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Old Sugar Mill PicmonkeyEarly fall visitors taste at the Sugar Mill.The Old Sugar Mill wine mall has added two area wineries -- Due Vigne di Famiglia and The Dragon & Chicken, home of Draconis Wines by Matt Powell -- making a total of ten tasting rooms. "This makes us a major U.S. wine destination," according to John Beckman, General Manager of the Mill and president of the Clarksburg Wine Company. They join Carvalho Family Winery, Clarksburg Wine Company, Elevation Ten, Heringer Estates, Merlo Family Vineyards, Rendezvous Winery, Three Wine Company and Todd Taylor Wines.

Beckman said, “When Sacramentans think of wine and wine country, we want them to think of the Old Sugar Mill first. The addition of these two fine wineries just adds to the breadth and depth of our existing and outstanding offerings for our guests. And while we love when folks come out here to spend the day, we are so close to downtown and midtown, you can come out here at the spur of the moment – no advance planning required!”

Due Vigne di Famiglia wines are produced by two area families: the Mussos with a generation of growing Italian varietals in El Dorado County; and the Houle family, which uses Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and Malbec for classic Cabernet and Meritage bottlings. Musso family wines include the rare Dolcetto and Nebbiolo varieties, plus Primitivo, Barbera and Petite Syrah, a Clarksburg area specialty.Draconis Winery barrell sample Picmonkey Taking Draconis barrel sample.

Draconis by Matt Powell has its first public sales site at the Mill. According to Powell, Draconis has been an "underground winery -- known only to its mailing list -- and for its crafted, handmade wines in the old style" by its Burgundian-trained winemaker. Known for intense and silky smoothness, the wines are made in the "Reductionist" style, specializing in 100 percent Zinfandel, Petite Syrah and Syrah.Beckman added, "Matt Powell is pioneering the use of our large attractive campus by new wineries who will be moving in; it's the first winery not in the Gallery itself. We're seeing the kind of strolling that you find downtown."

The Old Sugar Mill has seen three years of increased traffic for events and winery sales, Beckman said. "We're a go-to site for everyone in the Sacramento area and are drawing from the Bay Area and throughout the state."

The Old Sugar Mill is located at 35265 Willow Avenue in the historic town of Clarksburg, fifteen minutes southwest of the Capitol building in Sacramento. Open seven days a week; individual wineries' hours vary. For further information on wineries and events visit www.oldsugarmill.com.

 

Sources at PRWeb contributed to this article.

 

Editor's note: Visiting wineries in California? Taste California Travel's Resource Directory contains links to the websites of all of the state's wineries, as well as links to thousands of Lodging and Dining options.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 18:34

Quady Winery Earns Accolades

Life is certainly sweet for one Madera Wine Trail winery known for their sweet dessert wines and their vermouth. Quady Winery earned several accolades recently for their Vya Vermouth and several of their wines.

Vya Vermouth impressed the people at Made in America so much that Quady Winery was nominated for and received an American Treasures Award.

Since its inception in 2008, Made in America has recognized, promoted, and provided assistance to Quady Asst Winemaker Darin Petersen  PicmonkeyDarin Peterson, assistant winemaker at Quady Winery, accepts the American Treasure award at Washington DC reception. American businesses committed to production in the United States. Key to this effort has been providing companies access to resources and expertise outside those traditionally available within their industries.

The American Treasures Awards are presented annually at the American Treasures Cullinary Experience to individuals and small producers in recognition of a singular and significant contribution to our Nation that both preserves and fosters a unique All American craft and tradition. This year’s awards are presented to organic growers and craft producers. The winners were carefully selected and vetted through a deliberative process by a National Advisory Committee consisting of individuals with relevant subject matter expertise. A special Congressional Honorary Steering Committee supports the initiative.

“We’re very proud to be recognized nationally as a unique all-American craft producer,” said Andrew Quady.

Andrew credited the ideal conditions of Madera and his staff with the creation of a product deemed an American Treasure.

“Our part of California, the San Joaquin Valley, is noted for its especially warm climate and rich soils. Certain grape varieties do especially well here. Our business is built on the development, production, and marketing of new wine styles especially suited to grapes from our region. This sets us apart and creates a unique spirit amongst our employees because our business is like no other.”

