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Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for January 13, 2000


Mark Twain Slept Here...
In Calaveras County


1866—Mark Twain, newly famous author of the "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," leaves California for New York. He took California wines with him to promote them in the East. He may have done some good, for the following year shipments to the East reached an impressive total [equivalent to 300,000 cases]. (by Prof. T. Pinney)

Murphys Hotel Long Ago

Murphys Hotel Long Ago

1999—In the town of Murphys, Calaveras County, you can stay in the same room where Mark Twain slept. It's in California's oldest, continuously-operating hotel, Murphys Hotel. And only a few minutes away is the "Crown Jewel of Calaveras County wineries." It's the heart of a 1,150 acre estate, the Kautz Ironstone Vineyards. How did CEO John Kautz put together this seven story, six-cave, remarkable winery??

The Rest of the Story

John started in the agricultural business in 1952, and at last count had handled 42 different products. Ultimately, he owned over 3,000 acres of vines in the Central Valley.

Combined with Christmas trees, cattle, cherries, etc., the Kautz family operations cover some 5,000 acres, one of the largest in the Golden State. It was this tradition that fueled the construction of the still-expanding Calaveras winery.

John has worked closely with U.C.-Davis on grape selection...he planted the first Chardonnay in the county...vinegrowing sons Kurt and Jack manage the largest single planting of Bordeaux's Cabernet Franc in the state, etc. In fact, Ironstone's veteran winemaker, Steven Millier (first on-job training under Dr. David Bruce) has long shown a deft touch with Bordeaux grapes. My old notes show in one year his Cabs and Merlots bagged FIVE golds in international tastings. So, it's no suprise that our Millier Wine of the Day varietals are all Bordeaux graduates, led by 51% Merlot...

1994 Ironstone Library Meritage, Sierra Foothills
Price—$25 range
Production—Only 1,000 cases.
Appraisal—Best red Meritage under $30 that my panel has tasted in the last two years!
Contact—Jo Diaz, (707) 838-9159, FX (209) 728-1275


How much did annual sales increase over the prior year? President Stephen Kautz reports they were up "a cork-popping 71%!" Mark Twain is smiling.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created January 2000