Category: Tourism

Madera Wine Trail has fresh stories to celebrate Wine Month

Central California’s Madera County is the largest rural county in the state and home to the Madera Wine Trail. The landscape stretches from productive farmlands to rolling foothills and upward into the High Sierra. It’s no mystery why this countryside has been winemaking since the 1800s, the weather is warm, the skies are clear and the snowcapped mountain tops nourish the foothills and central valley.

“Visitors from across the state are taking notice of the amazing adventures they can find in the heart of California. People don’t have far to travel to find outdoor options that give plenty of space for social distancing. Plus, we have sunshine more than 300 days of the year,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO, Visit Yosemite | Madera County. “Not only can people play here year-round, but excellent wine grapes grow here, too. Maximizing a trip to Bass Lake, Yosemite or the Sierra National Forest means tasting award-winning wines along the Madera Wine Trail. It adds something special to a getaway.”

“We are proud to continually share the Yosemite regions ‘best-kept-secret’ of the Madera Wine Trail with the world. We celebrate California Wine Month with a short film by an acclaimed videographer all about what makes this historic American Viticulture Area so unique,” said Wendy Eachus, Madera Vintners Association. “Five of the nine wineries along the Madera wine trail have moved tastings exclusively outdoors. All of the wineries are open for curbside pick-ups and private appointments. It’s true, this year, current events are complicated. However, everyone can absolutely enjoy handcrafted wines from Madera’s vintners and dream about their next visit.”

“The major differences between a connoisseur and the common consumer are adjectives. Everybody is an expert at what they like,” said Owner and Winemaker Ray Krause, Westbrook Wine Farm. “I have people that come in and say, ‘I don’t know much about wine’ to which I respond, I bet you know a whole lot about what you like.”

Californians know what they like; beautiful scenic views, relaxing outdoor patios, and engaging conversation over award-winning wines. There is still plenty to celebrate this September. Find it at the doorstep of Yosemite National Park along the Madera Wine Trail.

http://www.maderatribune.com/single-post/2020/09/02/Madera-Wine-Trail-has-fresh-stories-to-celebrate-Wine-Month#:~:text=September%20is%20National%20Wine%20Month,to%20the%20Madera%20Wine%20Trail.

‘We’re all COVID-free:’ Pro-surfers back in the Valley, compete in WSL’s Rumble at the Ranch for charity

Destination California: Madera Wine Trail is a hidden gem in the Valley

FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Some call it the wine industry’s best kept secret. The Madera Wine Trail in the Central Valley is a unique boutique experience, offering award-winning wines. “The Madera Wine Trail is so important to this community,” said Erica Magarian, the Estate manager at Fäsi Estate Winery. Considered the agricultural center of the United States, the Central Valley has reason to show off its wine growing region in Madera. “We can create wines that are unique — vintage to vintage.  And not only that, we can play around with different varieties that are not as common,” said Shayne Vetter, who’s a winemaker for Toca Madera Winery.

The wineries are on a smaller scale in Madera, giving an intimate feel that wine lovers can take advantage of. “We’re able to be very hands on from start to finish.  Whether that be, as you can see behind me, our vineyard, being very hands on with harvesting all the way through to maybe hand bottling,” said Magarian. “And not only that, you’re going to taste some wines that are a little different in style because we have the ability to be different and not have to follow kind of the status quo,” added Vetter.

Winery staff are rich in knowledge and the area is one of the oldest grape growing regions in America.  The wineries on the wine trail are part of the AVA. “A lot of people don’t realize that Madera is a American Viticultural Area meaning it has some distinction apart from the surrounding areas.” Renowned neighbors, Napa and Paso Robles might be touting best in show, but Madera wines are up and coming–already winning several awards and the county has long been known for its dessert wines and ports. “A lot of wine grape growing regions are known for maybe one or two particular varietals, but here in Madera, it’s very interesting and exciting that we all kind of have our own little niche.  So, that’s very cool.” The Madera Wine Trail is just minutes North of Fresno.

https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/destination-california/madera-wine-trail-is-a-hidden-gem-in-the-valley/

Madera Drive-in Reopens to Sold-out Crowd

MADERA, California (KSEE) – The Madera Drive-in reopened to moviegoers Friday to a packed audience. Vice President of Operations Bob Gran Jr. said they were just about to kick off the season when the pandemic hit. “We’ve worked hand in hand with the Madera County Health Department to mitigate all those measures against the virus,” he said.