“We are proud to be designated an American Treasure along with a small selection of craft and organic food producers across the U.S.,” he said.

Andrew said the unique history of the spirit, along with the experiential nature he strives for with the creation, captivated the Made in America judges.

“There are a few other American made vermouths on the market now, but ours appeared almost a decade earlier and the Vya has flavors and history like no other. I created Vya with the idea that vermouth could be appreciated in a similar manner to wine: as a full sensory experience, for me, it’s like aromatherapy.”

According to Made In America, The American Treasures Awards are presented annually in July at the American Treasures Cullinary Experience to individuals and small producers in recognition of a singular and significant contribution to our Nation that both preserves and fosters a unique All-American craft and tradition.

This year’s awards were presented to organic growers and craft producers. The winners were carefully selected and vetted through a deliberative process by a National Advisory Committee consisting of individuals with relevant subject matter expertise. A special Congressional Honorary Steering Committee supports the initiative.

Not to be out done, three of Quady’s wines received medals at the Lone Star International Wine Competition.

Quady’s 2010 Elysium won Best of Show/Grand Star and a Double Gold. The 2011 Red Electra took silver and the Flore de Moscato earned a bronze medal.

“It’s almost a double reward,” said Quady winemaker Michael Blaylock.

“Everybody here strives to make sure it’s the best quality we can achieve in a given year and we feel great about giving it our all. Then when we are recognized elsewhere and we see the quality on the shelf, we feel a sense of pride. All of this is made right here in our hometown, Madera California, and for me, the main thing is I’m still having fun,” he said.

To learn more about Vya Vermouth, visit www.vya.com. For more on Quady’s wines, visit www.QuadyWinery.com.

(TravMedia.com sources contributed to this article)

Editor's note: Readers interested in learning more about Quady and other Madera County wineries can find links to their websites in the Central Valley section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also listed are links to hundreds of lodging and dining options in that part of California.

 

Children have a new place to play and explore since the Sacramento Children's Museum (SCM) opened in August 2011. Located in Rancho Cordova, a Sacramento suburb, SCM's 7,000-square foot space includes a main exhibit area that showcases permanent and temporary exhibits, a special area for babies and toddlers, a creative art studio, a party room and a resource center.Sacramento Childrens Museum Logo Picmonkey

"This announcement symbolizes the beginning of a new and exciting asset for the community," said Alan Godlove, President of the SCM Board of Directors. Godlove went on to say that SCM is "a place where imaginations can roam, confidence can grow, and families can experience the power of play in a safe and welcoming environment."

SCM features various exhibit areas to encourage children's imaginations and prompt them to test, tinker, laugh, and wonder. Special shows, programs, and speakers will complement the exhibits. Although the Museum will appeal to visitors of all ages, it is designed primarily for children from birth to age eight and their families.

Museum components include:

Waterways promote wet activities such as building boats, creating whirlpools, and experimenting with water flow.

My Neighborhood has a produce stand so that children can learn the value of local produce and healthy eating. There's also a small house where children can "cook" and play dress up. This exhibit will rotate throughout the year (a mercado with Latin American food, a Russian market with Russian products, etc.) so that we can serve as a platform for cultural awareness of the incredible diversity of the Sacramento region.

World Market will help build cultural awareness and celebrate families and traditions as it relates to each individual family and child.

Raceways demonstrate the basic principles of objects in motion, such as why people don't fall out of a rollercoaster when riding upside down.

Airways include balls and scarves that swoosh through over 100 feet of large, clear tubing as children discover how objects move through the multiple pathways.

Studio of the Arts provides opportunities for self-expression and creativity, using a variety of materials.

Baby Bloomers offers safe exploration activities designed specifically for babies and toddlers.

Resource Center is a source of parenting and child development information for parents, childcare providers, and other caregivers.

Party Room is an area that can be rented for birthday and holiday celebrations.

The idea for a children's museum in Sacramento began with Kathleen Palley, a local mother and teacher, who saw a need for inspiring learning through interactivity. She started SCM, a non-profit corporation, and soon received support from local businesses, educators, librarians, professionals, children's advocates, and other family oriented organizations throughout the region. The Junior League of Sacramento, the City of Rancho Cordova and Roebbelen Construction are the three Founding Partners of the Children's Museum.

