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Ironstone Vineyards: Bringing more than wine to the Sierras

There are a lot of reasons to visit Ironstone Vineyards in Sierra Foothills town of Murphys. Ironstone offers wine tasting, of course, but also silent movies, caverns tours and cooking classes. The vineyard also boasts a Heritage Museum with artifacts from the gold rush era and a popular jewelry shop. Along with all these entertainment options, Ironstone also has an outdoor amphitheatre for concerts. It's no wonder that Ironstone Vineyards was voted the Best Venue for Live Entertainment in the 209.

Ironstone Vineyards is family-owned and operated by Gail and John Kautz and was built as a modern replica of an 1859 Gold Stamp Mill that has grown since the caves were constructed in 1989. Originally owned by Bauer Kramer, Gail’s father, it was called the Kramer Ranch and was a working cattle ranch. Even today, part of the property is still a working horse and cattle ranch.

John Kautz started developing Ironstone over many years starting with the formation of the caverns to age barrels of wine. Miners blasted 168 feet of solid rock to form the caverns which took 10 months with only two to three feet progress at times. They said the rock was like iron, hence the name Ironstone Vineyards. The caves stay at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit with 70 percent humidity to store aging wine in French and American oak barrels. The doors of the caves were made from 100-year-old redwood.

During the development of the Vineyards, John purchased an organ that was originally built in 1927 for the Alhambra Theatre in Sacramento. After the theatre was torn down the organ was used in a Baptist Church in Stockton from 1970 to 1990. The organ has 14 ranks of pipes with each rank containing 61 to 97 pipes per rank and is used for silent movies, wedding receptions, organ concerts and other special events.

“Mr. Kautz built the music room to house this magnificent organ,” said Kathy Russell, event manager. “We do a silent movie series in the springtime and we do one in the fall and our most popular one is the 'Phantom of the Opera.'”

The Vineyard plays the 1925 Universal Pictures silent film starring Lon Chaney for guests to enjoy with a live organ player accompanied by a live opera singer and the event also includes dinner, popcorn and dessert. The Alhambra Music room is 3,886 square feet and seats up to 350 people. It doubles for conferences and is decorated with art and antiques.

The tasting room was completed in 1994 and has a main bar that was built by the Brunswick Bowling Company of New York in 1907.

The tasting room is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the tasting is $5; however, the fee is waived for those who purchase wine.

The Heritage Museum opened in 1996 and includes a 44-pound Crystalline Leaf gold piece that was found in a mine in Jamestown. The museum has artifacts from the 19th Century Gold Rush Period and early Native Americans, along with arts and antiques and a jewelry shop.

“Our gold nugget is the largest sample of Crystalline gold that we know of in the world,” added Russell. “We have that on display and it is now deemed priceless. It is just invaluable.”

The outdoor amphitheatre was the newest addition to the Vineyards and this year the stage has been extended along with a new roof to enhance production.

The amphitheatre hosts the Summer Concert series and the Concours d’Elegance, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 26.

The 2015 Summer Concert series at Ironstone includes the Steve Miller Band with Buddy Guy on Aug. 1, the Band Perry with Scotty McCreery and Casey James on Aug. 13, and Daryl Hall and John Oates with Mutlu on Aug. 27.

The Concours d’Elegance is an antique and classic car show that started in 1993, and benefits youth in agriculture like the FFA and 4-H.

For the third year in a row, Ironstone will host “An Evening in Polynesia” in the Garden Breezeway and caves which includes live entertainment, Polynesian dancers, authentic fire dancers, Hula lessons, and an authentic cuisine of the South Pacific buffet dinner at 6 p.m. Aug 15.

The state-of-the-art wine production facility is picturesque; it has over 48 tons of daffodil bulbs planted in the 14.5 acres of gardens with 200 varieties represented along with 108 varieties of tulips, azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, hyacinths, and pansies among others dependent on the spring or fall.

The Vineyards offers private tours, tastings and luncheons. Russell explained that several people come out during springtime and during the fall to tour the property to witness the beauty and history it has to offer.

“With all the flowers planted all over the property it is just so magnificent and then in the fall the entire grounds are just ablaze with brilliant fall colors,” expressed Russell. “There is always something blooming and beautiful here on the grounds.

“I have had a lot of groups come from France this year and they were all just absolutely intrigued by all this.”

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