The more than 300 car capacity lot has been cut to about 200, allowing at least ten feet between vehicles. Markers for social distancing were placed leading to the now outdoor snack bar and everyone is asked to stay inside their vehicles unless they have to get out (then masks are required). Despite all the new rules, the crowd still came. “Oh, it’s going to be a sell out,” Gran Jr. said. He was right, a line of moviegoers wrapped around the block. Among them was Ralph Westcott, who says the rules are worth the reward. “This, not having to set anything up yourself at home, it’s just the family time,” he said.

“It is nice to see them reopen – especially with a lot of people taking safety precautions, so that way we’re still conscious of other people’s health and safety, so that’s why I think this is way better than sitting in a regular movie theater,” said Erica Chuvichien. Gran said he wants everyone to willingly comply with the new guidelines, but they will be enforced, and people who don’t follow will be asked to leave. “If you can, please wait until we return to normal. You can come out and enjoy the normal drive-in experience. Right now it’s a special drive-in experience,,” Gran Jr. said.

This week the theater is playing Trolls World Tour and Doolittle on side one, and Knives Out and the Hunt on side two.

https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/local-news/madera-drive-in-reopens-to-sold-out-crowd/#:~:text=MADERA%2C%20California%20(KSEE)%20%E2%80%93,season%20when%20the%20pandemic%20hit.

Virtual wine trail in Madera County brings community together

Madera County is home to a variety of wineries like Toca Madera Winery, which are now coming to you with virtual tastings. “We’ve turned into a virtual winery basically. So virtual tastings on Instagram and Facebook on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at 5. We do private virtual tastings and doorstep delivery has become our thing,” said Shayne Vetter, a winemaker for Toca Madera Winery. Vetter says they’ve seen a lot of support from local wine drinkers. People purchase their estate wines, tune-in and drink up.

https://www.yosemitethisyear.com/eventdetail/15081/virtual-wine-tasting

Hampton Inn and Suites coming to Porterville in 2021

Paul Jariwala, the general manager of Holiday Inn Express on Highway 190 put it best when it comes to the hotel industry. “There’s kind of room for everyone,” he said. Even though it will be in direct competition with the Holiday Inn, a Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton will be constructed at the 2.6-acre lot just to the east and of the Holiday Inn on Highway 190. The hotel will be the third one in that area as it will also join the Best Western Porterville Inn. The three hotels will continue to provide a need for people who travel Highway 190 to visit such attractions at the Sequoia National Forest.

A Brave New World: Latest in agriculture at Expo in Tulare

Traditionally the Farmer’s Almanac predicts rainy weather during early to middle February said Lt. Boatman from the Tulare Police Department, who was helping on the first day of the 2020 World Ag Expo on Tuesday, at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. But it was a clear, bright, and beautifully sunny day, and at least 30,000 people or more were expected to attend the show. And over the three days, Tuesday, today and Thursday, Feb. 13, there could be anywhere from 90,000 to more than  100,000 people attending from all over the world. When the gates opened and hundreds of people were lined up to enter, at about 9:30 the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and people respectfully sang with their hands over their hearts.

https://www.recorderonline.com/news/a-brave-new-world-latest-in-agriculture-at-expo/article_4c7de574-4dc0-11ea-b9ba-a3d1742c88a5.html

