Southern Sierra Foothills, Madera, California
Great estate Syrah unique to region but the opportunity to source great Mendoza and Uca region wines from Argentina was what drew me first and foremost to this great family winery. A step down from Yosemite, makes it a great stop along the way or just driving down the 99 or 5.
Headed toward Yosemite National Park sits Fäsi Estate Winery in Madera County, an off the radar region for most visiting wine country in California. When we visited Fäsi Estate, we met with both Erica Magarian, winery manager, and Greg Herzfeldt, resident winemaker. They spoke with us about the Fäsi vision and their extensive Syrah vineyard in the San Joaquin Valley. They started with a very simple, yet unique concept: to create an organically certified vineyard that marries the long traditions of wine grape growing while being good stewards of the land.
We first talked with Erica who has been working with Fäsi Estate for three years and asked her about the history of the winery: “A little over 33 years ago Ralph and his wife came to this region visiting Yosemite and they were unfortunately involved in a very bad car accident and had to recoup in the valley for a long time. But during this time, they fell in love with the people here and the vast agriculture. And they decided to move here and start their family. They decided to invest in grape growing and not only standard grape growing, but organic grape growing. Ralph planted 42 acres of organically grown Syrah grapes.”
As for the grounds, Erica told us about the buildings on the property, including the winery itself which is a converted classic car garage built in 1974, a recently constructed Swiss-inspired watch tower – constructed as a tribute to Ralph’s Swiss heritage – and even a 4,000-square foot home that can be rented by “anybody from around the world, from local people looking to get out of town, to enjoy the foothills, the beautiful grounds and the vineyards.” Fäsi Estate Winery also has its very own resident cat, Syrah Fäsi, who greets visitors and climbs cork trees!
As pioneers of organic viniculture – far ahead of the popularity we now see in the wine market – Ralph focused on Syrah because the varietal can tolerate the high temperatures the region often sees. Greg Herzfeldt told us about growing in this difficult region: “Our Syrahs are grown right next to the river that separates Madera county and Fresno county. The river really helps create a cooler microclimate at night, but the heat and the sand help create intense, smoky aromas.”
We asked how Fäsi Estate’s Syrah compared to others from different regions and Greg said Fäsi’s are bigger and more robust than those from cooler regions, thanks to the sun-thickened skins on the grapes. Though Syrah is the flagship wine of Fäsi Estate Winery, they also offer Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah and their own Malbec, along with a Syrah Rosé.
After Fäsi’s grapes are all hand harvested, the grapes are sorted again at the winery, Greg told us, before he tailors his winemaking to the varietal, crushing and fermenting in small micro-bins to “get control over each fermentation, using nice cold macerations at the beginning just to make sure we extract all the color possible.”
Interestingly, in 2009 Fäsi Estate has partnered with Karim Mussi of Altocedro Winery in Mendoza, Argentina to craft a Fäsi Argentina Malbec, Red Blend and Torrontés diversifying the winery’s offerings. All of the Argentinian wines are still produced according to Fäsi’s low-interventionist standards.
When we asked Erica to describe Fäsi Estate’s philosophy, she told us it is to “support a legacy that’s really striving for being the best that we can be – the best grape, the best of everything from vine all the way to bottle, no matter the regioin the best we can be from every single varietal, to every bottle down to the label.” We here at Javí Cellars are excited to introduce these small production wines to our members because we feel passionate about Fäsi Estate’s philosophy – and their wines!