O’NEALS – The fruit is already off the vine at Westbrook Wine Farm and Winery, where the red roofs rise above vineyards recently laden with grapes.
Harvest is over and the vines have been “denuded of their offspring, which are now fermenting in the winery,” as owner Ray Krause puts it. He is a 48-year California wine industry veteran who operates the 40-acre site with his wife, Tammy.The farm, about a half-mile off Highway 200 on House Ranch Road, sits at approximately 1,500 feet in elevation. The couple first planted grapes there in 1997, in what turns out to be an ideal microclimate for seven of the eight approved and recognized red Bordeaux varieties. The winery will be open without appointment Thursday through Saturday, beginning Oct. 4, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Krause says they practice sustainable farming and minimalist winemaking.
“We make our wine in the traditional claret style by co-fermenting the grapes, rather than by making separate varietal wines and blending them,” he says. Only five of the Krauses’ 40 acres are “domesticated,” or planted with grapes. Their remaining 35 acres are left to carbon offset, grazing and wildlife habitat.
Westbrook Winery has a new award that’s worth boasting about: their six-variety field blend, Fait Accompli “Cryo” 2008, garnered a coveted Double Gold medal at the 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition, going head to head with fine wines from around the world. A Double Gold designation means five judges were unanimous in their choice. The wines are promoted in a 13-city tour sponsored by The Tasting Panel Magazine.
Prestigious Double Gold aside, Krause is particularly excited about a new coalition of wineries that could give visitors yet another good reason to come up to the foothills. The newly formed Yosemite Sierra Wine Road includes Westbrook and two other Eastern Madera County foothills wineries located within a 30-minute drive of one another. The three wineries have banded together with a plan to “recommend good customers back and forth,” Krause says, while creating a new destination for locals and tourists alike.
Besides Westbrook, O’Neals’ Fäsi Estate Winery and Oakhurst’s Idle Hour Winery are participating in the new cooperative, offering the “ultimate day trip” to thirsty travelers seeking a bit of grape.
Meanwhile, back on the farm, the first cold weather snap will turn leaves from green and gold to red, as Ray and Tammy ease into fall and prepare to pour another glass of wine.
Westbrook Wine Farm and Winery is located at 49610 House Ranch Road near O’Neals. For more information visit their website at www.westbrookwinefarm.com.
For more information on the Yosemite Sierra Wine Road visit their website at http://www.yosemitesierrawineroad.com/index.html