I turned 64 in August. That old Beatles song kept running through my head until the big day arrived.
The editor promised, yes, she would still be sending me a valentine, a birthday greeting but no bottle of wine. She said, "That's your department." She reassured me that she would still need me and she would still feed me. Oh, what a relief.
Her actual gift was a dinner reservation at Erna's Elderberry House in Oakhurst.
On the way to Oakhurst, I wanted to taste wines from the eastern side of Madera County. The recently opened Fasi Winery was high on my list. It recently had been bestowed the "Peoples' Choice Award" for the best red wine (syrah) in the region. The last three years the winery has scored 92 points or better and won "Best of Class" awards at the California State Fair.
If you are a syrah fan, this small foothill winery is a must.
Ralph Fasi planted 42 acres of organic syrah grapes in 1999, and basically cherry-picks the best rows for his Fasi Crest Syrah Private Reserve, the consistent double-gold medal winner. Winemaker Nick DeHart, an enology major at California State University, Fresno, believes the Madera appellation can produce high quality wines, especially syrah. The winery is on Highway 41 and Road 208. You can find more information at www.fasiestate.com.
Idle Hour Winery
I like Idle Hour Winery for a number of reasons. The editor and I tasted Idle wines at the Family Winemakers Tasting in San Francisco and gave them high marks. It is the only winery in Oakhurst, and Idle's syrah and petite sirah are outstanding. Idle uses organic and sustainably grown grapes. The winery doesn't interfere with the natural winemaking process, using native yeasts, neutral oak barrels and no fining or filtration. The winemaker, a graduate of the University of California at Davis, received her real training under the tutelage of Josh Jensen of Calera Winery. Idle makes small lots of single vineyard designated wines, and all of its wines have won medals at the S.F. Chronicle tasting. Idle also produces viognier, pinot noir, tempranillo, malbec and cabernet franc. It also own the Queen's Inn, a tastefully remodeled eight-room inn next to the Fresno River, a wine bar and an outdoor beer garden with a fire pit and where live music is featured.
If you want more reasons to visit Idle Hour Winery, you can find them at www.idlehourwinery.com or www.queensinn.com.
Five wineries on the Madera Wine Trail will be hosting a "Sip of Syrah" from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 1. For more information, go to www.MaderaWineTrail.com.
What's on our table
The 2011 Alamos Red Blend from Argentina is a great everyday wine.
The Gallo import is primarily malbec, bonarda and tempranillo and pairs well with grilled meats.
It is available in all supermarkets for less than $9, and that's a good deal. Cheers!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Find me on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.