Dream Big

Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge is for sale

This uniquely integrated agriculture-based enterprise encompasses decades of innovation, forward-thinking & planning positioning itself consistently at the cutting edge of today and into tomorrow.  Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge has made history, built tradition, is contemporary and already reaches toward the future. Dreamed and built by Brian & Diana Fitzpatrick over three decades, Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge is the jewel of Fair Play.

“Where once there were mines, now there’s fine wines” speaks of the transition of this sleepy remnant of the California Gold Rush into a burgeoning world-class wine growing region coveted by thousands of eonophiles( winos) and modern explorers. This transition started with the Fitzpatricks opening Fair Play’s first winery in 1980. By the end of that decade four wineries were open. A total of eight welcomed the ever growing visitors by the end of 1999. Now in 2006 the number of wineries in the nationally recognized Fair Play AVA (American Viticultural Area)  is fast approaching 25. Unbelievable to the old timers but the enthusiasm and energy just keeps on building. And thousands of new customers discover Fair Play each year.

At first we didn’t have a decent restaurant nor a bed to offer in Fair Play. Brian Fitzpatrick foresaw that shortcoming and designed a new facility back in 1984. After gaining El Dorado County approval, groundbreaking for Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge took place atop a newly tamed hilltop overlooking almost all of Fair Play and beyond in late 1985. This was to become California’s and our nation’s first winery/bed & breakfast combination, setting the stage for unique agro-tourism possibilities to follow. After almost three years of construction, Fitzpatrick Winery had moved into its new facility and the vertical integration of wine, food and lodging began. As is today, Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge in one massive structure houses the winery, tasting room / sales area, the B&B rooms, a commercial kitchen and the expansive outdoor decking to capitalize on what has always been called ‘a million dollar view’. And to offer our wine tasters a nourishing and necessary respite from the rigors of wine tasting, we began serving what is now an endearing tradition, our Ploughman’s Lunch starting back in 1987.

But Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge is more than just large at 8500 square feet, it’s awesome, inspiring and very appropriate architecture for this Sierra Foothill setting. Europeans and world travelers all mention its likeness to fond mountain memories elsewhere. The massive hand-crafted log structure creates a dramatic setting with a commanding vantage point of the beautiful wine country and pristine foothill and high country beyond. Upon entering the Lodge, the golden glow and scale of the logs exudes a warm secure homey atmosphere that all enjoy. On this main floor is the tasting room / sales area, the commercial kitchen, the Great Room and the Log Suite. Above with commanding views are the four other B&B rooms including the Winemakers’ Suite, the Irish Room, the French Basque Room and the Olde Fair Play Room displaying pictures and relics of Fair Play’s past. All five B&B rooms have private baths and fireplaces. Every B&B room steps out onto its own deck with spectacular views. Upstairs is a common entertainment area known as the overlook, with expansive view of the north and overlooking the Great Room. Then outside are common decks where guests and customers alike bathe their eyes in endless beauty and peacefulness. Famous and enduring is our wood-fired oven, its many wholesome breads baked fresh each weekend and Pizza Night on Fridays from mid-April through mid-October.

The vertical integration of Winery & Lodge starts below, dug ten feet into the earth with about 2500 square feet, enjoying the earth’s cool temperature, of wine cellar. Outside of these cellars and immediately adjacent are the crushing, fermenting and pressing areas. Inside the cool cellars the aging of the wines in both oak barrels and stainless tanks effortlessly takes place. Downstairs adjacent to the wine cellars is the mechanical room, another  bathroom/shower, laundry room, office and special library wine cellar.

At cellar level, but enjoying privacy and the same stunning views as the Lodge above is a two bedroom / one bath with covered deck owner’s/managers quarters. This positioning is perfect for combining privacy and good visual knowledge of the ingress and egress to the property.

What grand manor with such a commanding hilltop would be complete without a castle? So at the highest point just steps away from the Lodge sits a solid 24 feet high stronghold complete with tower fort top. However this castle serves purposes beyond its overlook. A 1600 gallon water tank is perched up on its second story as an emergency source of potable water. The castle is protected on one side with its modern-day moat – a 25 meter lap pool which is the envy of all on the many beautiful hot summer days and nights. The entrance to this secret amenity  is stairs shaded by an arching trellis of Zinfandel grapevines. The pool and castle are surrounded by exposed aggregate decking, a patch of lawn, flowers creating a great and private space to sun, relax and room to have a sizable family garden.

The massive log Lodge with its winery operations in the cellars is completely backed up electrically with a generator house about 100 feet to the west. A White Diesel generating up to 47 KW at 210 amps in both 3-phase and single phase electricity is ready to keep the operations going if needed. We currently power the generator with Biofuel.

