Madera,  California’s Hidden Treasure

Author: Ronnie Greenberg

Photos by: Joe Hilbers

 Madera,  California’s Hidden Treasure

By : Ronnie Greenberg

Photos  by Joe Hilbers

                  The small timber industry that started long ago was quickly over shadowed by the cry of “Gold,” putting Madera on the map when mining started here in 1849 and continued well into the 1900’s.  It’s other claim to fame is that it is one of the oldest grape growing regions in America. In the late 1800s 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. Few of these original wineries survived prohibition, but new wineries emerged starting in the late 1930s.

Madera’s heritage and charm is evident in today’s wineries making award-winning wines just south of Yosemite National Park, where the “Madera” appellation is one of the oldest designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) in California. The Madera Vintners Association was organized in 2001 as a collective voice for the area’s winemaking families. This association is dedicated to the common purpose of promoting excellence in winemaking from a region rich in potential through commitments to modern winemaking techniques.

Madera County has long been known for producing world-renowned dessert wines and ports.

Recently, many new small wineries have joined these flagship premium wineries. This current renaissance is driven by the recognition that Madera County is a unique wine growing region. The 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 in 1985.

Today with a little bit of everything, there are so many reasons to love Madera.  It’s lush fertile farmlands produce figs, raisins, cotton, tomatoes and lots and lots of grapes. Almonds have become a major industry with many farms and facilities dotting the area.

There are several small, family-owned wineries along the Madera Wine Trail. Many of these wineries are situated in the midst of the vineyards from which they harvest their grapes. Oftentimes, the winemakers generational roots are in growing wine grapes. Their attentive care and expertise ensures the production of high quality fruit, a critical first step for producing exceptional wine.

Get to spend an enjoyable day exploring and sipping through the valley’s elite nine vineyards on the Madera Wine Trail. Enjoy the benefits of the region’s rich history, knowledgeable hosts and tasting rooms that are still small enough that you can visit with the winemakers themselves. Among the Madera Wine Trail, you can experience old world techniques and state-of-the-art technology in the same day. Madera County winemakers celebrate each other’s unique wine and winery styles and so can you.

Here are some of them:

Papagni Wines that has been crafting quality wine for 95 years. Demetrio Papagni emigrated from Italy with a dream of making fine wines from the grapes grown on the land of his new home in the San Joaquin Valley. Papagni has been one of the most award-winning wineries in the state. They invite you to experience their bold and original wines. Tasting room hours Saturday-Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

located at 9505 Rd 30 1/2  Phone: (559) 673-5754

Fasi Estate Winery owned by Ralph Fasi, opened their doors in 2012 to a  beautifully, renovated  winery and tasting room located on the doorsteps to Yosemite National Park in Friant, California, Madera County.  The first release of Fasi Crest Private Reserve Syrah was the 2003 vintage, which has been received extremely well. Each subsequent release has always been awarded the highest honors and medals. They work diligently to nurture the vines into wines that truly sparkle from this little known corner of California’s Gold Country. Their sister winery in La Consulta, located in Mondoza, Argentina, also adds a welcomed variety to their superb offerings under the Fasi Estate Winery label.

Enjoy your wine tasting on the beautiful veranda with views of the scenic vistas of the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, from 11 a.m. when the majestic gates swing open until 5 p.m. Buses and limos by appointment only. Get to celebrate your special occasion or event in style, here. Located at 42415 Road 208,Friant (559) 822-2111 or

The Residence at Fasi Estate Winery is located on the beautiful 40-acre grounds of Fasi Estate Winery. It’s a large, newly renovated home, near Fresno, and Yosemite National Park. Just 15 minutes away from fantastic restaurants, shopping, golf, swimming, horse and hiking trails, casinos, lakes and many other fun activities. It is the perfect setting for relaxation, family gatherings, nature walks and BBQ’s. You can enjoy views of the estate vineyard, pond, large oak trees, cotton tail rabbits, cows in the distance and many birds. The Residence is complete with large bedrooms, entirely new bathrooms, plenty of space to spread out with two living rooms, a game room with pool table and vintage pinball machine, fully stocked kitchen, 14 person dining table, a large deck and patio area, and plenty of parking including a two car garage. Inquire about bringing your dogs too.

Toca Madera Winery is a new vineyard/winery which is dedicated to producing high quality wines primarily from warm-weather Rhone varieties grown on site. Their vision is to be a user-friendly winery where people come to relax and learn about wine and the art of winemaking. You’ll delight in listening to Shayne Vetter their skilled and enthusiastic winemaker not only share his indepth knowledge, but in answering all your questions. Weddings and events take place in the vineyard’s beautiful setting. Tasting Room hours Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Located at 36140 Avenue 9, Madera (559)

                  Birdstone Winery owned by Tony Kirk produces many award winning wines reflective of the outstanding quality and variety of grapes grown in the Madera Viticulture area. Their wine offerings include Malbec, Dolcetto, Tempanillo, Chardonnay, Primitivo, Charbono, Tinta Madeira Port and other great varieties. Tasting Room hours Friday-Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located at 9400 Road 36- Madera (559) 645-1825

                  San Joaquin Wine Companyis proud to produce wines from Madera Vineyards owned and operated by farmer Steve Schafer, who started the winery in 2005 as a personal dream. He offers many varietals including Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, Muscat, Rose, Merlot and Viognier. Labels include Moody Press and Green Eyes. Tasting Room hours Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 pm; Sunday noon to 4 p.m.; Friday 1:30- 4:30 p.m. Located at 21821 Ave 16, Madera (559) 673-0066

Quady Wineryin an internationally acclaimed sweet Muscat wine producer and then home of Vya, the world’s best vermouth. Quady uses Orange and Black Muscat varietals to make Essensia, Elysium and Electra. Visit Quady, taste their wines, meet winemaker Michael Biaylock and enjoy their hospitality. Tasting Room hours Saturday-Sunday 12 noon-4:30 p.m.; Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Located at 13181 Road 24, Madera (800) 733-8068

Wineries are open year round for wine tastings and special events. Check out www.maderawinetrail.comfor more wine trail and individual winery events throughout the year

Area highlights

Rosenthal Olive Ranch sits in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley where the rich soil and climate create an ideal growing season for the Arbosana and Koroneiki olives. The third generation family farm take pride in delivering the finest quality olives that are milled with 24 hours of harvesting which captures the intense fresh flavor of the full bodied oils. These cold pressed olive oils are very versatile and pair with a variety of dishes. Produced and bottled here are Arbosana and Koroneiki extra virgin olive oil, lemon infused Arbosana, basil infused Arbosana and garlic infused Arbosana evoo, as well as balsamic vinegar. Located at 29268 Avenue 9 in Madera, for information phone (559)674-4418 or

.Accommodations in Madera run the gamut from Hampton Inn (559) 661-0910; Springhill Suites (Marriott) (559)664-9800; La Quinta Inn & Suites (877)772-4964

.For local dining here enjoy: The Vineyard Restaurant & Bar  owned by Chris Moriscotti offers a continental menu with locally sourced food and a great selection of local wine. Located at: 605 South “I” Street For reservations Phone (559 )674-0923 or

Pete & Maria’s Italian Bistro for the best in Italian cuisine. Located at 37275 Ave 12, Suite A, Madera Ranchos (559) 645-5545

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