Twisted Oak Winery – Zany Place


Written by:

Joe Becerra

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Are you a Twisted Few or a Twisted Freak? These are the names of the two wine club offerings at the Twisted Oak Winery and this very much gives an idea of the fun and frolic at this twisted winery located in Calaveras County. The zaniest comes from owner Jeff Stai, who calls himself El Jefe. He has instilled an easy going, fun loving atmosphere at his winery in Vallecito and at a second location, a tasting room in the town of Murphys.

We ventured into the winery on a Wednesday morning. The winery in Vallecito is located on Red Hill Road. At the lower entrance, an unpaved road meanders through the vineyards up to the top of the hill to the tasting room and winemaking facilities. We mistakingly arrived about a half hour before the tasting room opened, but winemaker Brett Keller came to our rescue. He took us on a tour of the crushpad, the fermenting tanks, and then to the cave for a few barrel samples of aging wines. Brett Keller recently replaced Twisted’s former winemaker, Scott Klann, and it was interesting to hear how Brett will continue the legacy and add his own personal touches, one of which will be the production of an Albariño wine. We love that white wine and can’t wait to try the Twisted Oak version.

Twisted Oaks winemaker Brett Keller
Winemaker Brett Keller

Tasting Room Greeter

Now back in the open tasting room, we taste through ten different wines. It is surprising how good all of these wine taste. Are we in the Napa Valley? The wines are very well made, balanced, and complex. The wines made such an impression on our two companion couples that without hesitation they each joined the Twisted Few wine club. Although we enjoyed all the wines our favorites were Calaveras Tempranillo, The Spaniard (a blend, but loads of Tempranillo), Calaveras Parcel 17 (another blend of Spanish varietals), and the Tanner Syrah. In the whites, the Calaveras Ruben’s blend of Rhone varietals is delightful and different. About 5,000 cases are made annually and much of that goes to the 1,202 wine club members.

El Jefe pockets another award

If you are driving up from the San Francisco Bay Area and heading toward the vacation towns of Arnold or Murphys, you should consider stopping in at the Twisted Oak Winery. It is about 4 miles before Murphys. There are also some other very good and interesting wineries between Twisted and Murphys. We have those outlined for you in our Murphys Wine Trail. Take a look and plan your outing to this largely undiscovered wine region. I have yet to see any articles in Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, or Wine & Spirits about this area. That’s good for us, more wine and fun for those “in the know.”

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.