However the real excitement comes for the green enthusiasts to know that our entire operation is powered by the sun. We invested in two systems approaching 40 KW production. They’re both grid-tied which means tied to the public utility PG&E with bi-directional meters. In the day we produce power enough for our current needs and export the excess running our meter backwards. At night and on rainy days we still enjoy the consistency of being on the grid. The field-mounted 10KW system down in the vineyard powers all our wells and meets or exceeds the annual electrical demands. The 30KW system is roof mounted on a new 4,000 square foot metal wharehouse and comes close to supplying the electrical needs of our entire operation. The bi-directional meter of this larger system is also time-of-use which means that during the day we are exporting energy almost three times the value of the energy we consume at night. The relationship with the utility company is that of trading KWs insulating our energy costs overtime from skyrocketing with the ever-increasing energy costs of electrcity.

This 4,000 square foot metal structure has two functions. The entire building was insulated with one-half super-insulated and is used as a temperature-controlled wine case storage. Labeling and shipping are all staged within this facility. The other side of this center-dividing wall is our Agricultural workshop. It acts as storage for equipment, materials and provides a welcomed area for industrial fabricating and projects. Our entire winery and vineyard operation is very comfortable within the space it now occupies with room to expand.

Surrounding the buildings are the vineyards. The heart and soul of our agricultural based agro-tourism enterprise are the vineyards. We currently have approximately 18 acres planted with room for another 2 acres already cleared. The varieties and their clones have been personally selected for their wine quality and best-fit by location within our multiple aspect vineyard site. The vineyard plan consists of classical groups of world-reknown varietals. Our Bordeaux collection includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Our Rhone collection includes Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre. Our Zinfandel is claimed as California’s own. We also have plantings of Italy’s Sangiovese, Spain’s Tempranillo, the Burgundy’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and a little Orange Muscat. This variety of varietals creates a broader palette of flavors, textures and possibilities for the winemaker to create interesting and complex wines.

The vineyards are all certified organic and have been since the beginning. If this doesn’t seem significant to you now, I guarantee time will prove it one of the most enduring beneficial features of our farm. Not only does it develop a healthy environment for the land and its workers but for the owners, family and visitors. Organic certification also positions yourself to be ahead of the curve as chemical farming runs into the elimination of one chemical after another as they lose approval for use. The public’s appreciation for organic agriculture is growing rapidly and our farm is the local leader in this field. As part of the sale I am offering an unprecedented incentive of $100,000 to stay the course and continue to be certified organic for the next ten years. After that you won’t need any coaxing to stay the course.

Our vineyards have produced wines winning Grand Awards, Best of Shows, Golds, Silvers and Bronzes. The production of the vineyards is still maturing (vineyard blocks range from 16 years old to 1 year) so overall yields will increase over the next 5 years or so. Immediately adjacent to this 30 acres is a 10 acre parcel with 6 acres of grapes that is farmed collectively by us, certified organic,  and part of our winemaking program. That 10 acres is owned by Hank Schuyler, an in-law, and is not available for sale; however, the grapes are farmed and purchased every year as part of our estate vineyards. As time goes by one could plan on production levels nearly doubling, especially with increased inputs to about 80-100 total tons or the equivalent of 4000 – 6500 cases annually. Currently our production averages 3000+ cases and growing. Then depending on whether the wines are marketed direct through the tasting room or through distribution, the potential for doubling wine sales’ revenues becomes a realistic goal for the near future. A marketing reexamination of our current brand and image may offer ideas for a little reinvention that would position the brand at a higher price point and therefore increase significantly gross revenues.

The future holds so many possibilities for improvement and revenue building. The aforementioned in the winery, restructuring the B&B rates, offering spa services and exploring the possibilities of more food service would keep one busy just to name a few.

The lifestyle of owning and running our business is extremely rewarding with all the wonderful people we meet, challenging to not just keep up with the day to day but to foresee the future and ready oneself to meet that future, and demanding of your total self; there is nothing part-time about this business. A couple can do it, after all we’ve done it for over 25 years with part-time helpers of course. But I foresee the more perfect workload sharing would be with two or more couples or amongst a family with adult children. This business demands many talents and could be neatly delegated into vineyard, winery, B&B, sales, food service and business management for example. On a day to day basis each partner would meet the demands of their department. However when the season demands all hands on deck, most everyone jumps in to help. With such delegation comes less overall working hours for everyone, more social flexibility and hopefully more overall energy and talent to take  Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge to new heights.