Calaveras Enterprise

Ione: where wine-tasting meets the West

Don Hodge now pours wine tastes at his tack store in downtown Ione.Photo by Scott Thomas Anderson

Don Hodge now pours wine tastes at his tack store in downtown Ione.Photo by Scott Thomas Anderson

Don Hodge tips his cowboy hat, steps away from the saddle he’s working on and lopes over to his wine bar. The diehard horseman loves being surrounded by bits, boots and spurs, yet he also has a keen appreciation for the fruit of the vine.

On a bright afternoon, Hodge relaxes in the covered wagon-themed, cantina-style corner he has built behind his tack store. He chats about days spent in Mexico, the drifting mountains of Utah, and, as Cormac McCarthy would say, “all the pretty horses.” Hodge has created a little wrangler’s oasis, where all those reflections blend seamlessly with Amador’s vino prominence. And, one reason the ambiance works so well is its connection to the rough-and-ready city in which Hodge opened his business.

No place in Amador County captures a feeling of the American West like Ione. Since it was never really a Gold Rush town, its culture has been firmly built on hardscrabble farmers and tough ranching clans. In Ione, cattle brands carry the weight of something akin to family crests. The sprawling hills and pastures to its north are still home to 24 legacy ranches. The vistas studded with buttes and greasewood to its south still have big Texas longhorns gnawing their grass. From jazz legend Dave Brubeck’s beginnings in the saddle to “the Marine cowboy,” late rancher Col. Fraser West, riding its ranges, Ione has always been a place where huffing nostrils and galloping hooves have defined life more than anything tied to the days of 1849.



Mane Street Tack Consignment seems to perfectly embody that mystique. It’s anchored at 14 E. Main St., one of this city’s most classic Western building fronts – a shotgun-style saloon facade that looks like it’s a century old. Walking through the doors, one is immediately surrounded by trail, barrel, cutting and reining saddles. Down the way, walls are decorated with an array of high-quality bridles and bits. One end of the store offers a wide rack of riding chaps. Another is highlighted by gleaming spurs, southwestern horse blankets and even rustic ranch furniture. The place is also stacked with cowboy boots and Stetson hats. And, of course, the store offers an expansive variety of Western wear, especially for the ladies.

Hodge opened Mane Street Tack Consignment in 2017 with the simple hope of making horse-riding and equestrian sports more affordable for people in a city that has always embraced the traditions.

“I had too much stuff in my tack room,” Hodge says with a laugh.

And so, he got the store going and then emblazoned its sign with a silhouetted rodeo rider cracking dusty in an arena. Hodge’s operation was mostly an out-front garage sale for saddles in the beginning. People bought the gear left and right.

“It’s just grown ever since; now it’s built up into this,” he added. “Most of our stuff is almost new. It’s clean. It’s nice. We have things for whether you’re a competitor or a beginner.”

Though the place has grown a fan base over the past two years, Hodge recently decided to make it more accessible to the public by adding a wine bar. Yet, given his style, it’s not just any wine bar. Visitors enter through swinging saloon doors and then find themselves immersed in a virtual covered wagon. The enclave’s furniture and decor is authentic to ranching life, too, most of it having come from the Buena Vista Bar, which, for years was nestled between the cattle spreads of the Ione Valley. This stop is truly its own wine-tasting experience.

Once Hodge got the atmosphere he wanted, he started to pour wines from Oak Ridge Winery, which has vineyards about 12 miles southwest of the Amador County line.

“The wine tasting has been going on for about three months,” Hodge said. “And it’s going pretty good so far. It’s just a matter of getting the word out.”

Hodge specifically wanted to work with Oak Ridge because it’s making a wide assortment of varietals, all sold at very affordable price points. Oak Ridge Winery has won numerous awards for its ability to stay versatile without sacrificing quality.

“They make everything from your basic wines to something that someone can really enjoy with a steak dinner,” Hodge said.

That’s no joke. One of the gems Hodge pours and sells at his tack store is Oak Ridge’s Old Soul Petite Syrah. This bottle boasts a velvet raspberry body sprinkled with smooth hints of cinnamon. The tail end of each sip musters a jammy collision of nectar and dusty cocoa. This is one Syrah that goes down like a Western sunset.

The term old soul isn’t just the name of one of one of the wines Hodge sells; it’s also a fitting moniker for the timeless Main Street that he’s helping to bring back to life. Like everyone who is working to enliven Ione’s historic avenue, Hodge sees the mission as being about the traditional ranching values of respect, hospitality and honoring the past.

“We’re not out to make a lot of money with this,” Hodge said. “We’re just out to enjoy the people who come into our store.”

With people like Hodge around, Ione’s ranching birthright still has a long future ahead.

Send word on your Amador County events to

14 E. Main St., Ione


Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays

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