Last weekend we decided to take a road trip to someplace we’ve never been before, so we headed to Murphys, CA, a little Gold Rush town in the Sierra Foothills. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive east of San Francisco, and it’s full of wineries, cafes, art galleries, restaurants—and a whole lot of history.
First stop: Ironstone Vineyards for a little wine tasting. Our pourer, Bob, was the nicest guy. The kind of down-to-earth guy you want as your neighbor. He pretty much gave us a sip of everything on the menu—and then some—as well as recos for dining and more wine tasting.
When we booked our hotel the week before, there was only one room left in town (and we soon found out why).
The annual Jumping Frog Jubilee was happening at nearby Angel Camp and there was a huge Harley-Davidson gathering. I’m assuming the two were related, although I hear the gatherings happen a few times a year. I have never seen so many motorcycles in one place. It made for a noisy weekend but was also kind of fascinating.
We had intended to check out the Saloon on Saturday night, a historic landmark hotel and bar, but decided to do it on a less rowdy weekend.
The town itself is really small, with maybe 3,000 people, so it was really easy to walk from one end to the other. Murphys kind of felt like Yosemite meets Sonoma: charming little historical buildings turned into storefronts, dining spots and tasting rooms, with a touch of the Wild West thrown in.
I have a thing for barns, and there were a bunch of them scattered around the main drag. They have so much character.
By the way, if you like red wine, check out the Villa Vallecito tasting room in town. Bob recommended it and they have a great Grenache and Payaso (which I hadn’t heard of before).
We also loved Grounds for breakfast. And Aria for takeout sandwiches. We never made it to Vee’s for dinner, but wish we had. Bob recommended those too.
There are three things we didn’t do, that I wish we had (and definitely had time for):
1. The Mercer Cavern tour: It’s 16 stories deep (the guide talked me out of it due to fear of heights but I think I could’ve done it).
2. Panned for gold (hey, you know…when in Rome…).
3. Checked out Angel’s Camp, which I thought was a state park, but is actually another small Gold Rush town, and ground zero for the jubilee. So again, maybe next time on a quieter weekend.
Which basically gives us at least three more reasons to go back.