Winters is an historic orchard town, tucked up against the California Coast Range in Yolo County. The country roads in and around the small town have been lined with swaths of orchards for over a hundred years. Now, in early May, the bloom is over, replaced by budding fruit. Apricots, prunes, peaches, nectarines, and cherries are the most prevalent stone fruits. There are a few quince and figs. Walnuts and almonds are the primary crops, with pistachios making a showing. The groves of oranges planted at slightly higher elevations are just beginning to bloom. And if you step into the groves, the fragrance is almost overwhelming.
At the end of the 19th century the dominant fruit was apricot, and the premium for flavor was the Blenheim, followed by the Royal Blenheim. Winters’ orchards were early ripening, and the fresh fruit was shipped all over the country on rail cars that pulled up in the middle of the small town to be loaded. School got out early so the children could go to work cutting apricots in half for the drying yards.
Prunes ran a close second to the apricots, and first drying yards and then commercial dryers were set up to handle the large crops that went out across the nation and to Europe.
Through the late 1900s, the local Bing cherry crop was significant, and other stone fruits were grown on a smaller scale. However, as the value of nut crops increased, the large apricot and cherry orchards were pulled out and the ground replanted with walnut and almond trees.
The railroad bridge remains, but the rail cars are long gone, replaced in their turn by trucks and containers that continue to ship the area’s huge walnut and almond crops across the country and around the world.
The crops may have changed, and some have diminished, but Winters remains an orchard town. Pocket orchards of Blenheim apricots, and Bing cherries remain, and the prunes endure. Small specialty orchards have developed, growing peaches and nectarines, pomegranates and Asian pears. The oranges no longer cross the nation but go to regional retailers. Massive fig trees and rambling quince still exist, reminders of the pioneer homesteads.
L’Apero les Trois was founded on the old French farmhouse tradition of infusing local wine with fruits and nuts from nearby orchards and fortifying it to last the year. Berryessa Gap Vineyards provides the estate grown wines, and the fruit and nuts come from neighboring orchards. Traditions live on, even through change.
L’Apero les Trois Orchard Bliss Cocktail
This cocktail, created by winemaker and aperitif maker, Nicole Salengo, who as an East Coaster has been in awe of the orchards of California, and in particular, those of Winters.
- 1 1/2 ounces Rosemary Orange Aperitif
- 1 1/2 ounces Blenheim Apricot Aperitif
- 1/2 ounce Pellegrino Pomelo Soda
- 1/2 ounce Berryessa Gap Brut Rose
- Pour in order
- Garnish with Orange Zest
- Makes 1 cocktail