A toast to the future
Jimmy Fitzpatrick, a 29-year-old freestyle motocross veteran living in the prime hills of Temecula, Calif., is looking ahead to life off the bike. For the past 10 years, Fitzpatrick has been focusing solely on FMX; though he's been living on 50-plus acres of prime wine-country real estate, he hasn't really given his family's Greystone Vineyards wine business much thought until now.
Fitzpatrick is a hardcore Irish-rooted freestyle motocross daredevil known for his ridiculously brave style. His private riding compound, appropriately titled "Fitzland," is littered with features from basic 75-foot gaps to huge natural-terrain jumps upward of 160 feet. Not a fixture on the contest scene, Fitzpatrick has instead installed himself as an established demo rider for the Nuclear Cowboyz Tour -- where he backflips while he's set on fire -- and the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, among other events throughout the world.
Now Fitzpatrick is planning on turning Greystone Vineyards into a profitable business for himself and his brother Brent, who also takes care of a lot of the day-to-day wine-making tasks. Their goal is to develop the property into one capable of housing multiple picturesque weddings, parties and corporate events on the same weekend. They also have plans to incorporate a bed-and-breakfast feature into the estate.
XGames.com took a field trip to Fitzpatrick's estate recently to see the facility in action and talk grapes with the man behind the merlot.
XGames.com: So it's wine instead of whiskey for you?
Jimmy Fitzpatrick: Yes, I enjoy a good red -- in addition to a shot here and there. Our family moved out to the Temecula wine country about 13 years ago and got involved in wine-grape growing and wine making. It's been a learning process since we're a city family, growing up in [the] Whittier [and] Huntington Beach area.
My family came here, bought a [bull]dozer and started developing the land. It was a two-year process, but the results were 12 acres of premium wine grapes and a nine-acre freestyle course that many of the best riders in the world have enjoyed and been photographed on. It's been a process; we've learned quite a bit over the years, but I'd say the last eight to nine years we've been getting the hang of it.
Why is this area filled with so many wineries? Is there something about this location that's ideal for growing grapes?
Temecula has always been Southern California's wine country. It's the perfect combination of soil and climate, making our area specifically good for growing your red-wine grapes. Our climate is ideal: We have a valley that rolls right over the top of us that stems from [the] Oceanside beach area, and what that does is provide a cooling effect in the mornings and evenings, with warm heat during the day.
This is the perfect condition for the grapes to thrive. That's why you see so many wineries bunched together in this area specifically. And the way the bird flies the ocean is only about 20 miles from here, so we're pretty close.
Your property shares a side for the FMX compound and another side for growing grapes. Which did you move out here to do first: ride or make wine?
When I first moved out here I was 16 years old and I could care less completely about the wine. I was into motorcycles, you know? ... [W]hen I wasn't in school, playing football or diving, I was focused on riding and building my track. A kid's dream come true, my dad gave me a spot on the property to build my compound.
Now as I'm getting older my brother [Brent] and I are taking a big interest in grape growing and wine making. I still have a lot to learn, but [I'm] having fun doing it.
What are your plans for the future with catering to weddings and special events?
So basically, you know, a winery is a lot to take on, and instead of just coming straight out of the gate and saying, "Hey, we're open for business," we decided that our property is ideal for holding events and weddings. This is a perfect stepping-stone for us as we build up Greystone. We've already done quite a few weddings and corporate events, birthdays, etc.
The landscape here is awesome for having multiple varieties of themes. We've got the castle look with the main house, we have estate rose gardens, we've got the vineyards, and actually my favorite are the many Tuscany-styled patios. All you need is a glass of wine and you feel like you're in Italy!
We're in the process right now of completing a two-acre manmade pond that has a two-story deck expanding out over the water. All the way around the pond will be fully landscaped, and we'll have spots over there to do weddings as well. Our goal is to develop really scenic, picturesque backdrops for all kinds of events.
Most of the wineries out here sit on 15 to 20 acres, but we're on 50 acres. Our possibilities are virtually endless here.
What's the biggest number of people you've accommodated so far?
I'd say the most people we've entertained here at an event was a wedding with 425 people attending. It was a big wedding! And we learned a lot from that group. What makes our facility unique is that even with 425 people, we got them all in and still had room for more. Your average wedding is 150 -- a walk in the park for us here at Greystone.
How many different wines do you have so far?
We have four different types of grapes growing on the property, and with that we're able to make a killer cabernet, Meritage, syrah, port and Irish red. ... [The port is] pretty potent stuff, with a little bourbon added to it. Wine with an Irish kick!
How long does the process from vine to bottle take?
The growing process is pretty straightforward. It's important that you begin with prime stock. All of our vines are French clones. You'll have grapes the second year, but the fruit isn't suitable until the third year. After your fifth year, you begin producing your full yields.
In late summer/early fall we begin to monitor our sugar levels. When we reach 25 [degrees] Brix [a measurement of sugar content], we pick, crush and de-stem, and then the fermentation process begins. The total process of taking grape juice to wine is a two-week process. We then press the juice and skins and transfer it into oak barrels. I could actually talk for hours just about barrels and creating flavors. I won't bore you with all the chemistry. [Laughs.]
Then begins the waiting game -- about 18 months for the wine to reach its potential. Every year, we have a bottling party for those wines which are ready [to] put in a bottle and drink! Unfortunately, with my travel and event schedule I'm not always around for every step of this process. My brother Brent has spent a lot of time educating himself alongside our winemaker, and I jump in headfirst when I'm at home.
It looks like you guys are about ready to do some bottling right now.
Yeah, we bottle two times a year and one of those times is always right around the time of L.A. summer X Games, and then again in the winter.
We'll spend about a weekend doing it, along with a bunch of friends and family. In that weekend we'll bottle around 2,500 bottles of wine. We'll have a pretty serious assembly line going, from taking it out of the barrel to oxygenating it, bottling, labeling and corking it.
Sounds good. Can we come back and check out that process when you guys do it?
Yeah, you guys are always welcome to come back and watch the process and enjoy a little wine.
It was cool having XGames.com out here. Not a lot of people see this side of me; they always see me for Jimmy Fitzpatrick the FMX rider, but I'm glad you guys stopped by. I'll always be a dirt bike rider, but I'm thinking long term here on the property with the winery and events business -- for when I grow up.