The cooks at Sips Bistro and Wine Shop use locally acquired and organic ingredients where possible in their classic menu of small plates, varietals, and espresso drinks. The intimate bistro setting—rendered warm by colorful murals of pastoral settings and elegant wood wine racks—hosts guests as they try refined eats such as a chicken, brie, and caramelized onion quesadilla, or a brined and herb-crusted bone-in pork chop. During wine flights, vino sippers may choose their own drinks from a temperature-controlled wine bar or the frigid palms of a grape-eating sprite. The company also occasionally hosts events such as champagne Sundays and special tastings.
After immigrating to America early in the 20th century, Emilio Guglielmo saved up for years before he was able buy a plot of land for his winery in 1925. In the years since, three generations of his family have run the vineyard and kept its Old World style alive. Large wooden beams, stone walls, and terracotta tiles surround guests in the tasting room, where they can sample carefully selected vintages. Each year, the winery produces nearly 40,000 cases, including the award-winning 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Estate Petite Sirah, each of which took home gold medals in San Francisco’s International Wine Competition.
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.
With a reverence for Old-World winemaking techniques, Leal Vineyards founder Frank Leal orchestrates a well-balanced blend of varietals including chardonnay, syrah, malbec, and mourvèdre. The self-taught vine visionary personally tends to the estate, determining optimum moments for picking and bottling to prevent the scars of prematurely separating young grapes from their mothers. In addition to nurturing the 50-acre flock of award-winning grapes, Leal's estate hosts weddings, corporate functions, parties, and wine tastings, which introduce palates to the subtle notes of its signature varietals. Those whose taste in wines changes with the seasons can join the vineyard’s wine club to receive a new bouquet each quarter.
Winery founder Theophile Vache christened his land Pietra Santa—Italian for “sacred stone”—in honor of the region's granite- and limestone-rich soils, which have produced subtly earthy wines for 150 years. Rows of olive trees and wine grapes, including chardonnay and pinot grigio varieties, sprout from 450 acres of fecund soil nestled in the Gabilan Range.
Within the Mission-style winery, vintner Alessio Carli ferments vino in oak barrels, and a Tuscan-imported press squeezes oils from organic olives. The winery's picnic area furnishes guests and marooned hot air balloon captains with breath-nabbing views of Cienega Valley. In addition to garnering the adoration of oenophiles, Pietra Santa has attracted attention from Frank Lloyd Wright associate Burley Griffin Junior, who designed the estate's prairie-style Dickinson house.
Centrally located between appellations as extensive as Santa Monica and Napa Valley, the locally owned Mariposa Wine Company cultivates three brands of artisanal wines from grapes that historically thrive in the surrounding region. Mariposa's cool-climate-grown CRU brand features a classic 2007 Vineyard Montage pinot noir ($23.99), brimming with whiffs of cherry pie, cranberry undertones, and rapidly edited sequences of growing grapes set to inspiring power chords. The powerful syrah grape packs a peppery punch in the 2007 Sur le Pont ($19.99), one of Mariposa's Mediterranean-influenced Carmichael-brand wines. Also available is the Yosemite View brand, with grapes, bottles, and corks all grown in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Vigorously inhale the raspberry and licorice aromas of Yosemite View's zinfandel ($12). Bottle buyers who don't even buy laundry detergent without swishing it around in their mouth first will get to sample the winery's intriguing blends in its Wine-Tasting Room, where they can test the appearance, complexity, and squirt-gun capabilities of each vino at their leisure before buying.
Bought by brothers Alex and Charlie Larson after an award-winning stint in the restaurant business, Rapazzini Winery tickles tongues with an eclectic collection of wines drawn from California's vineyards. After bottling, most Rapazzini wines rest for an additional one to two years, mellowing tannins, developing fruity bouquets, and finishing majors in art history. Unique wines include the almond champagne, created by Alex Larson using his training at the California Culinary Institute, and the Arpibella, blending sweet wine, apricots, and peach into a delectable aperitif or dessert wine. Guests to the winery can taste 21 of the 22 available wines, guided through the selection by resident grape expert Adam and his airedale, Butters. Behind the beaten copper bar, Adam and the brother Larson can also whip up wine-based cocktails, amusing mouths with more complex flavors.The two-story, open-beamed tasting room lulls guests into placid relaxation while sipping on palate-pleasing pours, whereas a stained-glass window depicting the winery's whimsical mascot reassures eyes that the sun has not been devoured by a dragon-shaped cloud.