"A children's museum is about the future. When a community makes the commitment to create a children's museum, they are opening their hands to hold and care for their future. Those future leaders, artists, dreamers, scientists, farmers, parents, and explorers who are today's children," said Palley, SCM Founder.

Carl Sagan, the famed American astronomer and strong proponent of the children's museum movement, once said: "These exhibits do not replace instruction in school or at home, but they awaken and excite. A great science museum inspires a child to read a book, or take a course, or return to the museum again to engage in a process of discovery—and, most important, to learn the method of scientific discovery." (The Demon Haunted World-Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996)

More information is available at www.sackids.org

(TravMedia.com sources contributed to this article.)

Friday, 10 August 2012 01:05

Memories on Fulton

by Dan Clarke

 

Cars used to be exciting. But that was a long time ago.

Automobiles have evolved since I first began noticing them. If reliability is the standard by which you judge, then the modern products are much better. They're reliable. They get better gas mileage. They might last for 200,000 miles—maybe longer. And, if truth be told, most of them are faster than cars that seemed pretty quick when I first started driving.

All that said, there isn't much produced these days that stirs the blood. You hardly ever see a convertible and all sedans tend to resemble the ubiquitous Toyota Camry (a solid and reliable vehicle, well worth its price, but essentially a soul-less conveyance). It wasn't always thus.P8042103 PicmonkeyNot a Toyota.

Reportedly, my first words,“car keys,” were spoken as the family was about to drive away from my grandmother's house in San Mateo. It's likely the car keys referenced were for the ignition of my father's blue 1947 Dodge, purchased shortly after the war when new cars were still in short supply. Later, we moved to Sacramento and my father traded in the Dodge on a '51 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 from Foulks Motors. It was another four-door sedan, uninspiring pale green in color. But it was a powerful-for-the-time V-8. And the automatic transmission had a passing gear, so that if you really stomped on the accelerator you'd get a surge of power that might be critical in overtaking a slower car on a two-lane highway. After a couple of Volkswagens purchased in the mid-50s, Dad returned to Detroit Iron in the form of a 1959 Chevy Bel Air. Once again, it was a stodgy four-door, but it was an unusual and attractive rose color and did have a lively 283-cubic inch V-8.

As an eighteen-year-old college student with a job and moving out on his own, I accepted my father's offer to tag along when I went to slightly seedy area to check out a '53 Ford Victoria, which was about to become my own first car. Wow, a two-door hardtop, with automatic transmission and a flat-head V-8. It had a sporty black roof over body of teal green and seemed in good shape for a 10-year-old car. For my $325 I was about to start living large.

50 Ford Conv Picmonkey1950 Ford Convertible.Hearing that California Automobile Museum was to sponsor its fourth annual Sacramento CarCruise, which would mean a parade up Fulton Avenue followed by an informal car show, I began to reminisce. Fulton Avenue was a major commercial street in the post-war suburbs of my youth. I grew up in the neighborhood and have many memories.

By the time I arrive, the Highway Patrol has actually closed a half-mile stretch of this busy, four-lane road. Participating cars are already parked along the sides of the road and in lots in front of businesses and offices.

It is an all-comers event which draws proud owners of cars of no narrow definition. There are antiques, low-riders, hot rods, classics, customs and muscle cars. It is an everyman's—and everywoman's—activity.

The first car I see is a '50 Ford, a classic body design in its most Volvo 544 PicmonkeyThe 544--more function than flash.exciting convertible form. Though my '53 was a sleeker and more modern body style, they are kin. Across the street is a white Volvo 544, a bulbous design for the late 1950's and early '60s. It resembled a '46 Ford, only smaller. I'd owned a white 444, the earlier model which was nearly identical except for a split windshield. After a couple of years of good service, I traded that Volvo in on a red Triumph TR-4 at Von Housen Motors, located in those days on Fulton Ave about a couple of miles to the south.

The event organizers have hired a live band to play music of the '50s and '60s. They sound pretty good, especially since none of the musicians was alive when the tunes they are playing were popular.

Ah yes, memories are coming back. Just across from the street from the Von Housen's dealership was the Gilded Cage, a bar where a young man could hear jazz musicians of the day like Vince Guaraldi, Les McCann and Bola Sete. Less than 100 yards to the north was a Lincoln-Mercury dealer where my Dad and I had gone to see the new Lincoln Continental Mark II. Not that we could afford it, of course. We were just window shopping. The car cost $10,000—a lot of money in 1956 when you could have a new Cadillac for something less than $6,000.

