The Kautz family has had a long and fruitful history in California agriculture. Frederick and Marie Kautz came to America from Germany in 1926 to pursue the American dream, settling in California. They acquired land in Lodi and began farming in 1940. Over time expanded their holdings.

Their son, John Kautz, switched from growing cherries to wine grapes in 1968 with considerable success. He established his first winery in 1988. Over 30 years, the family’s landholdings expanded to 7000 acres throughout Lodi and the Sierra Foothills. The Kautz Family has practiced sustainable viticulture for over 35 years, and the vineyards have been certified since 2018 with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. John Kautz has been recognized by the Ford Foundation for his work in sustainable farming.

Ironstine Vineyards

One of the family’s crown jewels is Ironstone Vineyards in Calaveras County, which has been called the “Queen of the Sierras” for its optimum growing conditions including mineral rich soils that produce a wide range of wines from Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel.

Lodi claims to be the Zinfandel capital of the world. Ironstone’s Old Vine Zinfandel 2020 White Label and the Old Vine Zinfandel Reserve 2021 are two different and excellent examples that both deliver plush fruit and supple tannins. We tasted both along with an Ironstone Cabernet Franc White Label 2021 and Cabernet Franc Reserve 2020 also from Lodi. We were, again, impressed by ripe fruit and softer tannins of both, with no green pepper notes found in some Cabernet Franc.

Ironstone White Label Wines

Ironstone Vineyards White Label Series. Ironstone Vineyards wines are distributed by Quintessential.

Ironstone is about a family working together as stewards of the land. In 1988, John Kautz, his wife Gail, and their four children, Stephen, Kurt, Joan and Jack, built a winery and entertainment facility in the town of Murphys, located in the Sierra Foothills, am historic center of the California gold rush. In 1997, the family acquired Bear Creek, one of the oldest continuously running wineries in Lodi.

The Kautz family photo

The Kautz family: Back Row-Jack, Sarah, Stephen, James, Anna, Kaylee, Marianne, Callen, Carson, Sandee, Wilhem, Kurt; Front row-Emma, Gail, John, Madison, Jenna, Joan, Doug (Photo: Quintessential)

Ironstone welcomes visitors to its property which has beautiful and gardens and an outdoor theater for concerts. We were impressed by the many well-known acts who have performed there. Another interesting attraction is Ironstone’s Heritage Museum which features many ancient fossils, a dinosaur egg and the world’s largest gold leaf specimen, weighing in at 44 pounds, sourced from the local area. 

44 lb gold nugget Ironstone Vineyards

The 44-lb gold nugget at Ironstone Vineyards’ Heritage Museum. Photo: Ironstone Vineyards

Featured photo: Ironstone Vineyards Owners John and Gail Kautz (Photo: Quintessential)

John and Gail Kautz’s daughter, Joan Kautz, oversees global marketing and sales and has successfully expanded the family’s export business. She joined us on The Connected Table SIPS to share more about her family and its commitment to sustainable farming. We discussed the location and terroir of both Lodi and the Sierra Foothills and what distinguishes each.

Listen to our podcast with Joan Kautz here: