FULTS FAMILY VINEYARDS
July 2, 2021
Fults Family Vineyards sits on Clayton Creek just a few miles south of Lower Lake on the corner of Spruce Grove Road and Highway 29. Enter the tree-lined driveway, and you wind up a rise, past the Fults’ home to their tasting room overlooking a large pond. Kendall, co-owner of Fults Family Vineyards (FFV), keeps it relaxed and welcoming. It’s the kind of place where no matter your wine knowledge or preference, you’ll have a good time. I’ve never been to a winery with a television on one wall always playing sports, or a par 3 hole where you can hit some golf balls while you sip on a glass. It all fits together perfectly at FFV. Come in on the weekend, and you’ll probably run into Kendall sitting behind the tasting room bar, waiting with some good wine and a good story.
When my wife and I came to taste we were immediately greeted by Kendall and his son and co-owner, Dustin. The tasting room has a spacious, homey feel like we could have stayed and hung out all afternoon. While Dustin took care of another customer, Kendall greeted us with a big smile and immediately began pouring us a glass and sharing stories. He fell in love with wine almost twenty years ago, when he made his first batch from vineyard gleanings. “I knew that you needed yeast and sulfites to make wine, so I called up Steele winery,” Kendall explained. “It was the middle of harvest, I know now, and the busiest time of the year for them. But their staff gave me everything I needed to get started. I stomped all the grapes barefoot, then, because I didn’t have a crusher/de-stemmer. Then I took cheesecloth and squeezed out all the remaining juice. I ended up with four cases of wine.”
“Did it turn out well?” I asked.
“No. It’s awful,” Kendall countered. “I’ve still saved some. I call it ‘Kendall’s Barefoot Merlot.’ That was my first attempt at making wine.”
That first batch of not-quite-so-great wine was the spark for FFV. Not long after that, he bought forty-five acres and planted grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Pino Grigio, and Grenache. Then he began creating wonderful wine.
“I’m from Nebraska,” he told me, as he poured us a taste of Moscato. “I grew up on the same land my great-great grandparents settled, in the home my great-grandfather built. In Nebraska, whenever there was something to do, all the neighbors would get together and help out. At harvest, everyone would get together and work everyone’s land. Then we would have a huge dinner. It was one of my favorite times because we would all get to be with our friends and have great food.” He paused as we sipped the wine.
“That’s wonderful,” I exclaimed.
“That’s the feeling we want to have here at FFV. ‘Family, Friends, and Fun’ is our motto. We believe that we all have a better time when we help each other. So we have parties where people can come and help us bottle our wine. During harvest, we have times where our club members can come help out with the process. They help bottle and label our wine, which makes them feel involved and like they have learned something.”
Kendall’s welcoming attitude make FFV a completely non-intimidating winery. You don’t have to put on airs or pretend to know the difference between Syrah and Petite Sirah. “It’s whatever makes you happy,” he told us, as he moved on to the reds. “If you like ice in your wine, that’s fine with me. I’m not pretentious. I want you to enjoy your time here.”
But even if you don’t like reds, I would recommend a foray into FFV’s Wildfire Blend. Created from a blend of six different Lake County varietals that varies each year, it brings out the depth and flavors of our county. This year it’s a blend of Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Syrah. This bold blend commands your attention. The bouquet brings notes of dark fruits and spice. But it’s how it tastes that matters. The plummy Zinfandel flavors hit first, then it settles into a dry, cab-like spread across the palate. But it’s not over there. The balanced, tannin-heavier finish, lingers like a good friend who came over to help bottle wine and decided not to leave. It’s long, slow and complex. Each sip is like enjoying a quality work of art that you discover more about the more you look at it.
“Lake County has been through so much in the past few years. We wanted to do something to help,” Kendall told me as we finished the tasting. “So we’re looking for artists to create a label for the Wildfire Blend.” Many people have moved away from Lake County in the past few years; this is FFV’s plan to help encourage a few more to stay. It’s going to be a contest, voted upon by customers, for the best wine label. The winner will get $400 or a case of wine for $1. And, like they have for the past four years, FFV will donate a portion of the sales of the Wildfire Blend to fire protection services or restoration programs in Lake County. For more information, take a look at this press release.
FFV is a small winery, producing about 1,500 cases a year. But each one of those cases is filled with quality wine. It’s worth the trip to Lower Lake to meet Kendall, swap a few stories and watch some football. Then buy a bottle of wine, head out to the patio, hit a few golf balls and kick back for the afternoon.
Fults Family Vineyards is located at:
11441 Highway 29
Lower Lake, CA 95457
Hours: Saturday and Sunday 11-5
This article first appeared in The Bloom. To read more like it, visit their website.