There are some young people oohing and aahing over the cars of their parents' and grandparents' eras, and it is good to see them, but most of the CarCruise crowd seems considerably older. And there are a lot of smiles on their faces.

56 Nash Ambassador PicmonkeyThe Ambassador comes equipped with a bed.A 1956 Nash Ambassador with the original white, grey and pink color scheme draws considerable attention. Even sporting trendy colors of that era, a Nash would never have been on any boy's wish list in the 1950's. Not even nerds would not want to be seen in one. However, a Nash had one practical application. For years, these cars had front seats that could recline all the way so that they'd be flat and flush with the back seat, thereby making a serviceable bed. The cruise night Ambassador has the passenger side folded down to demonstrate this feature. A fellow about 25 years old stares at it for a moment, then turns to his girlfriend and says, “Hey, this would be good at the drive in.” I scan the faces around us to see if there is any concurrence from the grey-hair crowd. There is no response at the moment; perhaps I'd been the only one to hear him. But I'd like to believe that before the evening is over, a grandmother will look in the window of that Nash, smile a wistful smile and remember that yes, it was good at a drive in.58 Impala PicmonkeyImpala looks stock, but for the wheels.

There is a gorgeous 1958 Impala just like the ones I gawked at in the showroom of the Lew Williams dealership at the corner of Fulton and El Camino. There is a '59 on display, also. While it shares the same oddly-horizontal fins of our family sedan of that vintage, being a convertible, it is way cooler.

A brown '70 or '71 Coupe de Ville is parked, top down, in front of the now-defunct Buggy Whip restaurant. Many years ago I had climbed into a brown '52 or '53 Cadillac sedan in front of the Coral Reef, a popular Polynesian place which used to occupy the now-vacant lot half a block away. The restaurant's owner was one of my father's more prosperous friends and we were on the way to the Memorial Auditorium to watch Gorgeous George wrestle. A luxurious ride, sports (of a sort) and flamboyant showmanship—it all contributed to a heady and memorable night for a nine-year-old.

Crossing back to the east side of Fulton I see a cluster of Studebakers, these of the “Orphan” category, apparently Car Museum-speak for companies no longer in existence. There is a 1915, which is about a decade younger than that manufacturer's Phaeton that my grandfather bought when the family moved “down the Peninsula” from San Francisco. There is a low-mileage example of the 1963 Avanti, a Raymond Loewy-designed car that combined high performance with really great looks. It's sad that this landmark automobile wasn't enough to save a manufacturer on its way out of existence.

Chrysler 300E MB 220SE PicmonkeyChrysler 300E and Mercedes Benz 220SE.Twenty-five yards to the north are a 1959 Chrysler 300 E and a 1960 Mercedes Benz 220 SE, both gorgeous convertibles. It's possible that either could have been parked in this same spot when they were new and I was working as a busboy at Scheidel's, a German restaurant whose former parking lot they were now occupying.

I spy a '55 Buick. It's a handsome sedan and I compliment the apparent owner, a man about my age, on its appearance. He tells me it's a Century—the Buick model with the lighter body, but the bigger engine of the Super and Roadmaster models. I smile and remember that's exactly the reason I really was interested in a '55 Buick Century convertible (white body and top, with red and white leather upholstery, as I recall). Test drove it and almost bought it, but not quite (probably called for a little more money than I had at age 19 or 20). It isn't the first time this Saturday night I say to myself, “wish I had that car now.”

Almost back to Town & Country Village where my own car is parked, I notice Chevy Camaros across the street. Well, one last stop to look at some things a bit more modern while I make the transition to 2012, I decide.

Among these beautifully maintained Camaros is a handsome example of the 1969 vintage in a metallic silver-gray that catches my eye. Or maybe it is the tall blonde woman who is standing next to it. It turns out she is the owner and she tells me all about her pride and joy, even pulling out a photo album to show pictures of various stages of its restoration. In this fine Camaro, the woman has a tangible reminder of some of her own great memories and I appreciate her sharing them with me.

