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Westbrook Wine Farm: You can tell a hand-made wine by all the fingerprints on the bottle.

Submitted By: Lewis Perdue, July 07, 2009
Westbrook Wine Farm, which will celebrate its eleventh vintage this year, is the culmination of forty six years of winemaking experience and a ten year search for the perfect winegrowing venue.

Under ”Climatic Region III Locations”, Page 65 of the California university text, “General Viticulture” by Winkler, Cook, et al we found “North Fork, Madera” at 3260 heat summations. We also saw that Calistoga’s average was 3150 and Alexander Valley was 3430. Arguably, some of the very best wine growing areas in the world for Cabernet Sauvignon based wines.

Armed with this basic knowledge Ray Krause, then owner of Farview Farm Vineyard Winery in Templeton, California set out in 1987 to locate the perfect convergence of other critical “Terroir” factors in Madera County’s eastern foothills.

Specifically; organically challenged soils, southwestern slope, a natural water source, elevation, air drainage, and a close proximity to grandchildren and a net effective marketing area of over one million people. That perfect convergence was found in 1995 at Westbrook Wine Farm’s House Ranch Road location between the hamlets of O’Neals and North Fork near the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park.

After two years of testing, land preparation, deer fencing, gravity flow irrigation design and installation the vines for Fait Accompli were planted. Factors such as row orientation, width and vine spacing were determined along with trellis type and height were calculated so that both sides of the fruit zone of each vine would be exposed to equal amounts of full sunlight during the growing and dormant seasons. Sunlight on dormant buds determines fruitfulness to a great degree. Sunlight on bunches from their inception determines color, flavor and varietal character of grapes. Also, fruit that grows up in the sun is more self protected from burn during the summer. No till, sustainable farming is practiced.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Carmenere which were custom grafted to a drought resistant “110R” rootstock which not only enables Westbrook Wine Farm to irrigate less but enhances uniformity in the ripening process. Achieving true physiological ripeness for six different grape varieties at exactly the same time each year is an intense effort well worth its cost.

Pruning timing and severity, vertical shoot positioning, shoot thinning, bunch thinning, cordon length, cluster thinning and infinite irrigation control for each vine row are key to making great wine in the vineyard. Westbrook Wine Farm takes this seriously.

On a Sunday in September, Proprietors, Ray and Tammy Krause and their jovial “Bunch Selection Committee” hand harvest with each bunch being manicured to eliminate any light colored berries, raisins or bird damage. This harvested field blend is then whisked away into cold storage for 24 hours before the vinification process begins.

The grapes are destemmed into a common fermenter then cold soaked for 48 hours before inoculation and co-fermentation with a special Bordeaux yeast isolate. Two years aging in custom made hybrid French/American barrels precedes bottling and the traditional hot red sealing wax dip.

The resultant wine, a co-fermented field blend in the red Bordeaux or Meritage style, is called Fait Accompli.

Westbrook Wine Farm is open most days and during Wine Trail Weekends

by appointment or invitation only.