by Fred McMillin
for February 5, 1999


Winery of the Week

Ficklin Plays to Win


1941—"The superior Port wine grapes of Portugal's Douro Valley have been extensively described and recommended by the faculty [at U.C.-Davis]. It is unquestionably true that California Port as good as much of that shipped out of Portugal could be made from these grapes if grown in the warmer districts of the state."

Ficklin Port ...by the legendary Frank Schoonmaker in American Wines

1948—"Tucked away at the end of an uncertain road southwest of Madera in the hot Central Valley is the small Ficklin Winery. Partly in response to a University of California challenge to import and grow Port grapes from the Douro Valley, the Ficklin family has embarked on a Port-only program from those grapes,obtained from the University."

...from California Wine, Sunset Publishers

The Rest of the Story

Was Schoonmaker right? Here's what the critics said. 1955—"The first winery in the United States to make Port entirely from choice Portuguese varieties, Ficklin Port is unsurpassed in quality and character with a full richness of flavor."

...Author John Melville, Guide to California Wines

1982—"The Ficklin family has consistently made, with supreme skill, over more than 30 years, absolutely the finest port-type wines in the United States."

...Roy Andries De Groot, The Wines of California

1984—"David Ficklin knows every cask, oval, and barrel as a parent knows his children, and like children, some day they would mature and be married into a blend that will rank with the finest. David's son Peter, now in his twenties, is the third generation to continue along the winemaker's path."

Robert Lawrence Balzer, California Wines

Just the Facts

Name—Ficklin Vineyards
Location—Madera, California
President and Winemaker—Peter Ficklin
Vice President and Vineyard Manager—Steve Ficklin
Founded—1946 (Walter Ficklin Sr. arrived in California in 1911 and planted his first table-grape vines in 1912. He and his wife Mame purchased the present 30-acre vineyard in 1918.)
Production—It has deliberately been limited to around 12,000 cases a year to maintain top quality.
The Wines—Tinta Port , Ten-Year-Old Tawny Port, and Special Bottlings once every three to five years...and prices are well below most imports.
Ways to Serve Ficklin Port—Phone Mira Bieler at (800)497-3376. She can tell or send you plenty of good ideas.


How tastes change. When Ficklin was founded, Americans drank three bottles of Port and Sherry for every one of table wine such as "Pinot Chardonnay" or Zinfandel.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


WineDay Annex

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