Getting into my own car I remember when my boyhood pal Alan returned from the South with a new red and black Camaro. It was the debut year for this GM challenger to the well established Ford Mustang. But it was better looking than the Mustang and had gobs of power. And it had an 8-track stereo. How cool were we?

Everybody who sees cars such as those at the 2012 CarCruise, sees them through his own prism. Memories will differ, but most will be happy recollections. I'll look forward to the 2013 edition of this event, but in the meantime I'll return to the museum on Sacramento's Front Street. Further information can be had at the website www.calautomuseum.org.

A Malbec wine from Madera County took top honors at the 2012 Orange County Fair wine competition in Costa Mesa June 5 and 6.

Farview Farm Vineyard, owned by Ray and Tammy Krause of O’Neals, earned a four star gold medal for their Malbec Saint Michael. It was the only Malbec to earn this coveted rating.RayTammy Krause SMALL at Fasi 2009 largerRay and Tammy Krause

“Gold medals are like belly buttons. A four star gold, well, that’s a different story,” said Krause with the usual quick wit and good-natured grin for which he’s known – almost as much as for his wines.

Ray said he’s grateful for the recognition, and he and Tammy were pleasantly surprised.

“To be the only Malbec to win a FSG out of all Malbec entries in all price ranges and, to be one of but 39 given out of nearly 2800 wines is pretty cool.”

The honor means even more, as the approval comes from his peers. Only California wines are judged at the prestigious event, and only California vintners serve as judges.

Ray said the latest accolades continue to prove a point that he and the Madera Vintner’s Association has been championing; that Madera County grapes, given proper attention, can produce top quality wines.

“Chalk up another win for Madera County-grown fruit which can certainly hold its own against the big dogs,” he said in an email thanking his winegrowers for the superior fruit that became the wine.

Farview Farm Vineyard is the second label owned by Ray and Tammy. Their flagship label is Westbrook Wine Farm, also of O’Neals, where they create “Authentic hand crafted wines of quality and conscience.”

Westbrook also had great success recently. At the 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition, held June 15-17, their 2008 Fait Accompli “CRYO” took a double gold medal. Made from estate-grown grapes in Madera County, this “Claret style” wine retails for $60 and is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Cabernet Franc (20%), Malbec (10%), Merlot (8%) and Carmenere (1%).

More information about Farview and Westbrook wines can be found at http://www.westbrookwinefarm.com.

 

(PRWeb contributed to this article)

 

Those planning to visit the Madera Wine Trail and/or the Yosemite National Park area will find links to websites of the wineries there, as well as links to many lodging and dining options, at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Viticulture in California's vast interior valley, nestled between the state's coastal mountain range and the Sierra Nevada, is actually two valleys: the Sacramento Valley in the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the south, which includes the Delta area located in the middle where the two valleys meet. Although the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys are not designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), the region produces 70 percent of the state's winegrapes and is home to 15 AVAs. The Sierra Foothills region is an AVA that runs adjacent to both valleys on the east side, along the Sierra Nevada Mountains. About 0.5 percent of the winegrapes grown in the state are produced from the Sierras.

American Viticultural Areas are to appellations of origin as grapes are to fruit. AVAs are delimited grape growing areas distinguishable by geographic, climatic and historic features, and the boundaries have been delineated in a petition filed and accepted by the federal government. In size, AVAs range from extremely small to extremely large. AVAs are one kind of appellation, but not all appellations are AVAs. An appellation can also be a political designation, such as the name of a country, a state or states, or a county or counties within a state.

 

Sacramento Valleysacramento valley highlight SMALL

The Sacramento Valley runs for approximately 120 miles from Red Bluff in the northern end of the valley to the city of Sacramento. Bordered by the Sierra Nevada to the east and the Coast Ranges to the west, this level, sun-drenched, agriculturally rich area is unaffected by ocean influences. The region has about 8,000 acres of winegrapes. Chardonnay is the most prominent variety and Zinfandel follows. There are some 16 wineries, and approximately two percent of the total state winegrape crush comes from this region.

 

The Delta

The Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley meet at the river delta about 100 miles east of San Francisco, roughly encompassing portions of Solano, Yolo, Sacramento and San Joaquin counties. Here Chardonnay is also the most widely planted variety with Zinfandel a close second.

