Give your nostrils something to smile about and your eyes something to chew when you pull up a chair to one of The Tasting Room's wine-laden tables. Your evening of wine-tertainment guest-stars a lineup of five or six boutique wines that are hand selected by the grape-washed hands of The Tasting Room's knowledgeable staff. Wine flights vary from week to week, but many of the selections hail from California's rich Central Coast, which, as the connoisseurs already know, has lands more fertile than a rabbit drinking oyster smoothies. The cozy spot also offers appetizers delivered from local restaurants for purchase while you sip.
LoMac Winery is owned and operated by fourth generation wine makers, who've grown grapes on the edges of Fresno since their great-grandfather Henry Engleman bought his first piece of land more than 100 years ago. With this deal, you and 14 friends can taste fermented favorites that have been fine-tuned over many decades as you enjoy a two-hour wine tasting of LoMac Winery's varietals. Afterwards, take home three bottles of wine of your choice (pinot noir excluded), from the robust 2001 zinfandel to the rich 2009 pinot gris.
Moravia Wine's Howard Hammond is the patriarch of the family vineyards. For Howard, farming is a family tradition that stretches back to the late 19th century, when his Danish ancestor, Hans Jacob Jeppesen, arrived in America aboard a Norwegian vessel named "Moravia." Today, Howard, his wife Barbara, and a new generation of Hammonds carry on that tradition at the family's vineyards, a 400-acre estate in West Fresno. There, they produce Moravia wine inside a World War II-era farm and equipment barn. The barn's interior has undergone major changes to accommodate the production process and frequent tasting events. But its exterior still uses the original brickwork, maintaining the building's character.
In 1996, around the time his daughter Destiny was born, David Hunt began scouring Oregon, Washington, and California's wine regions for a place his dream vineyard could call home. He and his family settled on a 550-acre site in Paso Robles, which they christened Destiny's Vineyard, and opened Hunt Cellars winery.
And now, the small operation churns out barrel-aged pours that have won numerous awards and are available at prestigious restaurants, such as Ruth?s Chris Steakhouse and Morton's. What is particularly impressive about Hunt's success is that he's legally blind and must rely on his sense of taste and smell to figure out exactly how to blend his flavors together, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Inside his colonial-style tasting room, which features a 1,200-foot veranda, he pairs his beloved wines with his other love in life?music. Visitors here can enjoy a glass of wine while listening to Hunt tickling the ivories on the tasting room's white baby grand piano, which he plays during winemakers' dinners. Forbes even dubbed him the "Diddy of Winemakers" because like the music mogul, David blends his music with his alcohol brand, and loves changing his name.
Las Flores Family Winery produces fine, handcrafted wine from local grapes. Two chums can enjoy a tasting tour (a $5 value per person) of the small boutique winery. Use the complimentary glass to taste the 2007 syrah ($16), whose liquid character sparkles with the honorable tastes of peppery spice, vanilla, and darkish berries, pairing perfectly with beef, lamb, veal, or hard cheese. The One Night Stand—a blend of merlot, tempranillo, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon ($20)—takes its name from the winery owners’ bedroom, which only has one nightstand. A superb all-purpose table wine, it features flavors of cherry, black pepper, and oak. Tongues will gladly wrap themselves around the light and fruity 2008 chardonnay ($17).