(pic of Ghee Hagedorn and Rhonda Wood)
On recent visit to Murphys, located in Calaveras County with Livermore winemakers Rhonda Wood and Larry Dino, Wood Family Vineyards and Cuda Ridge Wines respectively, and their spouses we visited Villa Vallecito. Located on Main Street in Murphys, met with owner Ghee Hagedorn as we enjoyed a deep dive discussion on winemaking, the wine industry trends, and the future of winemaking and of course tasted some of her excellent wines!
(Photo ©Michael Kelly)
Villa Vallecito Vineyards has a small tasting room, but don’t let that stop you. Her wines across the board are award winning wines. Her awards from various wine competitions are too numerous to list. I became aware of their wines when she entered their Cabernet Franc in the 3rd Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Competition for the first time in April 2022. They won Best of Class ($31 to $50) and won overall Best of Show competing against all categories from the Professional Wine Judges (wines included over $100).
(photo of Villa Vallecito Vineyards by Gil Muno )
They started their winery adventure in 2001 with purchasing land in Vallecito. After years of selling the grapes, they decided to make their own wine! The have another award winning winemaker Nathan Vader making their wines (Vina Moda). The balance of the entire operation is essentially family chasing the energetic and engaging Ghee about the winery and tasting room. Her husband Alan, described as Co-CEO and Quality Control Manager continual tasting the wines. Their son Gil Munoz, Wine Club Manager and Photographer with his striking pictures adorning the tasting room round out this small management team producing some of the best wines in Calaveras County.
The Visit and Tasting at Villa Vallecito
While we only wanted to taste a few on their daily selection, Ghee is not one you can say no to. I wish she would be appointed as Secretary of State and straighten out some of our world issues, but I digress. So we started out with a 2017 Viognier and what a surprising elegant and mouth filling Viognier.
We continued through the tasting with 2017 Grenache (Double Gold Medal at Sunset International), 2018 Paysaso a blend of Syrah/Grenache (Gold Medal Winner at SF Chronicle), 2017 Barbera Reserve (Gold Medal Winner SF Chronicle), 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Best of Class SF Chronicle) and 2018 Syrah (Double Gold Medal winner at SF Chronicle). The awards listed were abbreviated as each had won other awards! Obvious each wine was delicious and Ghee’s heart felt story behind each was inspiring and left us in awe. Other wines “forced upon us” (admittedly we were happy to accept) included:
Her story on El Rey (The King being a blend and so named for her father’s influence and character), 2016 & 2019 Sagrantino, 2019 El Rey (a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Cabernet Franc), 2017 Syrah, 2019 Cabernet Franc and some reserve wines left us all in wonderment on how each wine was at such a high standard of excellence and quality. Every one of us left carrying lots of wine back home! Personally the 2017 Grenache with shimmering color, texture and spice and her award winning 2019 Cabernet Franc are now resting comfortably in the cellar awaiting the right occasion and food to be paired.
Ghee’s stories on each wine, be it her honoring the family, naming a few after characterizes in the Yellowstone series or simply tasting excellent wine would be on the top five wineries/tasting rooms to visit next time you are in Murphys