Get to Know Jonathan Lynn, Our New Wine Director!

October 4, 2022

You can count on several things at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant Café; delicious, fresh, and creative cuisine, an incredible selection of wine, and approachable and knowledgeable staff.

We feel lucky and proud to introduce Jonathan Lynn as our new wine director! With a passion for wine and pairing a bottle with a favorite dish, we are excited about what he will bring to the restaurant as director of the wine and beer program.

Who is Jonathan Lynn?

Once landing a job at Bouchon in Las Vegas, he knew it was just a stepping stone to what he was meant to do. Jonathan watched the sommeliers  with admiration and intrigue and decided that he would one day be “that guy:” dressed to impress, suave, smooth, and incredibly knowledgeable about all things wine. He turned those feelings into motivation and followed the road to his true calling – and we couldn’t be happier that he did. He is now a Certified Sommelier, CMS and the proud new Wine Director at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café.

Jonathan is passionate about removing the fear often associated with wine from the process, he’s aware that it can mistakenly come off as snooty and intimidating. He believes that “wine should be fun—It’s not something you have to know a lot about to understand. You should only have to know what you like.”

In addition to managing the sales team and sharing his expertise with the staff, he will be helping guests try new wines they may have never heard of, especially those from the local small producers in the region.

“I look forward to bringing some fun and delicious wines to the menu that guests might not have heard of! I love seeing someone when their mind has been changed about what they thought they loved in a wine!”

If you aren’t a wine club member, you’re missing out, not only do you get discounts every time you dine with us but you’ll also get to experience the careful selection Jon intends to put together each quarter (join here)! In addition to selecting wines based on the seasons, he also wants to ensure that guests are trying something new and expanding their horizons.

Jonathan says he is proud to work at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café for many reasons, one of which is the cuisine he gets to work with. “It is a relief to have a menu that I’m proud to recommend. Seeing the fresh vegetables that come in from our farm is incredible!” If you need a pairing suggestion, don’t hesitate to ask him! As a foodie, he knows the importance of choosing a wine based on the dish (or vice versa!).

Let’s talk Style

When Jonathan was applying for the position, owners Sam and Shawnda Marmorstein thought he stood out, not just because of his friendly, approachable personality and solid knowledge of wine, but because of his tie. Not his actual tie, the way he ties it.  Rather than using the same tying method as everyone else, he uses the Eldredge Knot. It is an eye-catching tie with four diagonal bands and one small horizontal band. Want to see what it looks like? You can Google it or just head to the wine merchant and meet Jonathan! If he can master the precision it takes to  tie the Eldredge Knot, Sam and Shawnda figured Jon is likely to have the meticulous eye needed to maintain the inventory of 1000’s of bottles.

Becoming a Sommelier

Growing up, Jonathan watched his parents develop their careers in the restaurant industry and was inspired to follow in their footsteps. His roots brought him into the restaurant industry, but it was his love of wine and beer that inspired him to the life of a sommelier.

Jonathan describes his “Aha” moment of wanting to dive deeper into the world of wine as he was enjoying a jalapeño popper pizza and a 2002 Weingut Knoll Riesling Kabinett from Austria. “The sweetness of the wine paired with the spice from the jalapeño and the savory from the bacon blew my mind! I had no idea what a glass of wine could do to a dish and vice versa.”

Jonathan also has had experience in the production side of wine and beer. He previously helped make wine at Foxen Winery and says he doesn’t think he would be where he is today if it hadn’t been for that harvest. During the process, he learned to “appreciate everything that goes into making wine.” He brings that experience into his current role as wine director to ensure the best selection to enhance our cuisine.

With his experience in the realm of beer, he will also add some new and exciting options to the menu for those who are looking for something other than wine.

Wine Director Jon Lynn Holding a glass of red wine in front of wine wall

What Fills His Glass

On his own time, Jonathan will often reach for a wine from the Loire Valley in France, such as a Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, or Cabernet Franc, or will try something new.

He is versatile in what he drinks, just as long as it pairs well with his favorite foods. Rather than pairing with the type of meal, however, he will often pair a wine with the sauce in the dish. His favorite pairing is Chenin Blanc with Oysters.

Welcome to the Team, Jonathan!

Please join us in welcoming Jonathan to the team, and don’t forget to say “Hi” to him when you see him around. He’ll likely be carefully selecting the wine and beer list for the store or providing knowledgeable insight to the wine sales team. Regardless of what he is doing, though, you can be sure that he will be showcasing his specialty tie.

Don’t Judge a Wine By Its Seal: The Legendary Cork vs. Screw Cap Debate

September 6, 2022

Can a bottle of wine be judged by its closure? In many cases (no pun intended), you can tell a lot about the nature or purpose of the wine by whether it is sealed with a cork or a screw cap. That is because many winemakers often carefully select the sealing method for each type of wine they produce, and the cost isn’t the only consideration.

