California’s Sierra Foothills was identified as an AVA in 1987, but it’s been recognized as a prominent and respectable winemaking region since the Gold Rush era of the mid-19th century. And the Kautz family, who settled near the Sierra Foothills in Lodi in 1926, had a lot to do with building the reputation of both areas.
Frederick and Marie Kautz came to America from Germany, buying farmland in Lodi which they began farming in 1940. Their son, John, switched to grape-growing in 1968, and quickly built an excellent reputation as a premium grape supplier. In 1988, John and his wife Gail, along with their children, Stephen, Kurt, Joan and Jack, built a state-of-the-art winery and entertainment facility in the town of Murphys, the heart of the Gold Rush era, producing their first vintage in 1989. They followed this purchase with Bear Creek, one of the oldest continuously running wineries in Lodi, in 1997.
Their vineyard holdings grew exponentially over the next 30 years, to 7,000 acres in both the Sierra Foothills and Lodi. The Kautz family were even the first to plant Chardonnay grapes in the region. And since their inception, they’ve committed to sustainable viticultural practices, ensuring the utmost respect is paid to the environment. In fact, John was the first to instigate an integrated pest management system in Lodi, which many in the region still follow today.
Ironstone’s location in Calaveras County, affectionately known as the “Queen of the Sierras,” boasts mineral-rich, volcanic terroir, ideal for growing the wide range of varieties that run the gamut, from Chenin Blanc to Zinfandel. Recent accolades include “best of class” for their 2020 Lodi Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel and “double gold” for their 2020 Sierra Foothills Reserve Estate Grown Cabernet Franc from the esteemed San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.