September is the Perfect Time to Discover California's Other Wine Country

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With the proclamation by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that September is to be known as California Wine Month, now is the perfect time to explore California's other wine country: Madera County.

Madera Wine Trail

Guests visiting the Madera Wine Trail reap the benefits of the region’s rich history, knowledgeable staff and tasting rooms that are still small enough that you can speak to the winemakers themselves.

With California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent declaration of September as California Wine Month, now is the perfect time to discover Madera County wines.

“Madera County is a great place for wine enthusiasts to explore,” said Dan Cunning, CEO of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, which promotes Madera County. “We hear from a lot of oenophiles who enjoy the vintages found throughout the county. They especially enjoy the fact that they can have an intimate tasting, without the crowds seen in other areas,” he said.

The Madera Vintners have put together a self guided tour among the valley’s numerous wineries, many of which offer tastings. “There are several small, family-owned wineries in Madera County, making up the Madera Wine Trail. Many of these wineries are situated in the midst of the vineyards from which they harvest their grapes,” said K.C. Pomering, the Executive Administrator of the Madera Vintners Association.

“Oftentimes, the winemakers’ roots are in growing wine grapes. Their attentive care and expertise ensures the production of high quality wine grapes, a critical first step for producing exceptional wine. This spirit of growing superior wine grapes and crafting premium wine in Madera began with the early settlers’ hands and lives on today and is available for guests to experience on the Madera Wine Trail.”

Pomering said the small nature of the wineries on the trail gives visitors a more genuine experience. “Guests visiting the Madera Wine Trail reap the benefits of the region’s rich history, knowledgeable staff and tasting rooms that are still small enough that you can speak to the winemakers themselves.”

Pomering added that many of the wineries don’t charge tasting fees, which makes it easier to find a new favorite to help restock the shelves at home.

Like Napa Valley, Madera County has a long history of winemaking. Madera County is one of the oldest wine grape producing areas in California. As early as the late 1800’s, settlers homesteaded small farms and planted grapes to produce wine. These settlers came to Madera bringing their old world winemaking expertise from such countries as Italy, Armenia, France and others. Before the turn of the century, Madera County was host to two wineries that shipped wines bearing the Madera label to many parts of the world.

Located just below the iconic Yosemite National Park, the wineries benefit from the areas unique geography. Madera’s microclimate is bounded and cooled by the San Joaquin River on the southwest and the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the east. Warm summer temperatures and varied soil types in Madera County provide a foundation for the full development of the grapes. Recognizing these distinctive characteristics, Madera was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1985.

In addition to well known desert wine producers familiar to many wine drinkers, such as Ficklin and Quady, the trail has numerous others who produce wines rated at the top of their classes. The Westbrook Wine Farm, for example, has been providing the table wine for Erna’s Elderberry House located in Chateau du Sureau in Oakhurst, the region’s only recognized five star restaurant. Other popular stops along the trail include Birdstone Winery, Golden Valley Wine, Idle Hour Winery, Chateau Lasgoity, Mariposa Wine Company, Oak Hollow Winery, San Joaquin Wine Company, Pacific Crest and Vineyard 208. To learn more about Madera County Wines, log on to http://www.maderavintners.com.

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Jarrod Lyman
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