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Oct 21, 2008 10:33 PM

Wine Tasting in Madera: Ficklin Vineyards and Quady Winery

Each of my visits to Fresno, a stop-off at two of Madera’s well-known producers, Ficklin and Quady, was part of my plans. Yet the temptations of Fresno’s chowroads made me overstay my visit and I ran out of time for the wine trail. However, this last Sunday I made the supreme sacrifice of foregoing lunch at Hunan Restaurant and handmade paletas, instead making my way up Hwy 99 to Madera.

First stop was Ficklin Vineyards, a short detour off the road to Firebaugh. Here’s a shot of the ivy-covered cellar.
The wine club had a special event this weekend, so on Sunday morning quite a few selections were open for tasting. I had the chance to try Old Vine Tinta (a ruby style port), Aged 10 Years Tawny, Aged 20 Years Tawny, 1991 Vintage Port, and Raspberry Passport. My favorite of the line-up was the 20 year old tawny, but I couldn’t justify the $41 for 375 ml.

Then up the road to Quady Winery, where I caught up to chowhounds Ruth Lafler and “windy” in the parking lot. I hope they’ll share their impressions too. Here’s the entrance to Quady’s tasting room and cellar.

Cynthia lead me through a tasting of everything available for sale. I skipped the Electra and the red version. Solid performance for all wines, and the most interesting ones for me were the infused wines Deviation, Vya Extra Dry and Vya Sweet, and the very fine amontillado-style Palomino Fino made from biodynamically farmed grapes. Cynthia was able to answer a wide range of technical questions, and when she didn’t the facts, didn’t try to BS me. I was impressed, that’s quite rare in tasting rooms.

Quady Winery
13181 Road 24, Madera, CA

Ficklin Vineyards
30246 Avenue 7 1 2, Madera, CA

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  1. Did you taste the Essencia, made from orange muscat, iirc? We've always found it to be a nice dessert in a glass.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PolarBear

      Yes, I tried both the 2006 Essencia and the 2007 Elysium. I love cocktailqueen77's suggestion or pouring the Elysium over pancakes, that would suit me far more than consuming it as a dessert wine.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I think Cynthia at the tasting room suggested poaching pears in Elysium. The newsletter she gave us had recipes for all of the products; I think the recipes are also on their website (to help people who aren't sure what to pair with Deviation).

    2. The Madera Wine Trail is a great Sunday afternoon, IMPO.

      I had never been a fan of vermouth until I was introduced to the Vya, on the rocks/martini/or manhattan, Quady does a fantastic job!! The Elysium that is offered is a fav of mine, but not in the typical way. A friend of mine introduced it to me a while back as a substitue for syrup over pancakes - and I have been addicited ever since!! The Ficklin Tawny, I must agree, is my preference too from Ficklin. Wonderful pictures!!

      7 Replies
      1. re: cocktailqueen77

        While I only bought a half-bottle, I'm wondering how the Vya sweet holds up once opened. Should I refrigerate it?

        For this visit to fresno I brought a bottle of Heidrun mead that was a souvenir of my visit to Humboldt County. I have a dinner coming up in Alexander Valley in a couple weeks, and I think I'll make cocktails with my vermouth from Madera for the group.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Wish I could help here but my only experience with Vya was purchased on a reco from the fellow at Old Doc's (Fresno) and still remains the one bad tip he's given me. I went looking for a quality vermouth for martinis and at the time didn't know they made a dry and a sweet, so no idea what I bought but did not like it at the beginning and after a few weeks.... well, it went down in quality and the sink. I hope you have much better luck, and I'll try to find a half bottle of the dry for another attempt with the martinis. Have had to stick with Noilly-Pratt up til now.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I believe the Vya vermouth, once opened, would hold up similarly as other bottles of fortified wine (port, sherry) would; and be okay to sit out in room temperature for a short amount of time.

            I can ask my wine rep next week (Stefanelli Distributing has Vya) to see what he reccommends; but in every bar/restaurant that I have worked at the sweet vermouth has stayed out of the fridge - but we used it immensely for drinks and had to open new bottles every month so that may have been a factor.

