Can I get an encore?
Encores used to be a special treat at concerts, reserved for occasions when musicians rocked it so hard the crowd demanded more.
Fast-forward to present day, when encores are programmed as part of the show. A schedule might even read: “Perform six songs, leave stage, wait 10 minutes while audience claps and yells, reappear on stage to wild enthusiasm, three more songs, call it a night.”
And so it went with Jason Mraz’s performance last Friday at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys. It wasn’t a bad concert, just a bit contrived. Sure, I clapped robotically during the encore, awaiting Mraz’s inevitable return, so I wasn’t completely annoyed. I was, after all, enjoying a concert with my girlfriends in a beautiful vineyard after spending the day in an enchanting Sierra Nevada foothills town.
Murphys at first appears to be a typical gold-rush town: about 2,000 residents, rustic buildings, welcoming businesses, vines crawling up white picket fences. But driving down Main Street is like finding the El Dorado of wineries. Every 10 yards is a wine-tasting room along the narrow thoroughfare, offering varietals such as zinfandel, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and even ice wine. Most tasting rooms are open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., some all week and others only Friday through Sunday. Many wineries only charge $3 to taste a whole flight while others offer free ones.
It’s impossible to visit all the tasting rooms—“20 wineries, 3 traffic lights” is the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance slogan—and we visited only four, two of which are a must.
Blasts of lavender greet customers at Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Winery. The tasting room offers a wonderfully smooth, floral 2007 viognier, as well as cheese pairings and olive-oil tastings. Hatcher Winery, hidden in the basement behind Lavender Ridge, is home to the smoothest syrah I’ve ever tasted. The winery also produces ice wine (2007 Quinn the Eskimo), a delicious dessert wine produced from frozen viognier grapes.
There is no wine snobbery in Murphys. Winemakers themselves often pour the tastes and chat with visitors about the winemaking process or debate about which team is better, the 49ers or Raiders. On days when Ironstone is hosting a concert, strangers discuss music at the tasting rooms and meet again with excitement at the concert venue. It’s like Mayberry, but with lots of fermented grapes.
As everyone filed out of the vineyards at the end of the concert, people I met during the day said goodbye to me by name: the bartender at the Murphys Historic Hotel, where I ate lunch; employees at the vineyards, who directed me toward the bathrooms; and fellow wine tasters I’d met during the day. It really did feel like Mayberry. And Murphys definitely deserves an encore.