Within the Delta area, the Lodi AVA has been a major winegrowing region since the 1850s. Grapes were always part of the local landscape, growing wild, dangling from the trees along the riverbanks. Early trappers called one stream "Wine Creek," due to the abundance of wild vines. The river was later renamed the Calaveras River, and flows through the southern part of the Lodi area. Today, the Lodi AVA is farmed by more than 750 growers. About 60 wineries are located in this picturesque rural area known for its older head-trained grapevines. Like the other Delta wine areas that include the Clarksburg AVA with its 10 wineries and 9,000 vineyard acres and the Merritt Island AVA, Lodi is also defined by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the coastal gap where the northern and southern coastal ranges meet at the San Francisco Bay. As temperatures rise in the state's vast interior valley, cool maritime breezes are pulled directly through the Delta area, creating a distinctive climate that has allowed premium winegrapes to thrive for more than a century. Lodi has a Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and cool, moist winters. Deep, sandy clay loam soils predominate.

 

San Joaquin Valleysan joaquin highlight SMALL

One of the richest agricultural areas in the world, the San Joaquin Valley measures about 220 miles in length and 40 to 60 miles in width, extending from around Stockton south to Bakersfield. There are five million acres of irrigated farmlands planted to cotton, grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts. The majority of wine, table and raisin grapes in California are grown in this valley. French Colombard is the leading variety. Chardonnay is the second most planted grape. The red winegrape with the most acreage is Zinfandel. By far the largest producing area in the state, the San Joaquin Valley accounts for more than 44 percent of the total state winegrape crush. There are more than 30 wineries and four AVAs.

The Sierra Nevada mountains form the eastern border of this grand expanse of land, and the lower, more irregular Coast Ranges define it to the west. Irrigation of this land with limited rainfall comes from two huge reservoir and canal systems that bring water from the length of the Sierras to the valley farmers. Although grapes have been grown in the region for more than 100 years, there has been a continuing advance in grape and wine quality due to viticultural refinements, including new varieties, rootstocks, trellis systems and irrigation techniques. These advancements are helping to transform the San Joaquin Valley from a generic into a varietal wine producer.

 

Sierra Foothills

sierra foothills highlight SMALLThe California Gold Country is also a wine region. Originating back to the gold rush days, the first grapes were planted in the 1850s, as a lot of wine was needed to quench the thirst of the Forty-Niner population that migrated to the state at this time. The Sierra Foothills AVA stretches from Yuba County in the north to Mariposa County in the south, along the western portion of the Sierra Nevada, with Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras counties in the center. Within the entire Sierra Foothills AVA, which totals 2,600,000 acres, there are five other AVAs: California

Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, Fiddletown, and North Yuba. The total winegrape vineyard acreage in the Sierra Foothills AVA is 5,700 acres. Zinfandel has the largest amount of plantings, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot, , and Barbera. More than 100 wineries are nestled throughout the nooks and crannies of the foothills, with vineyards generally located between 1,500 to 3,000 feet where elevation creates a four-season climate. The shallow, mountainside soils create moderate stress on the vines, producing low to moderate yields and high quality.

The Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, the interior of California, are the agricultural heartland of the state. Winegrapes are only one of the bountiful crops grown in this immense expanse of farmland. Lodi, Solano and the rest of the Delta area differ from the vast valley regions in their proximity to the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay influence of maritime breezes. The Sierra Foothills could be described as an interior AVA, but its climate and soil conditions starkly contrast all aspects of those viticultural areas on the extensive valley floor below.

 

(Wine Institute sources contributed to this article.)

 

Links to the websites of thousands of lodging and dining options in the Central Valley and Gold Country regions can be found in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the Resource Directory are links to most, if not all, of the wineries.

 

Napa and Sonoma may get all the press, and the Gold Country may have all of that rugged history, but the wine country of California’s Central Valley has its story too. Rightly famous for its rich soils and temperate climate, the Central Valley can produce wines of character that, when compared to some of those other regions, are a great value. You may not be familiar with some of these California wine regions, but they're definitely worth investigating.

