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 totalcapacity 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 The resulting Port withdrawn from this last stage shows tremendous consistency and character as it is readied for bottling.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
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
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
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.
The Central Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA) stretches roughly 250 miles along the coastline of California, from San Francisco County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south, averaging about 25 miles in width. A very large AVA, the Central Coast encompasses approximately four million acres, of which 90,300 acres are planted to winegrapes. The region produces almost 15 percent of the state’s total winegrape production and is home to about 360 wineries.
An area further south, loosely called the Southern California Region, includes five AVAs that cover 267,500 acres in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
American Viticultural Areas are to appellations of origin like grapes are to fruit. AVAs are delimited grapegrowing 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. More information on AVAs and appellations can be found on the Wine Institute website at www.wineinstitute.org/ava/index.html.
Central Coast AVA — San Francisco Bay The northern section of the Central Coast AVA includes: Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. There are around 5,000 acres of planted vineyards and more than 100 wineries, ranging from small start-ups to historic leaders of the California wine industry. Chardonnay is prominent with 1,300 acres. The most widely planted red winegrapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with roughly 700 acres of each variety. Approximately one percent of the total state wine grape production comes from this district.
Cooled by the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, the warm days and cool nights provide classic grape growing conditions. The primary soil type is well-drained gravel that reduces vigor in the vines and increases flavor concentration in the fruit.
Central Coast AVA — Monterey and San BenitoContinuing south along the Central Coast AVA, Monterey and San Benito counties are the next two areas. Known for the rugged beauty of Big Sur, the charm of Carmel and the lore of Pebble Beach, Monterey County is also home to 38,200 acres of wine grapes and about 75 wineries and growers. San Bernabe, the world’s largest contiguous vineyard at over 8,700 acres, is also located in the area. Chardonnay is a very important variety, comprising 43 percent of total grape acreage with 17,350 acres planted. The second largest variety is Merlot with 6,300 acres planted in the warmer, southern area of the appellation. There are roughly 2,800 acres of winegrapes planted in San Benito County and eight wineries. Together the two counties account for 7.7 percent of the total state winegrape crush.
The climate of Monterey County reflects the cooling influence of the Monterey Bay and lack of abundant rainfall. There are enough warm days to ripen the grapes, however the marine influence predominates. Due to the cool growing conditions, harvest is typically two weeks later than other regions, allowing for a long season and slow fruit maturation. The steep slopes and rolling hills provide good drainage, and Monterey soil temperatures are cooler than other parts of the state, limiting crop size.
Central Coast AVA — San Luis Obispo and Santa BarbaraSan Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties make up the southernmost district of the Central Coast AVA. There are 26,400 acres of wine grapes planted in San Luis Obispo County and 17,900 acres planted in Santa Barbara County, totaling more than 44,000 acres. Together they make up 6.3 percent of the total state winegrape crush. The number one wine grape variety in San Luis Obispo County is Cabernet Sauvignon with 8,600 acres. Merlot is second with 4,000 acres. There are about 110 wineries in the County. In Santa Barbara County, Chardonnay is the predominant grape with 8,000 acres, and Pinot Noir follows with 2,900 acres. There are almost 90 wineries.
The city of Paso Robles, situated 20 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, is in San Luis Obispo County, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The area is characterized by warm, clear days, generally unencumbered by clouds, fog or severe winds. Nighttime temperatures drop by approximately 40 degrees, cooled by a marine layer that moves over the region after sunset. Proximity to the ocean, orientation of the numerous canyons and valleys, and varying elevations produce diverse macroclimates, allowing production of both cool and warm loving winegrape varieties. There are four general soil associations, primarily formed from the weathering of granite, serpentine, shale and sandstone.
In Santa Barbara County, the north-south coastal range of mountains abruptly turns to run almost east-west for 50 miles, framing the valleys in a unique transit to the Pacific Ocean. This is the only stretch of land from Alaska to Cape Horn constituting an east-west traverse. The unique topography allows the flow of fog and ocean breezes to shape distinct microclimates and makes the region one of the coolest viticultural areas in California. However, warmer daytime temperatures in the inland areas allow a wide variety of winegrapes to be grown. Terrain and climates vary widely, from steep, wind-swept hillsides to rolling inland valley vineyards where summer temperatures often reach the century mark.
Southern California RegionThe Southern California Region extends from the Malibu-Newton Canyon AVA, 850 acres, north of the city of Los Angeles to the southern border of California below the city of San Diego. Among the five AVAs located in the region, the South Coast is the largest with an area totaling 115,200 acres. Cucamonga Valley contains 109,400 acres of land. Temecula comprises about 33,000 acres and San Pasqual Valley around 9,000 acres. The region has about 44 wineries.