THE 53RD WORLD AG EXPO® COMES TO A CLOSE

Sunny skies, large crowds and optimistic attendees defined the 53rd edition of World Ag Expo®. The world’s largest annual outdoor agricultural exposition came to a close on Thursday, February 13 and boasted 1,442 exhibitors on 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. The three-day show hosted 106,357 attendees representing 46 states, the District of Columbia and 56 countries. Exhibitors reported high traffic, quality leads and a well-organized event. First year exhibitor Agland Management Consulting, Inc. was in the Hemp Education & Marketing Pavilion and their team was pleased with their first trip to World Ag Expo®.

https://www.worldagexpo.com/the-53rd-world-ag-expo-comes-to-a-close

Fresno-Clovis area sees hotel building boom

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — The Fresno-Clovis area is in the midst of a hotel building boom that will result in 2,000 more available rooms when current projects are complete.

Four new hotel properties have recently opened up. Eight more were either in the process of being built or planned.

Fresno-Clovis Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Layla Forstedt cited the area’s high occupancy rate as one reason why more hotels were going up.

“In the 30 years of the hospitality industry for me, I’ve never seen an occupancy of 70% and that’s every single motel average of every hotel-motel,” Forstedt said.

In Clovis, the occupancy rate was even higher.

Clovis Economic Development Director Andy Haussler explained, “We’ve seen occupancy rates into the 90%, which basically means we are full and what we don’t want to have is our town not being able to accommodate someone.”

Action News caught up with Haussler across from Costco, where Hilton was building a new Home 2 Suites.

Down the way on Clovis Avenue, La Quinta has squeezed into a tight space by building up and opening a new hotel.

Crews were also preparing to build a new Courtyard Marriott on Shaw near the Sierra Vista Mall. Two other hotels are planned.

“With what we recently completed and the new rooms coming on-line it’s about 532 additional rooms. That about doubles our hotel room count in Clovis,” Haussler said.

Hyatt Place recently opened a brand new hotel not far from River Park. It is also located across from Kaiser Permanente.

The Valley has seen more people coming to various facilities for medical treatment. But local hotels have found sporting events fill rooms. The state track and field championships at Buchanan High resulted in 6,000 room nights alone.

“We’re the only city that has three CIF events. That’s track, swimming and diving and cross country,” Forstedt said.

More visitors to our local national parks have been staying over in Fresno County.

Fresno has also seen a lot more business travelers so the new hotels offer the area rooms to grow.

Spenker Winery ‘completes the farm’ with SJ County’s only goat creamery

 

 

By Bob Highfill

Record Staff Writer

Posted Aug 4, 2019 at 4:07 PM

LODI — Bettyann Spenker is joking but serious at the same time.

In 2010, her daughters, Kate and Sarah, were out of the house off to college.

So, “I replaced them,” Bettyann said.

Indeed she did.

Spenker replaced her kids with goat kids. Her first was a cute, tiny Nigerian Dwarf she named Shirley. Fast forward nearly a decade and the tribe on the Spenker’s farmstead in Lodi has grown to more than 70 with some 23 supplying Bettyann and her daughters with enough milk to commercially make cheese and yogurt.

Today, Spenker Family Farm on DeVries Road includes their winery, vineyard, goat farm and the only goat creamery in San Joaquin County.

The idea to open an artisan creamery came when Kate and Sarah returned home from college and expressed interest in continuing the family business. There was much to discuss: The market for Zinfandel, of which they have 60 acres, wasn’t exactly robust. Their winery, which opened in 1994 as a means to showcase their grapes, was boutique in size. There already were many wineries in Lodi. How could theirs stand out from the rest? They needed to vertically integrate, but how?

They decided to open a goat creamery.

“Adding cheese seemed like a fun and natural fit,” said Kate Spenker, who studied art history and graduated in 2010 from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. “This is Mom’s baby. We support her, but we had to make the decision as a family. It is a big commitment. You’re taking care of the animals and making the product. But it’s her passion and we’re following her in that. It’s very cool. It’s been a fun project.”

