The new Echo restaurant and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at California State University, Fresno have forged a wine and culinary partnership that will feature award-winning Fresno State wines, olive oil and other food products.
On Sunday, March 26, Echo will hold a grand opening with university officials where the announcement of the partnership caps National Agriculture Week (March 19-25). The event is by invitation.
Echo, which established a national reputation for fresh, California-accented cuisine at its original Tower District site, opened its new restaurant last fall at Champlain and Perrin avenues in northeast Fresno’s Piazza del Fiorre shopping center. The restaurant, which first opened in 1995 and closed in 2005 to plan for the move, has received favorable comment from numerous national magazines and developed a large and loyal following locally.
Eight top wines from the Fresno State Winery will be showcased at a tasting during the grand opening as well as a tasting of the just-released Estate Reserve Olive Oil. Student-produced items added to the Echo menu — which changes to take full advantage of locally grown foods — include almonds, citrus, raisins, and late winter harvest of organic broccoli.
The wines Echo is purchasing are the 2004 Pristine Chardonnay, 2005 Muscat Canelli Nouveau Blanc, 2005 White Zinfandel, 2004 Barbera, 2003 Petite Sirah, 2003 California Syrah, Tailgate Red and 2005 Muscat Canelli.
The most recent award-winner is the 2004 Barbera which won a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Competition in Cloverdale in February. Echo will be adding the Barbera and the California Syrah to its wine list, and will be using the Muscat Canelli “Nouveau Blanc” and the Tailgate Red in its newly designed “Nouveau Fizz” wine cooler.
While several other restaurants in the area serve Fresno State Wines, this is the first formal partnership involving both wine and food products on a regular basis.
The partnership between the university and Echo helps promote Fresno’s emerging food and wine culture, said Echo co-owners Adams Holland and Tim Woods, the executive chef.
At the grand opening, they will be joined by Dr. Robert Wample, chair of the Viticulture and Enology Department, and Fresno State winemaker John Giannini. Also on hand will be Dr. Ganesan Srinivasan, director of the University Agricultural Laboratory at Fresno State which oversees 20 different plant and animal enterprises that produce the student products. Gino Favagrossa, orchard manager, will offer a tasting of the university’s newly bottled olive oil.
Wample called the wine and culinary partnership a creative win-win approach to support and implement ag education research and practices while providing the community with access to student products in a high-quality culinary setting.
“We are honored that Echo, a prestigious establishment in the Fresno/Clovis area, is actively demonstrating its support for Fresno State’s agricultural programs and the various enterprises our students engage in,” Wample said.
For the Echo owners, the partnership is a way to contribute to the region’s agricultural community and the university.
“We are looking forward to promoting the future of Fresno through its students,” Holland said “Fresno State’s viticulture and enology program is of such renowned quality, it is a natural progression for us to work together on a variety of exciting projects.”
Woods said, “Echo has had a 10-year commitment to sustainable agriculture in our community. We are now extending that commitment to the premiere education facility in our community.”
The restaurateurs hope to raise funds for Fresno State at the grand opening that will further educational opportunities for viticulture and enology students and promote the advancement of quality in wines produced in Central California. Their goal is to eventually provide Fresno State students with scholarships, assistantships and student sommelier opportunities.
At the grand opening, in addition to the wine and olive oil tasting, Echo’s signature cocktails will be available along with a sampling of Echo’s menu inspired by the seasonal abundance of local organic produce and grass-fed meats. The eight Fresno State wines and the Estate Reserve Olive Oil will be available for purchase with the proceeds benefiting the Fresno State programs.
The event also will feature the debut of Echo’s newest signature drink, “Nouveau Fizz,” a wine cooler using two Fresno State wines. Created especially for Echo by nationally-renowned beverage designer Jerri Banks of New York, Nouveau Fizz blends Fresno State ’05 Muscat Canelli Nouveau Blanc and Tailgate Red with fresh ginger, lemon juice, simple syrup and seltzer.
Giannini and students from the viticulture and enology programs will be on hand to showcase the university wines, which have earned nearly 180 awards at prestigious competitions.
In 1997, Fresno State became the first college in the nation to obtain a license to bottle and commercially sell its wines, opening the Fresno State Winery that year. An enology program was first established at Fresno State in 1956 which evolved into the viticulture and enology department in 2000. The winery now produces nearly 30,000 gallons of wine in 17 varieties that are available at, among other retail outlets, Save Mart, Trader Joe’s and Costco stores.
In 2004, the viticulture and enology program announced its first restaurant wine-only partnership with the Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bars throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Other establishments serving Fresno State Wines are Campagnia in Fresno, Erna’s Elderberry House in Oakhurst, Valentino’s in Reedley and Tenaya Lodge near Yosemite National Park (which also hosts the annual Fresno State Winemaster’s Weekend).
Echo also will be the first restaurant to incorporate the recently unveiled Fresno State olive oil, produced under the academic auspices of the Plant Science Department in partnership with California Olive Ranch in Oroville.
“To press an olive oil that has been made from varieties of trees planted with our climate in mind, is just the sort of attention to quality that fits with what we have always tried to do here at Echo,” said Woods.
The broccoli, almonds, citrus and raisins also are produced on Fresno State’s 1,050-acre Agricultural Laboratory and are available for purchase seasonally along with other student-produced agricultural products – including ice cream, milk, cheese, sweetcorn and meats – at the Fresno State Farm Market on the southeast corner of Barstow and Chestnut avenues. For store hours, call 559.278.4511.
For information about Echo, which is open for dinner Monday through Saturday at 1144 East Champlain Drive, Suite 108, call 559.442.3246.
For more information contained in this release, please go to the following Web sites:
Viticulture and Enology Department
Estate Reserve Olive Oil
Olive for Oil project
Fresno State Winery
National Ag Week
University Farm Laboratory History