Yesterday I spent the afternoon a little outside of Fresno at 4 wineries that were all within a mile or two from each other. I went to Englemann Cellars, LoMac Winery, A. Nonini Winery and Moravia Wines. With all the tasting rooms being no more than a few miles apart it makes for a nice afternoon of sipping local wines and getting to know the owners and winemakers. My timing must have been right because I was able to spend a little time getting to know people at each spot.
First was Englemann Cellars and they did not disappoint. Bret Englemann led me through a full tasting of 6 of their varieties (they had close to 15 available) along with the full story behind their vineyards (4th generation grape grower). I sampled the Rose (more on the Red side compared to a French Rose), Cab/Shiraz Blend (very good and easy drinking, lots of smokey and cherry notes), Uber Zin (excellent), Ziraz (Zzin and Shiraz Blend), and Tempranillo (spicy wine, my kind of Red). Their wines all carried excellent color characteristics. Englemann has the best set-up of any of the wineries and hosts concerts on Friday nights in the summer to go along with their tastings on Saturday and Sunday. My 4 hour long afternoon in 95 degree heat didn’t allow me to purchase any but I will bring Nikki the first Saturday we have.
LoMac Winery was the 2nd stop. I’ve never had a Barbara before LoMac and it was really a good varietal. It was definitely peppery and fruit heavy but also a light and easy drinking wine. The color was different as it wasn’t nearly as Red as I would have expected. I tried their Rose, Pinot Noir (tough to make in the central valley because of the heat…you could tell with the color that they had to harvest the grapes a little too soon), Merlot, Tre (Cab, Syrah and Zin blend), Moscato (super sweet dessert wine; peachy) and the Lady Da Vine (heavy dessert wine, red). Not bad all around but it’ll be my third stop down the road.
A. Nonini Winery was the third stop and my least favorite. They specialize in sweet table wines. The winery and vineyard has a great story. I was able to chat up James (GM, winemaker, etc.) about the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and all things sports during the tasting. He loves Jay Cutler…and I love that Jay Cutler is the Bears QB and not the Broncos, so we agreed on that. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the wine I definitely respect the history and will end up back there again.
Moravia Wines was a great way to finish up my tour. They make more of the traditional wines and their color was awesome. It was a pleasure meeting Trent and seeing 4 generations of his family in the tasting room, we should all be that lucky. I started off with their Rose (same nose as a dry Rose but a stronger fruit taste) then the Petit Syrah, followed by the Merlot (awesome color and nose but an even better taste…almost confused me for a really intense Cab. One of the best Merlot’s I’ve ever had) and the Old Vine Zin (everyone seems to make an “old vine” Zinfandel…sweet up front but smooth at the end…ultimately not my favorite of varieties) and finished with their Cabernet Sauvignon which was very good. Moravia’s wines were also the most affordable which was highly encouraging since I liked them so much. Trent and I talked just as much about beer as we did wine and he’ll be getting a nice little package of Mountain Livin’ Pale Ale when I get around to it.
A few takeaways:
- Because of heat of the Central Valley most wineries have to search a little harder for excellent grapes that are a little smaller for their wines. I learned that in order to bring out the best color for the wines you need to have super sweet small grapes so that the skins can take over during the aging process to create a full and dark colored red.
- The area/soil/vines here give a lot of the same characteristics because I had a tough time differentiating some of the varieties.
- Englemann Cellars is probably the premier place to get married in all of Fresno. I haven’t seen many places that could hold a large event any better
- Having a number of wineries within 20 minutes of my apartment and within 5 minutes of each other is really neat and we’ll be back for sure.