Kate and Sarah helped design the animal barn and the adjacent barn that houses the wine tasting room and creamery. Sarah, who studied theater at Concordia University in Irvine, handles sales and manages the tasting room. Visitors to the tasting room can look through large windows into the creamery. Both barns are painted red and trimmed in white. Their bet is the creamery will bring in more revenue, not only in sales of cheese and yogurt, but also agritourism. They already have hosted goat yoga classes and plan to hold wine and cheese pairings and cheese-making classes.

“Bettyann had this concept a few years ago and I went, ‘OK, sounds nice,’” said Chuck Spenker, Bettyann’s husband and a third-generation wine grape grower. “It completes the farm here.”

After 12 hours, the cheese should look like yogurt, solid if tipped but still relatively soft. You may see some whey separating from the cheese. The whey is a mostly clear yellowish liquid.

Place a piece of butter muslin (doubled) in a colander in a bowl. Gently spoon the chèvre into the butter muslin. Gather up the corners of the muslin and tie knots to secure.

Hang the butter muslin filled with the chèvre over a bowl so the whey can drain. An easy way to do this is to tie the butter muslin around a cupboard handle so the bowl to catch the whey can rest on the counter underneath.

On July 26, after years of planning and building, the Spenkers cleared the final hurdle of red tape when the state issued their milk-processing license. Since then, Bettyann and her girls have been busy making cheese that they hope to have ready to sell later this month from their tasting room. Other wineries have expressed interest, as have some retail shops.

“People are eager to buy it,” Bettyann said. “So that’s good.”

During a recent visit, Bettyann and Kate scooped pasteurized curds into colanders lined with cheese cloth. They gathered the curds in the cloth and hung the bundles on racks to allow the whey to drain. In 24 hours, the result is fresh, spreadable chèvre, which will be offered straight or flavored with sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, and herbes de Provence. Bettyann also makes a mild, pressed cheese she calls Delta Breeze from an Italian-style recipe that melts easily, has a firm texture and subtle tang — an excellent entry-point for non-goat-cheese lovers or a palate cleanser on a cheese board — and a cultured, soft, gooey, decadent cheese named Shirley’s Dream, an homage to Bettyann’s first goat, that has been dusted in ash and covered by a bloomy rind — an absolutely remarkable cheese that’s salty and earthy with mushroom and umami notes.

Bettyann said she grew up in suburbia, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and not on a farm. She home-schooled her daughters and taught other home-schooled students science and math. She’s proficient in chemistry and fermentation science. She makes all of her family’s estate-grown wines: Muscat of Alexandria (Morning Glory), rosé blend of Zinfandel and Syrah (Evening Prim Rosé), Sarah’s Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.

Bettyann basically taught herself how to make cheese and yogurt, though she had help and encouragement from friends. The goats are milked once per day and a total of 15 to 20 gallons is collected, good for about 30-40 pounds of a soft cheese, such as chèvre. Goats generally will remain in lactation 10 months a year, though it depends on the breed. In addition to Nigerian Dwarfs, the Spenkers have Nubians, La Manchas and crosses between Nubians and Nigerian Dwarfs.

“That gives you the fantastic milk quality of the Nigerian Dwarfs and a little more volume with the bigger goats,” Bettyann said about the crossbreeds. “Then, I have the La Manchas and they look like they don’t have ears. They have tiny little ears and those are really nice, fairly calm and compliant dairy goats.”

Each goat has a name and Bettyann and the girls can tell them apart on sight. Willow, for instance, is a full Nubian. There’s also Thisbe; a yearling named Calliope; and a two-year-old Nigerian Dwarf, Mariah, to name a few. The goats like to be in the shade, eat hay and chomp on their favorite treat, animal crackers.

Spenker Family Farm at 17291 DeVries Road in Lodi is open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Information: (209) 367-0467, spenkerwinery.com.