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.
After spending a long month overhauling the interior, replacing the carpentry, and upgrading the electrical work, Risé Martin and her husband Mark were ready to fling open the rehabbed doors of Martin’s Bar. The couples’ upgrades included six flat-screen TVs, a pool table, and new lighting designed to illuminate a stage that hosts live musicians throughout the week. Now, visitors to Martin’s can sidle up to the granite bar to sip on high-end cocktails or domestic drafts while watching the game or requesting that the night’s musical act play Hot Cross Buns.
For three generations, the family at Ficklin Vineyards has nurtured 35 acres of portuguese vine varietals to sustain a supply of small-production California-style port wines. Plum-flavored notes blossom from bottles of spicy Old Vine Tinta port ($15), and bottles of chocolate, hazelnut, and raspberry passport ($14) arrive at palates with fruit-infused flavors and up-to-date customs papers. Sauces such as the raspberry-chocolate port sauce ($18) help to accentuate desserts, and the L'Andalus orange aperitif wine ($30) inaugurates pre-dinner revelries with hints of apricot, honey, and orange blossom. To commemorate the rarity of exceptional growing seasons and Harlem Globetrotter losses, the Ficklin family bottles a vintage-dated port in limited quantities of 1,000 cases. Eight vintage ports have been bottled in the past 50 years, marking seasons such as 1996 ($36), 1988 ($41.25), and 1957 ($360).
Paso Robles doesn't have one climate. Instead, it encompasses a diverse cluster of microclimates and a correspondingly diverse array of wineries. The grapes that ripen on their vineyards here vary widely in flavor and harvest date, and the resulting wines are predictably eclectic even though they all hail from the same region.
With First Crush Wine Experience, wine enthusiasts can sample the region's bounty—and even stomp on its grapes. Hands-on, multi-day tours let participants follow a bottle of wine from vine to finished product and on some trips, participants get to custom blend their own bottle of wine. The company's seminars, meanwhile, focus on topics such as honing the palate to help wine drinkers better differentiate between wine and wine-flavored Gatorade.