Farmer's Fury Wine Tasting Room in Lemoore
A Farmer's AttitudeMay 2015
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Christy Canafax
Cotton-picking farmers turned wine makers, well, that’s how the website describes them, anyway: the Stratford family behind Farmer’s Fury Winery. Brothers George and Charles and father Charles Meyer began Farmer’s Fury in 2009, nearly by accident. But what began by chance they’ve tackled with a farmer’s earnestness: they’ve grabbed that bull by the horns and wrangled to the ground a business that otherwise isn’t associated with men of the earth like themselves. Farmers have been used to market lots of products – beer, cigarettes, trucks – but wine?
After George completed his U.S. Marine Corps service, he returned home to enlist in another long-standing tradition – working the family farm. “It was started around 1906, I think,” George says. It’s been four generations, anyway, and they’ve grown different crops through the years, including wheat and cotton, and now, of course, grapes.
Perhaps it was the Marine in him, but in 2006 George set to rearranging the farm. “There was a lot of unorganized space going on,” George says. While cleaning, he came across a winemaking kit.
George admits he wasn’t exactly a wine-drinking guy. “I didn’t really drink wine at all, unless we went to Olive Garden,” he says. “To be honest, I’d make beer before I’d make wine. But what the hell, I thought. I can make wine. Why not?”
So George bought five gallons of frozen grape must, and followed the instructions that came with the kit. All things considered, George says, it was pretty simple. “Step one, do this; step two, do this; step three, do this… and a month went by, we tasted it out of the barrel, and” – George slightly pauses, almost to brace himself for what he’s about to admit – “yeah, it was pretty good.”
Good enough that George used his GI Bill to study wine at Fresno State University. “After the first semester I got a pretty good look at how a winery works, so I told my brother and dad, ‘Let’s try to get our own winery going.’”
In 2009, the Meyers officially began making wine as Farmer’s Fury Winery. “I wanted a name that wasn’t just about me, or my family, but about a way of life, our community,” says George. “And I wanted attitude, because we (farmers) get the short end of the stick.”
Farmer’s Fury has embraced the agricultural community, and how could they not? Both their farm and their grapes have roots in the Central Valley. But just because they’re celebrating their identity as farmers, don’t expect wine served from a box. Their wine is true vintage, bottled cabernets, chardonnays, reserve merlots, zinfandels and blends. Farmers grew the grapes, farmers bottled the wine, and farmer’s in the name, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to be a farmer to enjoy it.
Two years ago, Farmer’s Fury opened its Tasting Room in Lemoore, and they’ve been reaching diverse crowds. Beside Lemoore residents and the Visalia and Fresno traffic coming and going from the coast, they’ve been popular with people in uniform. “It sure is nice having that Navy base here. We didn’t think about it when we moved here,” George says, “but they’re our biggest customers.”
Bucking stereotypes and breaking barriers is practically written in their mission, and the Tasting Room makes that possible. With open mic events on Wednesdays, and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, the Tasting Room is more than your typical wine bar.
“There isn’t any other place like it in Lemoore,” says George. “It’s a great place to meet new people, socialize, talk. We get people down from Fresno saying they wish they had a place like this.”
And then there’s the wine.
“Sometimes people can be standoffish with people who are new to wine,” says George. “So we try to break that barrier and show people that anyone can drink wine. It’s good with almost any meal, and good to sip on without a meal.”
That’s saying a lot coming from a man who admits he wasn’t always wine’s biggest fan. Now he speaks like a true sommelier. His favorite bottle right now is their 2009 reserve merlot. “It’s very big, powerful, with raspberry tones, and it’s smooth,” muses George. “It’s just a beautiful wine with tons of flavor, heavy, and as far as drinking wines go, it’s like drinking a stout.”
George credits Fresno State with teaching him how to talk about wine, “but it has so many descriptors that you can’t possibly think about them all.” Anyway, he says, “you end up talking over people’s heads.”
And that’s not what Farmer’s Fury is about. They are about, however, making good wine for the “hardworking men and women” of the Central Valley.
“We need to be here in the Valley, and we want to make a good product.” Why? Because it’s home. It’s why they grow their grapes in Kingsburg, why they serve their wine at Rawhide Games, why they’re looking to open another tasting room in Bakersfield. So they plan to continue to embrace their identity as farmers, celebrate their agricultural roots, and stay local. That’s the plan anyway, says George, “and so far, it’s been working out.”
Farmer’s Fury Winery • Tasting Room: 358 West D St., Lemoore
(559) 816-0019 • Open Wednesday through Saturday: 4–10pm
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