Pirates, Rubber Chickens and Spaniards, Oh My!

At last year’s inaugural North American Wine Blogger Conference we had a little event called “Live Blogging” which was a little like speed dating. But instead of sitting in front of a potential significant other and asking some superficial questions, we were treated to a 2-minute pitch and pour by some local California wineries.

two_pirate Since I was new to blogging I figured it was much easier to just take a picture of the wine I liked. So among my pictures was a really tall dude with a long blond ponytail, carrying a rubber chicken. What this had to do with a wine called “The Spaniard” was beyond me at the time.  But after a few months on twitter, and at the suggestion of some of the more effervescent (frequent tweeters Winebratsf, Sharayray and Sonadora) wine bloggers, we decided to order a few bottles from Twisted Oak. And after tasting some of the winery’s other wines, we joined “The Twisted Few.”

A Visit to Twisted Oak Winery

If ever there was a winery that knows the benefits of social media, and word-of-mouth marketing, it’s Twisted Oak. Owner Jeff “El Jefe” Stai has developed a following on twitter and facebook, and in addition to good wine, is building a brand image full of pirates, fun, frivolity and well, rubber chickens.  And since Joe loves great wine, and I can truly appreciate great marketing, we decided to take a trip out to Calaveras County before heading to Sonoma for Barrel Tasting. Twisted Oak has a tasting room in the little town of Murphys, but by the time we got to Murphys from San Francisco, the Tasting Room was closed.  So after we checked into the Victoria Inn we headed up to Vallecito to visit the winery.  I’d been driving what seemed like all day and was a little out of sorts from jet lag and time change.  And I hated that we were late.  And the last thing I wanted to do was get into the car and drive some more.

But the closer we got to the winery, the more difficult it was to stay irritable. Why? Because as we headed up the hill we saw all these little signs that made me laugh!

Twisted Oak Winery This Way
Twisted Oak Winery This Way

At the bottom of the hill as you approach the winery entrance there is the barn with a window full of chicken butts. And as you wind your way up the hill the signs get increasingly funnier. There are signs like “Speed Limit 9,” “Rubber Chicken National Forest,” “Loop 4,” “Speed Checked by Ruben” (with a chicken hanging from a tree) as well as these:

Right then Left then Right!
Right then Left then Right!




When we finally got to the top of the hill, Joe immediately recognized the twisted oak tree that was on all the wine labels!


Once in the tasting room, Mandy introduced us to the complete Twisted Oak portfolio, with the exception of Pig Stai (the fortified and power-packed dessert wine) before we headed out for a little barrel tasting! We tasted three whites: 2007 Silvaspoons Vineyard Verdelho, 2007 Calaveras County Viognier and the 2006 Sierra Foothills Ruben’s Blend (pictured here) given 90 Points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, July 2008 and a Silver Medal in the 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

We also tasted a cadre of reds including the Grenache, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, River of Skulls, The Spaniard, “*%#&@!” a Potty-Mouth Rhone-style red blend contains grenache, syrah, and mourvedre, and my personal favorite, a kitchen-sink blend called the 2005 Calaveras County Murgatroyd.

two_steel We stopped by the steel tanks to taste some of the white wines in process before heading down to the cave, led by the fabulous wine dog Natcha, to sample some of the succulent reds.

Joe and Natcha wait patiently for El Jefe to open the wine cave doors.

two_natcha Once inside, Natcha watches El Jefe’s every move, hoping for a few drops of wine to spill on the cave floor.

Sharon aka NoReinsGirl and El Jefe point to a barrel of The Spaniard.

“Then we sampled “The Spaniard” named in honor of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride and oh, sweet Jeebus, was it amazing! This bold blend of tempranillo, grenache and graciano is aged in new French, new American and two-year-old French oak. Since two of these grapes – tempranillo and grenache – are noted for their ability to take oaking well (they’re also great blending grapes) you’ll be picking up rich, warm spice from the moment this wine is decanted. The graciano adds balance and a dark fruit to the mix, with a medium tannic quality on the finish.” – Chuck Sudo on Chicagoist (2005 vintage, from Twisted Oak’s website)

two_thanksTwisted Oak Winery Tasting Room is located at 4280 Red Hill Road at Highway 4 in Vallecito, between Murphys and Angels Camp, is open daily 10:30am to 5:30pm.  The Tasting Room at Murphys is located at 350 Main Street at Church Street in the heart of Downtown just across from Enchanted Workshop.  It’s worth the drive.  So much so that a group from the upcoming 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference is heading there a day earlier and caravaning from Twisted Oak to Santa Rosa on Friday. Make the trip.  You won’t be sorry!

Twisted Oak Tasting Room in Downtown Murphys

Posted in Posts, Reviews

Amy Corron Power View posts by Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and legions of twitter, Instagram and Facebook friends and fans. Amy holds certifications through the International Sommelier Guild, and is also certified, with honors, as a California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). She is a member of the Guild of Sommeliers, The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events. Amy is also a contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, and was most recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude.
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