The Booze Babe Brings You Fine Wine On A Bum Budget!

When Bob asked me if I would be interested in writing a post for the blog, my first reaction was UH HELL YES because I have a loud mouth and feel that the world is fully entitled to hearing my opinion.  However, what I didn't think of at the time and what fetched me up for a while was....I've become a serious wine snob in recent years.  MD 20/20, Boone's Farm, and Arbor Mist were my staples in college (and for more years than I care to admit afterward) so I still remember my bum roots, but I've put a lot of time and effort (and money) into exploring The Good Shit since then and I haven't looked back. 

But then I got to thinking about why and how I began my journey to this ivory tower from my shanty under the bridge and realized there IS something I can write about.  Good wine that's actually still affordable.  The intermediate stuff (my Missing Link) which showed me that there's more to life than bottom-shelf Riesling and fruity-flavored diabeetus.  So I present to you the cutest and booziest little town that you've never heard of:  Murphys, CA.  Yes, it's Murphys without an apostrophe.  It's a wee little town up in the Sierra Foothills about an hour and a half or so from Sacramento.  Not what you'd typically think of as wine country, but that's exactly what it is.  So much so that the entire length of their Main Street is peppered with winery tasting rooms from one end to the other.  All within walking (stumbling?) distance.  Now, if you plan to visit, I recommend staying overnight -- unless you already live here, you're going to spend a while GETTING there and the last thing you need to be doing is attempting to pass that windy Route 4 after a full day of drinking.  There are plenty of spots in town such as the Victoria Inn (my personal favorite), the Murphys Hotel (featured not too long ago on Gordon Ramsey's "Hotel Hell" show -- NOT my personal favorite but it IS cheap), and many vacation rentals including one owned by the winemaker at Val du Vino on the edge of town.  Remember kids, overnight lodging might set you back a few bucks, but it's cheaper than a DUI!

Once you've checked in though, the rest is Bum Budget Approved.  If you've ever been to Napa or Healdsburg for wine tasting, you know that each winery will typically charge you $20-50 per person for a tasting flight.  But in Murphys, the majority of them are under $5 per person (and many are actually free).  If you take my recommendation and stay in town, once you've parked your car for the day, it stays put.  There are roughly 30 wineries all within walking distance of each other and you won't have to think about driving until you wake up with your hangover the next morning (hopefully you made it back to your room, at gets cold here at night). 

When my husband and I started dating, he took me to Murphys for a weekend getaway because he thought it would impress me.  It did indeed, but it also created a monster because it was here that we realized our shared love for wine, wine tasting, and wine adventures.  There's a little something here for everyone.  If you're only into white wines, just about every winery here has a Chardonnay, Viognier, or another interesting varietal to try (head to Allegorie and ask for their Marsanne!)....and you can get to know the varietals a little better because you'll have the chance to compare them from one winery to the next.  If you only drink reds, then you're even more in luck because you'll find Grenache, Zinfandel (Hovey has a great one), Cabernet, Barbera, and more.  Frog's Tooth winery actually helped get me over the hump from white to red country -- their range of wines is all incredibly fruity and drinkable.  I'm in love with their Cabernet and have never had another one like it.  If dessert wine is more your thing, head to Domaine Becquet and try their lineup of Ports -- there's a chocolate, a ruby, and even one that tastes like oranges.  In addition to tasting fees being affordable if not nonexistent, the price tags on bottles rarely reach that high either.  You are guaranteed to find something you like that also fits your budget. 

Speaking of buying bottles, I would recommend that you drag a couple back to your room before everything closes.  Murphys pretty much rolls up its sidewalks around 6pm so you'll want something to bring with you to keep the party going.  All is not lost, however -- Zucca opens up its patio as a wine bar that stays open a little later into the evening, and the Murphys Hotel has a dive bar full of rowdy locals who will give you the stinkeye but are essentially harmless (as long as you don't say something like, "hey, nice tooth!" or whatever).

My final recommendation to you, and I am speaking from experience, is to avoid the antique store after 5 hours of solid drinking.  They absolutely DO take AmEx.  They take everything.  I ended up leaving there the proud new owner of a gold-plated sink one day.  I don't even own a house with a bathroom to put a stupid sink into.  It's been in storage for the last 5 years!  Oopsies.

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