 

Yolo County

Known for its warm days and mild Delta breezes, the wine country of Yolo County yields unforgettable wines of great character and diversity. Here you’ll find outstanding Syrah, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Cabernet Souvignon, but also lesser-grown varietals such as Viognier, Malbec, Primitivo, and Albarino, plus Sparkling and Port. You’re sure to find something memorable, and affordable, to suit your taste.

bogle port weekend CORKS SMALL

Virtually all of Yolo County's some two-dozen wineries are family owned and operated—including major producer Bogle Vineyards in the Clarksburg AVA—making for a more intimate experience for visitors. In the little town of Winters you can sample wines at the tasting rooms of Berryessa Gap and Turkovich Family Wines (also home to the Winters Cheese Company, which offers samples, as well). In Clarksburg, the Old Sugar Mill is a unique, historic venue, housing six tasting rooms representing eight wineries all under one roof!

Yolo County is also home to the U.C. Davis Viticulture and Enology department, as well as the Robert Mondavi Institute for Food and Wine Science

From Clarksburg to Davis, Winters to verdant Capay Valley and Dunnigan Hills, you’ll also enjoy gorgeous scenery, great dining opportunities, and comfortable, welcoming places to stay. For more information about Yolo County wineries and other attractions, visit www.yolocvb.org.

 

Suisun Valley

Suisun Wooden Valley Winery I 31n SMALLThree generations of the Lanza family have made Suisun wine at Wooden Valley Winery. Photo by Jo Diaz

Suisun Valley is rustic wine country, nestled in the unspoiled Solano County farmland between San Francisco and Sacramento. The Suisun Valley appellation was established in 1982, and is nestled between two coastal mountain ranges, southeast of Napa Valley. In this diverse agricultural region are approximately 10 wineries, whose vineyards grow 23 different wine grape varieties. They are best known for their Petite Sirah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you fancy Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhone varietals, you must visit Ledgewood Creek, a winery named after the creek that meanders along the northern border of this estate. For lesser known varietals—such as a Malvasia Bianca made in a late harvest style—visit Blacksmith Cellars. And for a rugged, natural experience try Winterhawk Winery, which has placed owl houses and hawk boxes strategically throughout the vineyard, beckoning a wide variety of birds including Red-Tailed Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Sparrow Hawks, and Northern Harriers.

Besides the wineries, visitors will encounter many farm stands, selling fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, nuts and freshly produced olive oils, from family farms that have been handed down for generations. There are also regular, seasonal events that are fun and laid-back. For more information about Suisun Valley wineries, visit www.suisunvalley.com.

 

Lodi

Though Lodi has produced wine for well over a hundred years, quality has soared in recent years. Growers have made commitment to the best viticultural practices and they've planted many new varieties to complement the Zinfandel which has always done well here. Located directly east of San Francisco at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta, the Lodi appellation (which has seven sub-appellations) is noted for its classic Mediterranean climate and its distinctive sandy soils. Today you can choose from nearly 80 wineries that call Lodi home, an abundance that’s impossible to bypass.

Lodi is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World, producing more than 40 percent of California’s premium Zinfandel. Many of the region’s most distinctive wines come from the thousands of acres of “old vines”, some dating back to the 1880s. Styles range from medium to full-bodied with intense red and black fruit flavors of cherries, raspberries, and blackberries.

Lodi is predominately a red wine producer with approximately 66 percent of the acreage dedicated to red varieties. For many years it was California’s best kept secret, enhancing the fruit in many of the state’s most popular premium varietal wines. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay account for the lion’s share of the acreage; however with more 60 varieties in commercial production Lodi offers a vast portfolio of exciting wines.

No visit would be complete without a stop at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center. Here guests can taste from more than 200 Lodi wines and marvel at the hands-on demonstration vineyard.

For more information about Lodi wines, visit www.lodiwine.com.

 

Fresno

In the heart of the Central Valley, and a gateway to Yosemite National Park, Fresno is a surprisingly good destination for wine tasting in rambling Madera County. Nearly 20 wineries are open to visitors here, with vintners who are passionate about making the best wines possible.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Chardonnay are the leaders here, but visitors will also find excellent Tempranillo, Albarino, Sangiovese, and Barbera, plus delightful late harvest Zinfandel and luscious ports. Quality is paramount for these largely boutique wineries. For example, Engelmann Cellars focuses on creating hand-crafted reds and blends. Third-generation Ficklin Vineyards specializes in ports, including their lineup of flavored “Passport” wines. Nonini Winery, a fourth-generation family operation established in 1936, has 15 varieties of premium wines and offers a tour of the winery starting with the 1941 Garolla grape crusher from Italy and ends with the finished product resting in redwood tanks/oak barrels.

