So the two of us are driving north to Calaveras County on California highway 99, and we’re looking for a good spot to snag some lunch, stretch our legs – the usual sort of road trip stop. The 99, if you’ve never been on it, runs up the middle of the San Joaquin Valley (aka California’s Central Valley), to the east of Interstate 5, which also runs through the San Joaquin Valley. This is the state’s massive agricultural region, and they’re growing a little bit of everything out here and lots and lots of raisins, fruits, nuts, cotton and other veggies. They also grow a lot of wine grapes – in fact, more wine grapes are grown in the San Joaquin Valley than anywhere else in California.
In any case, while these are rather interesting facts, scenery-wise, it’s not too exciting. Especially when you’re on the road and the only stops are the usual fast food folks and gas stations. When we’re on the road, we try to avoid places that we have at home. There were, however, a couple signs for Wine Tasting. The first didn’t come up at a good place to stop. But the second came up at a good time to be stopping, in Madera, California. It didn’t look like much, just a big factory-style building out in the middle of nowhere with a small, red clapboard building next to it advertising produce and nuts.
Hmmm. Mariposa Wine Company. The yard out in front of the tasting room was nicely decorated. Next to the parking lot was a whole lot of giant crushing machines and some stainless steel tanks. It had the right smell. The tasting room was lovely. Margaret Ruiz, the tasting room hostess, was delightful and chatty and full of good information about the wines, although Mike’s more technical questions caught her a little off-guard. They were good questions, just not the kind most folks ask. And Margaret was able to answer most of them.
The winery and tasting room have been open since 2003 and they produce just under 5,000 cases a year, under three different labels. But Ruiz said they are all made by the same winemaker. They do get their grapes from the better known wine regions in California. However, they are part of a growing network of small wineries in the Madera area.
Coming up next, we’ll be looking at a couple of the wines from the company’s mid-range label, Carmichael. In the meantime, you can check out the winery here.