Touring and Tasting the Blossom Trail
Jan 27, 2019 11:00AM
By Enjoy Magazine
Season in Bloom
Story by Natalie Caudle
Photos Courtesy of Fresno County Office of Tourism
IN LATE FEBRUARY, spring begins to peek around the corner of a dreary grey winter, beckoning life to return to the foggy valley floor. Pink and white flowers quickly dress the fruit trees and orchards, covering local counties with a blanket of beauty and the promise of a new season. As the days slowly warm, both valley visitors and natives set off on the 64 miles of the Blossom Trail, driving through the beauty of Eastern Fresno County farmland and quaint rural hometowns.
The Blossom Trail officially began in 1987 due to the efforts of the Fresno County Agriculture Commissioner and continues today as a celebration of agricultural heritage. Opening ceremonies kick off in Selma on February 8 before the first blossom blooms, marking the start of the self-guided tourist season. Most trailblazers choose to begin at a historical valley landmark – the oldest fruit stand in Fresno County, Simonian Farms on South Clovis Avenue. Tourists enjoy viewing antiques and sampling local treats, such as cajun okra chips, pomegranate jelly and chocolate almonds, before heading out into the floral clad orchards.
Each year, 20,000 to 30,000 sightseers from around the world enjoy the breathtaking blossoms of the valley as they drive through the countryside, capturing photographs and memories along the way. Grand festivities are held on the first weekend in March complete with a 5K run, blossom bike ride, train ride for children through blossoming peach and plum trees at Hillcrest Farms and relaxing afternoons of local wine tasting.
“It really is for everybody,” says Kristi Johnson of the Fresno County Office of Tourism. “You can’t get lost and there are amazing views from your car.” The Blossom Trail leads valley explorers through the small towns of Reedley, Minkler, Centerville and Sanger with an optional sweet-scented 20-mile trek on the Orange Blossom Trail through Orange Cove. Johnson urges tourists to stop and enjoy the cuisine and culture of the country towns.
A handful of wineries on the eastern side of Fresno County join in the merriment, offering trailgoers a sampling of various local wines. Israel Lopez, owner of the boutique winery Cedar View, invites blossom tourists to sample up to seven wines from locally sourced vineyards and enjoy warm appetizers while they drink in views of the blossoms from Cedar View’s outdoor patio. Lopez entices patrons to escape their weekend routines, grab a camera and enjoy the experience as a mini-getaway.
Four other wineries within a 10-mile radius offer sips of local wines against a picturesque backdrop of blossom-tickled orchards and rural lanes lined with cotton candy trees. While visiting Marechal Vineyards, tourists can enjoy a crisp taste of Malvasia Bianca, a sweet wine with notes of peach, pineapple and a hint of honey, or a glass of Peachy Pie, a sparkling wine with a tasting note of stone fruit at Kings River Winery in Sanger. Locally produced lemon-infused olive oil and bleu cheese-stuffed olives are available for purchase at Kings River Winery along with the scrumptious tastes of charcuterie for wine tasters’ snacking enjoyment. Many local wineries were converted from family-owned farmland, creating a young and delightful local wine country.
For the tourist who prefers to be chauffeured, the Sanger Chamber offers a Blossom Bus through the floral trail to the various wineries. The Blossom Bus is not provided during the Wine Weekend as the Sanger Chamber is busy hosting various other activities and festivities.
For a few short weeks in late winter, the valley bursts with whimsical pops of pink as busy bees surround the pastel confetti of petals. The first weekend in March may be full of festivities, but the Blossom Trail is spectacular during the entire flowering season and beckons trail-goers to a charming afternoon of breathtaking blooms. •
Fresno County Office of Tourism
(559) 600-0532 • www.goblossomtrail.co