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Tuesday Tributes: Best of the Blogs
Mike Dunne Looks At Calaveras County

By Charles Olken

Mike Dunne is a wine columnist for the Sacramento Bee, one of the newspapers of record here in California. His columns and blog do not get enough attention because he rarely focuses on those popular spots far away from his home town. Yet, Mike Dunne is a serious and well-informed wine journalist, and his latest blog has me thinking that it is time to head east.

Calaveras County is well-known to me. I used to wander up there in my dating days with whomever I was lucky enough to be hanging around with at the time. But it was not for the wine. It was for the Jumping Frog Contest—an event meant to build on the famous Mark Twain essay, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. Oh, I have returned once or twice recently, and by recently, I mean over the last twenty or thirty years, but it must not have been all that recently because Dunne’s comments about his recent visitation tell me that I don’t really know as much about Calaveras County as I should.

I do know this. There are only about 600 acres of grapes, two-thirds of which are red and the greater portion of those grapes are Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The only Calaveras County wines tasted by Connoisseurs’ Guide in the last half dozen years have scored relatively poorly with a few Good Values but nothing out of the ordinary. Until now. Even though it has no tasting room and makes it wines in the Bay Area at JC Cellars, Oakland, the Prospect 772 label has raised expectations high for Rhône-type varietals grown in Calaveras. That winery represents, if the today’s Best of The Blogs entry is correct, just the tip of the iceberg. All of a sudden, Calaveras County has been discovered and, as Mike Dunne reports, the number of wineries has doubled in the last couple years.

His blog, A Year In Wine,, comes a lot closer to traditional wine journalism than most blogs, and as such, it is a far more relaxed and informative kind of writing. It focuses mostly on the wineries nearer to Sacramento, but it also visits other good topics. Today’s essay on Calaveras County earns our Best of The Blogs honors this week.

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