It’s wintertime in Fresno’s wine country and that means the vines are undergoing their transition into dormancy. The vines may look like a lifeless woody plant but they are still alive and they are just hanging out until the warmth of spring awakens the vine back into action. During the winter months, we are all guilty of spending too much time indoors and experience cabin fever. Going to a winery is the perfect escape, as you can walk around a cozy cellar, taste fantastic wines, and take in the fresh air of the vineyards. Visiting a winery during the winter months allows you to taste new wines, and replenish vintages that have been depleted during the holidays.
The vine leaves during these colder months will turn from green to yellow to brown before falling in a process called senescence. By now, the vine has discontinued its metabolic process and has stopped producing energy through photosynthesis and the plant will rely exclusively on the stored energy it has gathered throughout the growing season in its roots, trunk, and branches. Water inside the plant’s cell tissue can freeze during the winter, causing the cells to burst and thus damaging the vine; during dormancy, the vine develops a remarkable natural defense to this threat.
Despite their plants taking a winter break, it’s certainly no holiday for the winegrowers, who work year-round and continue selling wine. The winter work includes pruning, which is a tiresome job. Pruning happens anytime between November and the middle of March before buds appear. In addition to pruning, timber needs to be cleared. It’s at this time of year that the racking of the previous year’s harvest takes place.
Some wineries to visit during the winter include 3 Oaks Vineyard and Farmer’s Fury Winery.
Three Oaks Vineyard was started by Steve and Vicki Shoemaker, who both grew up in the Fresno area. When Steve retired in 2005, the family moved to Clovis and were unsure what to do with the land they purchased. After a trip to Napa, Steve and Vicki decided to create a vineyard in 2007. They currently have 23 rows of grapes, with red and white varietals including Viognier, Grenache and the ever-popular, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Three Oaks Vineyard believes good wine comes from the best grapes and they are committed to ensuring their grapes are not affected by toxic chemicals or herbicides. Their wine is handmade, low in sulfites, ecologically nourished and sustainably grown.
(Credit: 3 Oaks Vineyard)
Farmer’s Fury has been a family-operated farm for many years, but is relatively new to the wine industry, having only begun in 2009. Brothers George and Charles and father Charles Meyer began Farmer’s Fury. In 2006, George bought five gallons of frozen grape must, and followed the instructions that came with the kit. In 2009, the Meyers officially began making wine as Farmer’s Fury Winery. Farmer’s Fury started with four tons of grapes and made 195 cases of Big Bold Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wine is true vintage, bottled cabernets, chardonnays, reserve merlots, zinfandels, and blends. Farmer’s Fury is dedicated to making good wine for the “hardworking men and women” of the Central Valley.
(Credit: Farmer’s Fury)
While the vines are dormant, wineries are not. The wine tastes great year-round and there are some added benefits to visiting this time of year, which includes fewer crowds, beautiful sunsets and drinking by the fire. There is nothing more beautiful than sitting in a warm dining room and looking out at a snow-covered vineyard and winery, as you sip a flavorful wine. The vineyard may look different but experiencing what each winery or vineyard has to offer in each season helps make wine tasting a year-round attraction. The bottom line is that the wineries in Fresno can be enjoyed at any time of year!