The Ficklin family had been growing grapes in Central California’s Madera County for nearly 30 years when three important decisions were made.
First, Walter Ficklin and his sons, Walter Jr. and David, decided to expand into winemaking.
Second, they determined that they would produce various types of Port exclusively. No table wines. No sparkling wines. Strictly dessert-style wines patterned after the sweet elixirs of Portugal.
Third, even as the Gallo family and others were expanding operations, they would keep Ficklin Vineyards small so that each bottle could receive the attention it deserved. Although the family has expanded its product line over time, it continues to produce its Port-style wines in minute quantities.
Today, David Ficklin’s son Peter serves as President and winemaker (“and chief bottle washer as well,” he says), while Walter Jr.’s son Steve is the vineyard manager.
Steve oversees 35 acres of traditional Portuguese varieties, including Souzao, Tinta Cao, Tinta Madeira, Alvarelhao and Touriga.
“I’m constantly working with new rootstocks and vineyard practices to maintain the quality of the vines,” he says. “I believe that the grapes are the first and most important step in producing a fine Port.”
In addition to the traditional Port bottlings, Peter also makes an unusual –and very popular — “Chocolate Passport” wine.
He uses the various varieties on the estate to craft a top-of-the-line Ruby Port, and then carefully adds the very best extracts and essences to create the chocolate-flavored elixir.
Most visitors to the Ficklin tasting room give it the same one-word review: “Wow!”