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PART ONE OF TWO – WILDFIRES AND BROWNOUTS!! GOOD GRIEF, CHARLIE BROWN!! FISHER VINEYARDS NEAR SANTA ROSA, CA HONORED FOR UTILIZING PROPANE TO KEEP THE WINE FLOWING WHEN OTHER ENERGY SOURCES CAN’T

Written on: June 23, 2024

Fisher Vineyards Awarded ‘Energy for Everyone Hero Award’ from Propane Education & Research Council

On Wednesday, June 19, several industry leaders from the Propane Education & Research Council and Blue Star Gas Company gathered along with media representatives including Trending in Propane to take part in a ceremony to recognize Fisher Vineyards, east of Santa Rosa, CA near Calistoga. An extensive tour was provided and media representatives had time for plenty of one-on-one discussions.

“We’re excited to have Rob and Cameron Fisher here today to award Fisher Vineyards with PERC’s Energy for Everyone Hero Award,” said Mike Newland, Director of Agriculture Business Development at PERC. “Fisher Vineyards has proven that propane, in combination with other energy sources, can reduce emissions and increase reliability which is important to both Fisher Vineyards and its community. Their current propane applications include power generation, frost prevention fans, water heating and their HVAC system. They also rely on propane to maintain refrigeration and the barrel aging process, the preparation of the grapes, storage in the fermentation tanks and when the California wildfires threatened this area, Fisher Vineyards chose to expand the use of propane on its operation with the addition of their 150 KW propane generator system through PERC’s double propane farm incentive program. Fisher Vineyards is a second-generation family business that’s certified NAPA green in 2018 and has remained steadfast in its mission to produce superior wines and pay tribute to the land. We want to not only applaud the use of propane as part of your business but the overall commitment to sustainability that your team has made for the last six decades and counting.”

SANTA ROSA IS KNOWN FOR ITS MANY VINEYARDS AND IS HOME OF PEANUTS CARTOON CREATOR CHARLES SCHULZ

Located approximately 55 miles north of San Francisco, the Santa Rosa area is known for its many wineries throughout Sonoma County, Napa Valley and the surrounding region. Santa Rosa is also known as home of the world-famous Peanuts cartoon and its iconic creator Charles M. Schulz for whom the Santa Rosa airport is named.

Wineries, many businesses and even the Schulz family have suffered losses due to the wildfires. Long after Schulz died in 2000, the home where Schulz had lived in Santa Rosa burned down in 2017 during a wildfire that claimed 3,000 homes in the area and caused the cartoonist’s widow Jean to temporarily move in with relatives. Wildfires were burning north of Santa Rosa during the Fisher Vineyards visit as well as many other areas in the Western U.S. With brownouts more frequent as the electric grid continues to fail in California, it may seem to many that continuing to rely on the electric grid to run a business is much like Charlie Brown continuing to rely on Lucy to hold the football steady as he runs to kick it even though she would always pull it away.

ABOUT FISHER VINEYARDS

In Part One of a Two-Part series, we’ll discuss the background story of Fisher Vineyards, a family-owned winery now led by a second generation of family members with several in the third generation also working in the family business. In Part Two next week, we’ll dive deeper into the challenges that led Fisher Vineyards to incorporate resilient propane into its important role of keeping the very time and temperature sensitive process of keeping wine production flowing properly with maximum quality.

Founded in 1973 by Fred and Juelle Fisher, the family winery is dedicated to farming and producing exceptional handcrafted wines. Inspired by the passion and founding vision of their parents, three second-generation siblings lead the winery today.

With a common interest and a love of fine wine, Fisher Vineyards was launched, along with their family and a school for their children. (Sonoma Country Day School)

For five decades, Fisher Vineyards has remained steadfast in its mission to produce wines that pay tribute to the land, as well as each member of its winery team, striving for classic balance that transcends time.

Fred Fisher was born and raised in Detroit and spent his formative years on the east coast in school: Portsmouth Abby in RI, Princeton University and the Harvard Business School. Following three years in the U.S. Army and a two year stint with General Motors, Fred moved west in search of something he could build and call his own.

Juelle Lamb Fisher grew up in Salt Lake City, graduated from the University of Utah and moved to California where she spent the next ten years in the investment business as an analyst and economist. In 1983 Juelle, with two friends founded Sonoma County Day School, a highly acclaimed K-8 independent school in Sonoma County. She continued on the Board of Trustees for 25 years and in 2008 chaired the Search Committee that hired the second head of school. Today you will find Juelle at Fisher Vineyards in the gardens, the kitchen and the vineyards, where she adds the overall quiet subtleties that one immediately notices when visiting the mountain estate. You will also see her traveling across the country, as the vineyards’ ambassador at large.

The initial purchase of land on a ridge near the Sonoma County and Napa County line provided 100 acres of land but after two years it was decided that scratching vineyards into the hillside was a lot tougher than planting on flat land in the valley. Additional land in the valley below was purchased in 1975.

HILLSIDES VERSUS VALLEYS

Nonetheless, CEO Rob Fisher explained that the hillsides also have advantages that the valley does not. “Spring cold air falls away from hillsides but in the valley cold air collects in the basin. Valleys will see bigger diurnal shifts from cold at night to hot during the day while the shifts will not be as extreme up on the mountains,” Fisher said. “This phenomenon causes two different types of growing seasons.” When temperatures fall below 38 degrees in the fields, large propane frost prevention fans come on to warm the crop. “Across the vineyards, it sounds like you’re at the airport when all these fans start up,” said Cameron Fisher, who leads marketing for the vineyards. A third sibling, Whitney, manages Fisher Vineyards’ 75 planted acres of estate vineyards in both the Napa and Sonoma Counties along with directing all winemaking operations from harvest to bottle.

With 40 acres on the valley floor, much of the land is dedicated to cabernet. A few of the valley acres are dedicated to merlot, cabernet franc and malbec. The mountains grow mostly for chardonnay and shiraz. Unlike many vineyards, Fisher Vinyards is able to employ an in-house team to work year-round rather than outsourcing any of their labor. “We have less down time and are able to keep the team busy,” Rob Fisher said.

WHEN THE HARVESTING PROCESS BEGINS

Fisher described the harvesting process as starting at night, usually going from Midnight to 6 am. “We like to do this when temperatures are close to 50 degrees to make it easier to remove the stem when the berries are more firm.” While many wineries crush and pump berries through a hose into the fermenting vessel, Fisher Vinyards prefers to preserve the berries and drop them into the tank whole. “We like to do it this way and at night to avoid fermentation starting too quickly,” Fisher said. “Berries should stay chilled for the first two to three days and then fermentation should only begin gradually.” He noted that for optimal texture and flavors, some wines should allow two to four weeks for fermentation but acknowledged that many wineries don’t have the capacity to let the process go that long. “They are under pressure to process too fast. I’m glad we have the luxury of enough capacity to take the time needed with the fruit.”

Next week, we’ll discuss the process further and the important role propane plays in keeping everything moving forward especially when other energy sources are suddenly unavailable.

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