Two venues give visitors a chance to try several wines at once. Vino & Friends is a downtown Fresno wine store with a changing tasting menu. Also, be sure to stop by Appellation: California Wine Tasting & Visitor Center, which pours products from family owned wineries or vineyards of the Central Valley. The Center also offers wine education classes.

For more information about Fresno wineries and other activities in and around town, visit www.playfresno.org.

 

Editor's note: Planning a visit to any of the areas mentioned in this article? You'll find links to hundreds of lodging and dining options in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Madera’s Ficklin Vineyards celebrated their 65th anniversary in the Port business last September. The focus now, as it was from the start, is to make authentic Ports from four traditional Portuguese grape varieties planted in the family vineyard in 1945. One of the most popular wines Ficklin still produces is the Old Vine Tinta Port, which was first released in October, 1951. It is an aged ruby style that originated with David Ficklin, the original winemaker. The solera system for that wine was started with the first Ports made at Ficklin in 1948.

Today, two-hundred and fifty-six American oak barrels and sixty-seven European puncheons provide a total puncheons at Ficklin SMALLPuncheons in the Ficklin solera.capacity of over 23,000 gallons for that solera system. Housed in Ficklin’s historic adobe brick winery building, these barrels and puncheons have provided for the consistent flavor development of the Old Vine Tinta Port for over sixty years.

A solera system for wine is a fractional blending system, meaning that only a fraction of the wines progress through to the level of ageing at any time. As the wine is slowly moved through this solera system, a newer three year-old Port from each of the four Portuguese grape varieties is carefully blended to be added to the solera. Current winemaker, Peter Ficklin looks at each varietal component, and how that individual wine will provide the rich and full flavors that will develop into the complex layers found in the Old Vine Tinta Port. This younger wine is used to top-off the sixty-seven puncheons that are the first layer in the solera system. Smaller fifty gallon barrels make up the last level of this sixty year-old solera system. The resulting Port withdrawn from this last stage shows tremendous consistency and character as it is readied for bottling. Consequently, every barrel and puncheon, every bottle, as well as every glass and sip of the Old Vine Tinta Port has a diminishing percentage of the every single vintage since 1948. It is truly a living picture of the history of wines made at Ficklin.

Highly regarded and esteemed through the years, the Old Vine Tinta Port has been a consistent award winner for many decades. It is truly a wine for all ages, as it pairs well with many

desserts, such as fresh fruit, cheesecakes, dark chocolate, as well as the traditional blue-veined cheeses.

 

OLD VINE TINTA PORT

AWARD HISTORY

 

Best In Class 2009 National Women's Wine Competition

Critics Gold 2008 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition

Top Fortified Wine 2007 Beverage Testing Institute World Value Wine Challenge

Best Of Class 2002 Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition

 

DOUBLE GOLD

2011 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

2009 National Women's Wine Competition

2009 Best in Appellation Competition

2009 Lodi International Wine Competition

2004 International Eastern Wine Competition

2002 International Eastern Wine Competition

2000 El Dorado County Fair Wine Competition

 

GOLD MEDALS

2011 California State Fair, Sacramento

2009 Long Beach Grand Cru Competition

2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

2008 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition

2008 San Diego International Wine Competition

2008 Monterey Wine Competition

2008 Lodi International Wine Competition

2006 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition

2006 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

2003 Riverside International Wine Competition

2002 Long Beach Grand Cru

2002 Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition

2000 Riverside International Wine Competition

2000 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition

1999 Dallas Morning News National Wine Competition

1999 Taster's Guild International Wine Judging

1998 American Wine Society

1998 Taster's Guild International Wine Judging

1997 New World International Wine Competition

1996 California State Fair, Sacramento

1996 El Dorado County Fair Wine Competition

1996 Jerry Mead's "On Wine"

1996 Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition

1991 Beverage Testing Institute

1989 Orange County Fair Wine Competition

 

Editor's note: Links to websites of wineries in Madera County and other parts of Central Valley, as well as hundreds of links to lodging and dining options, are found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

 

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