On Saturday morning we drove up to Murphys - about 2.5 hours away - to go wine tasting and to attend a concert at Ironstone Vineyards. Now, this wasn't just any concert - this was a Kelly Clarkson concert. And lemme tell you, I love me some Kelly Clarkson. No, seriously. She's my absolute all time fave.
We chose a couple of wineries that were in the country based on the map on the Calaveras Wine Association website and they were alright. We came home with four bottles. From there we walked around the absolutely adorable Main Street area. Oh gosh, I wish I had taken pictures to show you how adorable this place is but I forgot my camera and by this time the battery on my iPhone was kaput. It's like a cute old timey Main Street USA place filled with shops and restaurants, but every third place or so is a tasting room. Think of it like Bourbon Street but for winos.
After picking up six additional bottles from a winery called Stevenot (incidentally, NOT pronounced Steve-Not), we made our way down the street to our motel (not luxurious but perfectly fine for an overnight trip) and rested up before heading to Ironstone Vineyards for the concert.
Ironstone does a special for their concert goers where beforehand, if you purchase a fancy-schmancy ticket, you can eat a buffet on their grounds before making your way over to the amphitheater. While expensive, this turned out to be an excellent option for us for a few reasons:
1. The line to get into the venue was covered. It was 90 degrees that day and even with the shade I was struggling.
2. There wasn't anything I could have eaten from the food stands so the grilled tri-tip and caesar salad I did eat was perfect for my (not a) diet.
3. I don't know how much bottled water cost once inside, but between the two of us we drank four bottles even before the concert started. And they were ice cold!
The only downfall of this option is that you eat hours before the show actually starts. And like I said, it was HOT. Our seats - row 12! - were in the sun up until about 8 p.m. so we spent some time at the very back of the lawn waiting for the sun to go down. It was nice sitting there people watching (so many rhinestones! so many daisy dukes!) until I got bit by something. As you can see from the pics above, I was in a dress making investigating quite the challenge. Because I'm allergic to bees and there were bees EVERYWHERE we went to the EMT tent to ask if there was a private place we could take a look. Well, let me just tell you ... if you approach those folks, they go all official on you. She had to check me out - officially - which meant lifting my dress up behind their tent. It was not exactly what I'd call private. In the end I wasn't stung by a bee, but I still had to decline being transported to the hospital with an official waiver form and everything. They gave me an ice pack, we stopped by the wine booth, and made our way to our seats for the opening band - Carolina Liar.
So, concerts at Ironstone. Having interned at a radio station back in the day, I've seen a number of concerts across a multitude of venues. My favorites, hands down, are always the outdoor amphitheaters and the one at Ironstone did not disappoint. The set-up was terrific (tons of walkways!) and the sound and the lighting were top notch. The only complaint I have about them is the PSA they played between sets: a man sitting in a jail talking about how he killed two kids while drunk driving. 1. What a buzzkill. 2. You're giving discounts on wine carafe refills. Perhaps you're giving a bit of mixed messages. And it played over and over and over again. It was really quite terrible.
So after Carolina Liar performed The Fray came on stage. I like The Fray in that I like what's on the radio. They've had a few hits over the years that I've really enjoyed. I don't change the channel when their music comes on. But let me tell you - they give a fan-freaking-tastic performance. There was one song the guitarist sang that was so hauntingly beautiful that I now feel the need to track it down and buy it. The lead singer interacted so well with the audience, even running into the group on a couple of different occasions. Alan was on his way back from buying wine and the guy was right there by him. If you're at all a fan of The Fray and you don't know if you should see them in concert, GO NOW.
Next up was Kelly. Oh Kelly, how I love you so. I was on my feet the entire time. The girl next to me was clearly there for The Fray so she was laughing at my enthusiasm. At one point she said, "you really love Kelly Clarkson." Damn straight I do. Unfortunately she didn't go on until nearly 10 p.m. and her set seemed much shorter than other concerts we've been to of hers. I feel like just as things were picking up she was running off stage for her encore. I would have loved about 5 or 6 more songs, but it is what is is. I was glad that she sang my top favorites, including Already Gone. (It wasn't a radio hit.)
Ironstone Vineyards, because of its location, certainly caters to a country and 70s rock crowd so there aren't a huge number of shows I'd make the trip out there again for. But you can guarantee that if it was someone I loved, I'd pick up tickets in a heartbeat. Next time we'll skip the rural wineries and head straight to Main Street.