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Central California Life Magazine

Engelmann Cellars: Small Batch Winemaking to Create Truly Exceptional Wines

Nov 16, 2016 02:37PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Engelmann Cellars is a small boutique winery focusing on quality in the vineyard that is carried throughout the small batch winemaking process to create truly exceptional wines.

Not only do they have fantastic small-batch wine, but they hosts monthly events, live music, and wine tours. Live music is hosted every Sunday from 1-4pm year-round, and every Friday May - Sept from 6-10pm. Head to their event website to view their upcoming shows. 

Their mission is made clear: "Produce premium quality wines, from local grapes that are hand processed in our boutique winery located in the beautiful vineyards of the Fresno countryside. These wines will reflect the quality of wines produced throughout the State of California at a price that will be a great value to their consumers."  

By processing all wine in small batches, many less than 100 cases per varietal year, they can oversee all details large and small during harvest, fermentation, barrel aging and final blending before bottling.

Small batches also allow Engelmann Cellars to several strains of yeast during fermentation. Yeast is the organism that converts grape juice to wine. Each yeast strain spotlights a different part of the grape. So some yeast will help promote the fruity character of the grape while another may enhance the tannins or color. By using several different yeast strains they are able to blend in the complexity that each yeast strain produces. This leaves them with a finished wine with layers of complexity that will be enhanced with our premium oak barrel aging program.

Bret Engelman is a fourth generation grape grower on the family vineyards located on the west side of Fresno. After working on the family farm for most of his youth, Bret attended CSU, Fresno where he received his BS in Business Management in 1996. Longing to get back to the vineyards, Bret went back to CSU Fresno to earn another BS in Enology in 1999, and was part of the first class to ever produce bottle and sell Fresno State wines. 

Pressing crew Chardonnay 2001, Logan, Mackenzie, Norman, and Bret Engelman (Three generations of Engelman's)

After graduation he quickly landed a job as Assistant Winemaker for The Wine Group where he was in charge of making 25 million gallons of wine in just two years. With the desire to have more control over the finished product he started Engelmann Cellars back at the family vineyards. Today, he is in charge of all aspects of the winery functions, and also volunteers on boards such as Creative Fresno, and the Fresno State Alumni Association, and is President of the Twin Rivers Vintners of Fresno County.

In the winery's first six years of sale, Bret has helped Engelmann Cellars rack up an impressive 68 medals and 3 outstanding winery awards, plus had 3 wines rated in the Wine Enthusiast magazine.

A Little History

Henry Engelman (Great Grandfather)

In 1900 a German immigrant couple from the Volga river region of Russia named Henry and Elizabeth Engelman immigrated to the United States. Henry and his family took a long train ride from Ellis Island to Fresno, CA where he settled in town, and then bought a small ranch in the early 1900’s west of the city of Fresno. This is where he started the long family history of grape growing in Fresno County, and he added to his family with several sons and daughters.

Phillip Engelman (Grandfather)

Phillip was part of the first generation to be born in the United States, and being born on the ranch he was taught at an early age how to tend the crops and grow grapes. This was a different generation where you could not focus on one crop; they had to be able to raise many crops including cattle and livestock. In 1932 Phillip and Rose Engelman bought 40 acres of property on Rolinda where the winery is located today. Although the vineyard was primarily planted for raisins Phil and his brothers did grow grapes to make wine for family and friends. Phil and Rose also started a family here with two children Ilene and Norman.

Norman Engelman (Father)

Norman was raised with much of the same values as the previous generation, respect for the land and strong work ethic. He raised animals in 4H and Future Farmers of America, but eventually settled with focusing on grape growing. After high school Norman married his high school sweetheart Carolyn and attended Fresno State University where he pursued a degree in viticulture (grape growing). About the time of Norman finishing his Bachelors Degree at Fresno State the school added a Masters program in Plant Science. During his post graduate time at Fresno State Norman had the chance to work closely with Vincent Petrucci and at the time, the small Enology department. Norman was the third person to receive a Masters Degree in Viticulture from Fresno State, and was quickly offered a job in Napa Valley. Instead Norman decided to stay in Fresno and expand the family vineyards. Through the years Norman has served on many boards to help the California raisin industry, and at one time was even on the board that helped bring the California Dancing Raisins to life. Today Norman is content with helping his two sons Eric Engelman who runs Engelman Vineyards Inc., which takes care of all the farming, and is currently building LoMac Winery, and his son Bret Engelman who started Engelmann Cellars in 2000.

Bret & Elainea Engelman (Owner/Winemaker/Graphic Artist)

Bret & Elainea Engelman

Engelmann Cellars was founded in March 2000 by Bret Engelman after graduating CSU Fresno with a BS degree in Business Management in 1996 and another BS degree in Enology in 1999.  After college Bret was in charge of all wine making at a 12 million gallon a year winery in the Fresno area.  In 2000 he started Engelmann Cellars in an old raisin shed that his grandfather built on the 200 acre family vineyard in 1957.  Today Engelmann Cellars is run by Bret and his wife Elainea Engelman who graduated Cal Poly in Graphic Communications.  Together they have brought the wine up to 3000 cases a year with 85% sold directly to the customer in their tasting room or online.  Engelmann Cellars also has 5 local Costco warehouses selling their wine.   

All content courtesy of the information provided on the Engelmann Cellars website