PHOTO: Jo Diaz

SAMPLE: Quintessential Wines for Ironstone Vineyards:

Listening to “There’s No Way,” an upbeat Powerwalk Playlist on Spotify…

I’ve got this 2017 Leaping Horse Vineyard Chardonnay wine sitting on my desk, waiting to be opened; screwcap right there, just needs a twist. What’s holding me up? I just read something from Tasting The Past, The Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine, by Kevin Begos, and that’s what I’m about to do, Taste The Past, having worked with owners John and Gail Kautz. They also own Ironstone Vineyards, in Murphys, California. So, I thought it was entirely possible that I’ve tasted wine from the vineyards that have crafted this wine.

But then I read the label more carefully and saw “California” for the appellation… probably not. Now I have to taste it with a more open mind. First I’m going to share something really cool from Tasting The Past, about how we drink in the present form. It all has to do with wine – right here, right now.

“…In another study twenty-six people tasted three different wines, with and without classical music. They perceived the wine as tasting sweeter and enjoyed the experience more while listening to the … music than while tasting the wine in silence.'”

Opened the bottle and a sweetness wafted up… (It made me remember what I had just read. This blend of wine from California, primarily from the Chardonnay grape has other familiar, floral memories. Aha… 90 percent Chardonnay and 10 percent Viognier. Viognier rounds out anything with a romantic bouquet… I’m brought right back to the Sierras and that old Wild West town of Murphys.

This 2017 Leaping Horse Vineyard Chardonnay has very light and lively flavors of lemon and honeysuckle, lending itself really well with Asian-style foods. It makes me want to drive to our favorite Thai restaurant, and paying corkage for bringing it with us… It’s that well made. If variety is the spice of life, then this is both the variety and the spice!

[Yeah, so we went to get Thai food.]

I wonder if this wine would bring back some really sweet memories for you, if you listen to happy Powerwalk music, too.

I’m going to go off in a different wine blog story here, so I can connect the past with the present, because I had some really fun and some really mysterious times in the Sierras. Here’s one of the best.

[PHOTO: James John Sands]

A Howling Good Story in Murphys, California

Years ago, I worked for Ironstone Vineyards. The following story is one of my favorite memories, while working in the Sierra Mountains, happening in Calaveras County.

It was a two-and-a-half-year gig. I’d travel 185 miles from Sonoma County to Murphys, California once a week. I had always dreamed about being a cowgirl. Here, I was living it, if only for the moment. The most amazing moment came one of those nights in Murphys. Call it an omen of things soon to come, the magic of the full moon, call it anything you’d like… I call it a howling good memory.

After a day of driving, I went to the winery to work a bit. Once everything was finished, I checked into the Murphys Hotel, just like always. I preferred the front room, at the end of the hallway, to the left. The room has French doors that open to the street below. It’s a street that’s still narrow, as it was in those Wild West days. It’s just wide enough for a couple of horses to be tied to some post, perhaps  only 30 feet wide. Shops are still small, so I got to know people in most stores. It was really fun to explore. I’ll always be thankful; going back in time is such a hoot.

[I was staying upstairs in the left-hand room of this picture, on the second floor. Image is from the Wikimedia Commons.]

That front room could be a blessing or a curse, mostly depending on mood. Sometimes I minded that a saloon was directly below me; other times it didn’t bother me. I learned that there’s a frenetic energy going on when you’re directly above that old saloon, in a cowboy town that’s not much changed since the Gold Rush. The Murphys Hotel was built in 1856. I’d sit at the table between the glass doors and write things important to me.

How many of us can say they’ve been there, done that? Well, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Lipton, JJ Astor, Samuel Pillsbury, William Randolph Hearst, Daniel Webster, J. Pierpont Morgan, John Crocker, Mark Twain, Black Bart, Susan B. Anthony, John Wayne, Sunny Ficus (if they could talk), and I can say it. Murphys Hotel’s history does tell us somethings, but not all things.

Each night I’d head to the dining room for dinner. I had now been there long enough to know how to order my dinner. I had reduced it to a lowest common denominator, proving I could be just like, if not worse, than Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally.” You know that part when she ordered her food. This is what I’d come to love on their menu.

I’d say, “I’ll have your fried chicken dinner, but I only want two pieces of chicken instead of your usual four. I don’t want to waste any. And, I’ll have only one scoop of the rice, because – again – I don’t want to waste half of it. Please hold the veggies, because the salad I’m having is taking care of my vegetables… (The salad came with the dinner, so one-way-or-the-other, my veggies were covered.) And, a glass of wine.”

One night I got my bill and it read, “Senor Chicken.” I thought to myself, “Señor chicken? What an odd name for a dish to be called.” Then, it struck me; senior chicken, as in a small portion for the elderly. I’m still laughing.

So, this one night after Señor Chicken, I headed to my room. No TV, no clock, no phone, and a shared washroom down the hall. It was a full moon night, warm enough to throw open my French doors. I read while the noise of the bar below grew to its nightly crescendo with people and a band; it slowly faded away to the point of complete silence. I fell into a deep asleep.

PHOTO: fotobokeh

Then, while the town was quiet enough to hear a pin drop onto the street below, I heard a shrill howling off in the distance. It was far, far away; yet I felt the animal totem energy arrive in my spine, as I was awakened from a sound sleep.

Slowly and surely it became louder and louder, the energy coming closer and closer… howling at the moon, screaming at the tar beneath the pads of its feet, digging in with its claws to get better traction, closer closer. I was frozen… just frozen, now asking myself, “Why didn’t you get out of bed to see it?” But, I couldn’t move… my eyes were as wide as saucers. My heart was pounding, the sound passed right – under – my – window. I was no more than 20 feet from it, as it reached its crescendo. Then it receded into the distance, much more quickly than it arrived, as my heart was pounding. I was just simply in awe of being that close to something that played itself out like that, with no visuals, but highly evocative and a story to last a lifetime.