A drive along the Fresno County Fruit Trail is the most delicious road trip you’ll ever take. Head out on this meandering route through one of the world’s most productive farming regions and experience the abundance and diversity of Central Valley agriculture as you stock up on freshly picked fruit, gourmet products, and wine.
Nothing says summer like a classic produce stand and the Fruit Trail, not surprisingly, has endless choices. While some of the fruit is seasonal, many stands and businesses along the Fruit Trail remain open throughout the year, and the orchards put on a spectacular blossom display in late winter and early spring. For five generations, Fresno residents have flocked to Simonian Farms for its mouthwatering nectarines and peaches. In addition to the best of seasonal fruit, Simonian’s big red barn is filled with antiques, including a model steam train that chugs along 200 feet of track, while vintage tractors and an old caboose are displayed outside.
Family-run since 1946, the 600-acre Circle K Ranch near Fowler and Selma is well known for such stone fruit as plums, peaches, and nectarines. You can also pick up pistachios, pecans, and almonds, as well as gift baskets of dried fruits. Or visit Friesen Family Farms, a fourth-generation operation that grows 50 varieties of tree fruit near Kingsburg.
While the Fruit Trail is best known for its stone fruit, berry lovers will also find plenty of their favorites along the drive. Fresno County produces some of the tastiest strawberries in all of California, and an estimated 95 percent of the local crop is grown by Hmong and Mien farmers, communities that emigrated to the area from Laos. Look for the strawberry icon on the Fruit Trail map to locate these seasonal stands.
Berry Lady Farms just outside of Kingsburg is a great place to find juicy blueberries, blackberries, and boysenberries grown on 100 acres by the descendants of farmers who arrived in California in the late 1800s. Also near Kingsburg, from mid-May until early July (depending on the year), stop at Royal Dawn Berries for blackberries and blueberries. The tiny cottage sells jams, and you can preorder coffee cakes and cobblers on “Fresh-Baked Fridays” during berry season.
Grapes are the No. 1 crop in Fresno County and Sun-Maid, the famous farmers’ cooperative, grows 50,000 acres of raisin grapes in the Central Valley. At the Sun-Maid Market in Kingsburg, you’ll not only find raisins but also a big assortment of dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate-covered treats.
Then again, some grapes are grown for drinking, not eating. At the Kingsburg tasting room of Ramos Torres Winery, discover outstanding Rhône wines produced by Central Valley native Oscar Ramos-Torres. He grows nine grape varietals on a 21-acre estate vineyard in the foothills above the valley between Coarsegold and Yosemite National Park.
About 25 minutes southeast of Clovis, Maréchal Vineyards, whose owner and winemaker Josh Marshall is part of a family that began farming in the Sanger area more than 100 years ago, offers weekend tastings and serves a Sunday brunch. The winery’s patio overlooking the vineyards is open for picnics. The Ubick family also has deep roots in Fresno County farming and at its Valley Oak Winery tasting room, you can try small-batch red wines produced from grapes grown at the Ubick Vineyards outside Sanger.
If you’re looking for artisan foods, Enzo’s Table in Clovis has premium nuts and olive oils produced from the Ricchiuti family’s sustainably grown groves and orchards, plus gourmet favorites such as almond butter, chili jam, biscotti, and an irresistible Clementine olive oil cake. Named in honor of its founders’ Italian hometown, Dinuba’s Bari Olive Oil makes a range of extra virgin and flavor-infused oils from olives raised at its own groves and other local farms. To ensure the very highest quality, the olives are only pressed once and cold pressed, meaning that no extra heat was added during the process.