The coastal areas of California are highly prized winegrape growing regions due to their proximity to the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean and a wide diversity of soils and topography. This long stretch of land is ideal for the cultivation of classic wine grape varieties and the production of world-class wines.
(Wine Institute sources contributed to this article.)
Editor's note: Links to the websites of wineries in these areas, as well as links to hundreds of lodging and dining options, can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.
(Editor's note: This article originally appear in 2002, when the author was privileged to attend a dinner honoring California's greatest winemaker.)
by Dan Clarke
André Tchelistcheff may have been the most significant figure in the history of American wine.
The Russian born and French trained winemaker immigrated to the United States in 1938, beginning a lifelong association with Beaulieu Vineyard (BV). Though he died eight years ago at age 92, friends and colleagues said his presence was still felt at a tribute held in his honor Monday evening, the 5th of August at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, California. Dubbed “the Maestro” by the late Beaulieu executive Legh Knowles, Tchelistcheff served continuously as BV’s winemaker from 1938 to 1973. After some years consulting for other American wineries he returned to conclude his career at Beaulieu Vineyard where he served as mentor to Joel Aiken, now vice president of winemaking for the firm.
Aiken and André’s widow, Dorothy, provided one of the celebration’s many highlights when they unveiled a bronze statue of the legendary winemaker. The likeness will be on display for a year-and-a-half at the culinary school before it is moved a few miles southward to its permanent home at Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford. It was created by noted sculptor William Behrends, whose spot-on bronze of Willie Mays concluding his swing greets baseball fans arriving at the San Francisco Giants’ Pac Bell Park.
Following the statue’s unveiling, 125 guests ascended the stairs to partake in a spectacular Barrel Room dinner and enjoy music provided by the Napa Valley Symphony and performers from the Russian National Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera company.
Though Beaulieu is probably best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon wines, in particular the Georges de Latour Private Reserve, the winery has also made wonderful Pinot Noirs and that variety may have been André Tchelistcheff’s favorite. The occasion was chosen as an appropriate time for the debut of the 2000 Maestro Pinot Noir, which was one of eight wines served during the evening.
As master of ceromonies for the evening, Joel Aiken introduced a parade of luminaries who spoke of their own memories of the beloved André Tchelistcheff. John DeLuca of the California Wine Institute recalled cementing an early friendship with him, in part because of his State Department background when he had served in the Soviet Union in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Congressman Mike Thompson remembered the high regard his mother had for André during the years she worked as his secretary at BV.
Several of California’s best winemakers from more recent generations including Marco Capelli, Michael Martini, Allison Green Doran, Jill Davis Metzger and Rob Davis, spoke warmly of the nurturing presence André Tchelistcheff had on their careers. Two said that, had it not been for his influence, they wouldn’t have continued their fledging careers as winemakers.
About halfway through the evening a colleague across the dinner table from me commented, “it really doesn’t get any better than this.” At that moment I think he was referring to the food and the wine, but the remark would have been fair comment about any and all aspects of the celebration. It was a very special time. Nothing less would have been appropriate.
A Tribute to André Tchelistcheff
Monday, August 5, 2002
Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
St. Helena, California
Smoked Salmon on Buttered Brioche Planks
with Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise
Prawns Wrapped with Prosciutto
Dried Black Olive and Caramelized Onion Pizettas
Beaulieu Vineyard 1992 Sparkling Brut Reserve
Beaulieu Vineyard 2001 Sauvignon Blanc
Maryland Crab and Scallop Mousse
Served with Cucumber Ribbons, Melon Cream
and Sweet Basil OilBeaulieu Vineyard 2000 Reserve Chardonnay
Mahogany Glazed Breast of Muscovy Duck
served with a Pinot Noir Reduction Sauce,
Gargantuan White Beans, Rosemary and Olive OilBeaulieu Vineyard 1992 and 2000 Maestro Pinot Noir
Roast Rack of Lamb with Mint Demi Glace
served with a Fine Ratatouille, Mint and BasilBeaulieu Vineyard 1970 Georges de Latour
Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Beaulieu Vineyard 1994 Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon
Poached Apricots and Apricot Mousse
in an Almond Tuille Basket served with Caramel SauceMuscat de Beaulieu
Menu designed by
Chef Elaine Bell
Editor's Note: A link to the website of Beaulieu Vineyard, as well as links to all the other Napa Valley wineries, will be found in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the Directory as links to hundreds of lodging and dining options in the North Coast region.