            1. re: cocktailqueen77

              Thanks to you both. I'm sure we'll polish it off quickly, but I think I'll wait until the dinner date before opening it. Hmm, guess that means I don't get to test any cocktail recipes . . . hic.

          2. re: cocktailqueen77

            Just wanted to add a follow-up on the Vya. I did indeed serve it to my wine group last week. We started with a vertical tasting of Dom. Pegau Ch-du-Pape and apps, then took a break from the table before dinner. During this stretch break, while I was getting food on the table, I sent people over to the sideboard to make their own cocktails experimenting with Vya. I put out a jigger glass and said that each person could have an ounce to play with. I thought about offering bourbon or scotch, but since I had 16 wines on the menu for 12 people, decided to go lighter. They had limes, lemons, zest of both, club soda, and Austrian sekt (sparkling wine), plus ice to work with. The Vya was univerally loved, even by people who said they hated vermouth, and I'm sure I kicked off a buying spree at the local shop that carries it. The only criticism I heard was that it was too sweet, but that person said he doctored his drink with a lot of lemon juice and got it to a point that he liked it very much. I did tell people that there is a dry version with different botanicals, if they want to try mixing them. I think that my guests had a lot of fun playing around with the Vya, and I had a chance to have a small sip of some of their concoctions.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              How ironic, LadyPB and I got away to the central coast the past two days and I did my normal wine/spirits ferreting where I ran across the dry Vya vermouth in two spots, Pismo Market on Price St. and, iirc, another little market further north on the way to Di Paolo's. They were both priced at 8.99 for the small bottles, which I thought excessive and since I didn't plan on having any martinis (in the room anyway) on this trip, I passed. Hopefully I can find the same locally at a more reasonable price, otherwise appreciate the tip about counter-balancing with the lemon, which I actually prefer given the absence of olives or vermouth.

              1. re: PolarBear

                You can always get a discount buying from their tasting room in Madera at the winery - 673.8068

          3. Windy and I had a great time at both Ficklin and Quady. The women running both tasting rooms were knowledgable and unlike tasting rooms in more heavily-visited areas, the atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming. Getting to try the whole line at Ficklin was a special treat, and I picked up a bottle of their 1986 Library port (just released to non-club members) for my Dad's birthday. Expensive at $54 (for 750 ml bottle), but worth it for its intense, concentrated almost chocolately flavor.

            The tasting room at Quady was more lively but no less enjoyable. I'm a sucker for dessert wines, and I actually enjoyed the Electra and Red Electra unfortified low-alcohol versions of their signature orange and black muscat wines. With their faint spritz, they were very refreshing (and definitely appreciated by this designated driver). I alreadly have a bottle of the dry Vya vermouth, so I added a bottle of the sweet vermouth to my liquor cabinet. I'm looking forward to trying some of the recipes they've developed for it!

            Maybe we'll come back in February for the Madera Wine Trail Wine and Chocolate weekend:

            1. I already knew I liked Quady Essencia and Ficklin's base port, but we enjoyed nearly everything we tasted. It was very unlike Napa or Sonoma, to have the full attention of someone behind the bar with absolutely no pressure to buy combined with easy to like products and very affordable prices.

              I was surprised at how good the Old Vine Tinta was; a real steal at the price and widely available. I preferred the 10 year tawny at Ficklin slightly to the 20 year, at least for casual sipping (and a fraction of the cost).

              But then I also took home a bottle of Starboard Batch 88, Quady's entry level non-vintage port. I hadn't realized that Elysium and Essencia were from specific vintages. They're remarkably consistent year to year, and I've brought them to dinners and pleased hosts regardless of how much they knew or cared about wine.

              I agree the Deviation is interesting. Not sure I'd want to drink a whole glass though. Thumbs up all around. (Eat lunch first though.)

              Has anyone tried Quady's chocolate raspberry sauce?

              1. Many of the people posting may know this already but just thought I'd add it.

                The Madera Vintners are doing their Holiday Spirit Weekend on Nov 8 & 9.

                Quady will do a vertical tasting of the Starboard ports from 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, & 1996. They will also release the new Visao.