Calif., also hosts a deli, a museum, a jewelry shop, an amphitheatre, caverns, and gardens.

Once a hodgepodge of miners’ tents and lean-tos, Murphys has aged well. Main Street, a leafy half-mile spur heading west from Highway 4, was visited by the likes of Black Bart and President Grant in its heyday and is now lined with picket fences, ambitious eateries, and more than 20 tasting rooms. The town is a good way to get into Calaveras Wine Country, home to the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance ( and an annual October grape stomp. But gold fever hasn’t been entirely usurped: The Ironstone Vineyards Heritage Museum prominently displays a 44-pound nugget of crystallized gold leaf. Calaveras Visitors Bureau: (209) 736-0049, Area code is 209.

to do
Cool and rock-walled, Lavender Ridge lures tasters with Rhône varietals and a tempting cheese counter. 425A Main St., 728-2441, Muir’s Legacy, owned and founded by naturalist John Muir’s great-grandson, produces wine from organically grown Napa grapes. The genial pourers are themselves fonts of local lore. 260 Jones St., 728-0500, Smack in the center of Main Street, Newsome-Harlow Wines’ sleek tasting room and outdoor patio feel hip and friendly. Calaveras Zinfandel rules here, and the staff dispenses recipes with pairing advice. 403 Main St., 728-9817, Cleanse your palate after a quick six-mile drive east to the Red Apple with a swig of pleasantly sweet cider, hot or cold. 4950 E. Hwy. 4, 728-8906, Sniff a different bouquet at the Spice Tin, a refurbished shed stocked with nearly 200 jars of aromatic seasonings, plus rare blocks of glowing pink Himalayan salt. 457 N. Algiers St., 728-8225,

Alchemy Market and Cafe offers lunch, dinner, and picnic supplies, but a between-meal snack of truffle fries and craft beer hits the spot. 191 Main St., 728-0700, The three tables inside tiny Aria Bakery & Espresso Café are often empty in good weather, so grab coffee and a spinach-ricotta croissant and step outside to join the chatter on the stoop. 458 Main St., Ste. B, 728-9250. Snag a bar seat and dig in to the varied vegetarian menu at Mineral, which includes a nightly prix fixe dinner and à la carte offerings such as “land scallops” (savory tofu) and a secret-recipe veggie burger. 419 Main St., 728-9743,

A carefully tended garden of roses, wisteria, and Dutch elms surrounds the Dunbar House, 1880. Equal attention is paid to period decor and an eclectic breakfast menu. 271 Jones St., 728-2897, To find a place to stay, visit

Photography by Gary Crabbe

Check out the rest of our Gold Country package:
Amador City: Antiques and boutiques
Angels Camp: More than Mark Twain
Jackson: Main Street meets mining town
Plymouth: Top-notch eats and wines
Sutter Creek: A handsome Gold Country base camp

This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.