Ironstone Vineyards is located 1.5 miles from the town of Murphys. The road to the winery starts about halfway through the town (take the road directly next to Murphy’s Hotel (a prominent historical landmark in town). As you get close to the winery you will see a number of vineyards. Ironstone grows not only grapes but also other crops such as apples. The owners have spent a significant amount of money and effort into building this into a major tourist destination; with that said the winery itself is off the beaten path but easy to find.
One of the central attractions here (besides the wine of course!) is the largest crystalline gold nugget in the world. Because of it’s size, prominence and value it is housed in it’s own thick display case within a sizable vault. This beautiful gold specimen weighs 44 pounds. It was part of the “Christmas” nuggets found at a now abandoned mine near Jamestown. This nugget was found on Christmas day in 1992. The mine was recognized for never producing gold of this caliber prior to this discovery – rather was focused on fine gold deposits. This large 44 pound piece was only a part of the rich pocket discovered that day.
Besides housing this large nugget, the Ironstone Museum contains numerous other pieces of gold. Some of these nuggets or crystaline specimens are for sale. During a recent visit we saw one beautiful piece of crystalline gold in quartz for $58,000. Most pieces start in the several thousand USD range. The museum also features many mining artifacts and various gemstones.
An original letter by Mark Twain hangs on the wall near the “Nugget room”. Admission to the museum is free.
The landscaping on this property would be the envy of most landscape designers. Tons of rock has been hauled in to make canals, walls and pathways. Slate has been creatively used to build mortar free walls for holding back dirt banks. A diversity of flowers are planted in between the rock walls and moss is growing near some of the walkways. One part of the property can be reserved for weddings – based on the significant amount of parking in their lower lot – some of these weddings perhaps get quite large.
Accessed via the lower lot are several ponds – visitors enjoy this scenic part of the property by strolling along paths among oak trees and around small well manicured lawns. Canadian geese and one or two swans call these ponds home. Unfortunately they have a bad habit of messing up the lawns nearest the ponds and the workers fight a never ending battle to sweep their turds back into the water.
Ironstone has their own catering service for weddings. During one visit we saw workers were removing chairs from an early wedding and setting up for another late afternoon wedding. Some parties prefer to have their receptions outside in this location while others would rather have it indoors in the elegant organ room.
Giant fermentation tanks and wine making equipment are located directly below the wine tasting room. These are stored in a large room/grotto complete along with tropical plants growing out of the sides of the walls. There are about 8 or 9 of these large tanks. They extend upwards for at least 30 feet. There is a metal stairway that extends from the ground level and winds its way among the top of the tanks. Across from the fermentation tanks there are two large doors. These are the entrances to the 10,000 square foot aging caverns. Most likely these will closed to keep the inside cooler then the outside which is often quite warm, especially in the summer months.
The caves are quite dark but there are light bulbs present at various locations. As soon as you enter your nose will smell the musty ever present smell of wine. If you walk to the end of the main cave you will find a small waterfall flowing, provided it has been turned on by the nearby switch. There are many smaller side caves, each stacked with hundreds of wine barrels. The inside temperature seemed to be in the low 60’s F and somewhat humid. This may be because of all the water that was on the floors and also from the water that was seeping out of some of the cave walls.
The upper parking lot is quite small (contains several handicapped spots) and is located within a short walk of the main entrance to the tasting room or to the museum. We have always been able to drive up here and find parking even though the winery is usually fairly crowded. Should you park in their lower lot, steps lead up to the entrance. The museum is located directly across from the tasting room. One other thing worth mentioning about the entrance are the large petrified stumps that have been incorporated into the landscape. These are situated next to a pathway between the winery and museum entrances.
Once inside the main winery you will see many decorations and the large wine tasting counter. This old wood counter was shipped around the horn of South America many years ago. Stairs near the tasting bar lead up to the Ironstone Art Gallery. A small deli is located near the tasting bar; this serves excellent lunches for a moderate price. The “Winemaker” is our recommended sandwich (roast beef).
Around the corner from the deli are stairs that lead to the great organ room. Sometimes, especially on the weekends, this room may be closed because of wedding receptions. This room is not only used for wedding receptions but other activities such as dances. The furnishings in this room are from another era. Several old original paintings hang on the walls along with numerous sculptures. The large pipe organ is located at the back of this room. This organ was rescued from Sacramento’s old Alhambra Theatre. This room will not be as impressive until you have someone on the winery’s staff play the organ. Then you will notice the excellent acoustics of the room and you will most certainly be impressed by it’s sound 🙂
For more information please visit their website: www.ironstonevineyards.com