The wine caverns were the first step in the creation of the Ironstone Vineyards Winery and destination facility in Murphys, California, and served as the facility's first Tasting Room.
In 1989, the Kautz family assembled a crew of professional miners, which, from-day-to-day, often included as many as three generations from the same family. These included some of the “old timers” that had worked the early gold and gem mines. They blasted, picked, and shoveled their way through 10,000 square feet of limestone and schist rock to form the wine caverns. The project took ten months to complete and on many days the miners would only make two to three feet of progress. The rock was so hard and difficult, the miners often said it was like blasting through iron. Thus, we became “Ironstone Vineyards.”
The caverns maintain a year-round temperature of 60 degrees farenheit no matter what the temperature is outside. Combined with the 70-percent humidity provided by the natural spring waterfall inside the caverns, the conditions are ideal for wine aging. The constant temperature prevents the barrels from expanding and contracting — thus leaking wine — and the humidity minimizes evaporation.
The caverns hold a maximum of 1,500 French and American oak barrels which each hold sixty gallons of wine. The beautiful wooden doors that grace the entrance to the caverns and the breezeway, as well as the tasting room, are made from 100-year-old redwood fermentation tanks from the Di-Augustini Winery in Plymouth, California. Now know as Sobon Estates, it is one of the oldest commercial operating wineries in the state.
In addition to wine aging in the caverns, the caverns themselves are also aging! Although they have been sprayed with 6 inches of gunnite to prevent erosion, the caverns age naturally creating stalactites, stalagmites, and other geological formations that are easy to spot as you tour through the caverns.
Nestled between the barrel filled caverns and the large stainlees steel tanks, where the Ironstone wines are also fermented and aged, is a unique working winery area that feels much more like a movie set complete with lush, flowing waterfalls and impressive wood cavern doors.
Due to the proximity of the actual winemaking production, this large, covered, semi-outdoor space is truly an exciting location for food and wine lovers during the late summer and autumn grape crush. Built into the rock walls, in the breezeway, is a permanent stage which makes it an unusual and fun location for private parties, wedding receptions, as well as plays, music shows and other events.
Ironstone Vineyards has roughly over 1 million gallons of combined storage capacity with oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.