Sacramento Bee Features Four Winds!

Dunne On Wine: Calaveras About More Than Reds!

As other Sierra foothill counties, Calaveras is banking largely on black grapes like zinfandel and syrah to confirm its winemaking potential. But we’re in the middle of summer, when a trek to the two dozen or so wineries in and about Murphys begs for a cold, crisp and refreshing white wine. Save the tempranillo and merlot for winter. Thus, in revisiting favorite Calaveras tasting rooms not long ago, I concentrated almost solely on white wines. Here were the most impressive:

Though the Four Winds lineup runs ardently to red wines, the couples responsible, David and Helen Webster and John and Ann Gibson, recognize that wine tourists in the Mother Lode often want a white wine, so they make two.

In contrast to most Calaveras County wineries, incidentally, Four Winds doesn’t have a Murphys tasting room. It occupies the site of the former Laraine Winery along Six Mile Road at Vallecito, not far from Murphys. David Gerber, a Hollywood producer and a principal in the Murphys Hotel, founded Laraine Winery, but after his death in 2010, his widow sold the remaining inventory and leased the tasting room to the Websters and Gibsons, who subsequently introduced Four Winds. Laraine Gerber retains the brand Laraine and neighboring Gerber Vineyards.

▪ Four Winds 2013 Sierra Foothills Chardonnay ($25): Yes, it’s definitive California for its ripe tropical, citrus and apple flavors and its pronounced oak. Nevertheless, it has the spunk to refresh more than tire the palate.

▪ Four Winds 2013 and 2014 Sierra Foothills Viogniers ($23): Two vintages, two styles. The 2013 is more reserved, its suggestions of honeysuckle, lemon and peach more whisper than shout. The 2014 is bigger, softer, sweeter and more textured, with a thread of melon added to the fruit basket.

Wine critic and competition judge Mike Dunne’s selections are based solely on open and blind tastings, judging at competitions and visits to wine regions. He can be reached at

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