"The Editor's Vineyard--Ironstone takes title as the most "beautiful winery in the world"


It was a rewarding experience. We were seated on the outdoor patio enjoying a Deli lunch in most serene surroundings. The man across from us described how he had fulfilled a long time plan and goal.

The man is John Kautz and it has been his desire to build and operate the most beautiful winery in the world. And with Ironstone Vintners, located at Murphy's, California in the Sierra foothills, he had done just that.

That morning this Writer and Sandy Esau, of the Tuolumne Visitors Bureau, with Conrad Levasseur, Ironstone's assistant manager as our guide, had spent some hours on a tour which included a museum that houses among other treasures the largest crystalline gold specimen found in the past century. Then an outdoor exhibit of early gold mining equipment beside what is a man made creek and lake. Also an outdoor amphitheater that attracts hundreds of people to enjoy famous entertainers.

All of this surrounding a working state of the art winery that is marketing its wines throughout the U.S. and most of the developed countries of the world under the Ironstone and several other labels. One arrives at Ironstone through massive gates on a road that winds past a vineyard surrounded by rolling green hills, many still with their crowns of natural forest. Then the massive building on several levels that houses the winery, the tasting room, and a spacious hall for indoor events. This Hall is filled with antiques and also includes a restaurant sized kitchen.

We found John to be a warm, friendly man with a deep love for California and especially the Central Valley and foothills that have been his home for all his seventy plus years. John was born and raised in Lodi on a farm that is still his home. Through vision, hard work and perseverance he has built Ironstone Vineyards from the ground up. His properties also include a working ranch and several thousand acres of vineyards in the Lodi appellation.

As usual with this man he is looking to the future and his next project at Ironstone will be an adjoining hotel and resort where visitors can stay awhile to enjoy it all. During our delightful lunch our conversation covered several subjects on the future of the California where both of us have spent our lives.

As we parted I thanked him for the lunch and meeting and told him that after visiting wineries in eight countries and more than a dozen states I was completely convinced that indeed he had the most beautiful winery in the world.

He graciously invited me to return to Ironstone in the Spring to see the daffodils in bloom. I told him I would certainly try.

Single vineyard

Geyser Peak has a winner in their concept of Block Collection wines selected from single vineyards that are proven to provide unusual quality. The 2002 Geyser Peak Block Collection Cabernet Sauvignon is from a single hillside Alexander Valley vineyard. From this vineyard at the elevation of 1,100 feet Winemaker Mick Schroeter selected the grapes for this vintage. Think quality here with intense, rich flavors that last and last. Remarkably smooth for such a structured wine. Impress your guests with this wine. Priced at $42.

Dry Creek Valley was the location for this viognier block wine from Geyser Peak. The Preston Vineyard supplied the grapes which were then fermented and then aged five months in oak barrels. The Geyser Peak Block Collection 2004 Viognier offers a rich variety of flavors and despite its time in barrel we could not distinguish any oak flavors. The wine is true to the varietal to be enjoyed for sipping or light cuisine. Priced at $19.

Summer picnics come to mind with two white wines made for outdoor activities. Two, easy both on the palate and the pocketbook, are 2004 ForestVille Sauvignon Blanc and 2003 ForestVille Gewurztraminer. Winemaker Michael Donich kept the alcohol at 11.8 per cent on the Gewurztraminer making it perfect for sharing on a picnic. Stainless steel kept the Sauvignon Blanc full of its classic fruit flavors. Both priced at $5.99.

Call it marketing which is what the Three Thieves and their recently introduced one liter Tetra-Pak wine, named Bandit, is all about. Tetra-Paks of wine have been popular in Europe for years but the last time they were introduced in this country they did not take hold with the consumer. Perhaps the timing is better this time around.

Bandit 2002 Caberenet Sauvignon comes in a one liter box with attractive purple and black tones. The wine is 90 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 10 per cent Syrah. Winemaker Joel Gott has kept the alcohol at a modest 13.3 per cent alcohol while the wine itself has rather robust flavors and should please most palates. It is certainly a convenient package for camping and outdoor activities with its easy open and closing cap. Priced at $7.

Call us a wimp if you may but we do like lower alcohol wines especially during the summer months and in Southern California where we live this means well into October. So we approved of Winemaker Robert Stashak's releases of 2004 Coastal Ridge Gewurztraminer at 12.1% alcohol and the 2004 Coastal Ridge Johannisberg Riesling at 11.9%. There is no mistaking the spice of this Alsace varietal and it shows nicely in this bottling. We enjoyed our $7 bottle atop 8,000 foot Campo Alto recently on a day's picnic away from 100 degree San Fernando Valley heat.

Germans often produce their rieslings with less alcohol knowing lower alcohol takes nothing away from the flavors of this varietal. We used Bob's Riesling to go with shrimp cocktails and seared Ahi Tuna served on our patio. And none of our fussy guests complained. Also easy on the wallet at $7.

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Last Update:9/15/05

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