There is so much versatility in wine, and these nuances can impact the experience found inside each bottle. Wine novice or aficionado, you likely gravitate to certain characteristics over others; such as white vs. red or sweet vs. dry. How it is bottled is another important attribute and is often factored into the selection process.

You may also think it is a trivial matter, but there are distinct benefits and downsides to both methods. Understanding the differences between corks and screw caps can make you the hero of your next dinner party or help you craft the perfect response when your in-laws question why you brought a bottle of wine without a traditional cork.

Screw caps are notorious for cheap wine bottles, but this is a misnomer. You shouldn’t be surprised if you find an expensive bottle of wine with a screw cap, especially one from Australia or New Zealand. So set aside your assumptions (like screw tops are only used on “cheap” wine), and let’s dive into the facts.

Production of the Materials

How the materials are produced and their impact on the environment are important considerations for many wine lovers.

How Corking Got Started

Corks have been the primary method of bottling since the 1400s because of their excellent properties for sealing and aging the wine. Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber) found in Spain and Portugal. It was discovered that the cork allows for minimal leakage but sustained aeration; excellent for the gradual aging of wine.

Bernat wine bottle being corked during processing

This method is not only environmentally friendly but is also sustainable for the climate. The process does not harm the tree since the bark is carefully cut away. The cork is harvested when the tree turns 25-30 years old, and then every 9 years after that, but the tree is kept alive. In addition, the manufacturing of cork stoppers creates minimal carbon pollution.

The Evolution to Screw Caps

Screw cap seals have been the preferred method of wine bottling throughout Australia and New Zealand since the 1950s. These countries have since paved the way for the acceptance of screw caps by wine aficionados and wine makers throughout America. Many Old World wine countries, such as Italy, Spain, and France, have not as tenderly adopted this new method, however. Screw caps are a more affordable option for bottling and they can be recycled; not bad for an alternative to cork!

Screw caps are becoming the go-to among many winemakers. Larry Schaffer, owner and winemaker of Tercero Wines in Santa Barbara County says that he is not anti-cork but has “been using screw caps for all of my wines since 2006. I am happy with the results, as are my customers.”

It’s a Tale as Old as Wine

Lovers of cork favor this method because of the tradition and romanticism involved. Our very own wine director, Jonathan, transports us to the vineyard-laden hills of the Central Coast when he says, “I love the romanticism of the cork, the cutting of the foil, the twisting of the wine key, the pulling of the cork.” There is nothing like the popping sound of the cork when it ejects from the bottle to lift the spirits of a gathering.

A downside to using screw caps is that they are not as pretty to open and you lose a bit of the romantic nature of the wine experience without the traditional cork removal process. For the less traditional, this might just be a perk though. Jonathan plays the devil’s advocate to his original statement by saying,

“I love the ease of the screw top and the fact that it makes wine a little less snobby.”

Proper Aeration & Aging of Wine

There are practical reasons why wine makers choose corks as well. The material is pliable, which means it can effectively hold wine inside the bottle with minimal leakage. It is an excellent sealing method for long-term aging, making it a suitable choice for wines that are best consumed once matured. The right amount of aeration is beneficial for wine to develop the complexities you would want in age-worthy wines. The ideal cork would permit around one milligram of oxygen to enter the bottle in a span of a year to naturally remove the sulfites added during bottling.

In some cases, a cork can allow for too much aeration. If a bottle of wine is exposed to too much air, the wine can develop a nutty and old taste. Eventually, it can even start to taste vinegary.

Optimum aeration depends on the type of wine as well as the preference of the wine drinker. For instance, if you are swinging by the Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafė on your way home from work to grab a crisp white or rosė intended to be drunk as young as possible, you might opt for a screw top. Wines with screw tops are generally made to be drunk relatively soon since they are not intended to age. If you want a complex red for your already impressive wine cellar collection, go for a bottle with a traditional cork.

TCA and “Corked” Wine

Screw caps were designed to resolve many of the deficiencies of the cork. The primary issue they aim to address is the “corking” or tainting of the wine. This is caused by microorganisms in the cork reacting to other substances, such as chlorine, and creating a chemical called Trichloroanisole (TCA). When wine comes into contact with too much TCA, it becomes “corked”.

Screw caps are composed of a metal casing with a plastic insert. With the reduced capacity for aeration, the wine won’t age as quickly nor take on qualities of the cork; helping it avoid harmful oxidation. This also makes the wine very consistent between batches so that each bottle tastes virtually identical, a definite perk for many winemakers.

Just Put a Cork in It! (or Don’t)

Before browsing the wine shelves, you should consider the characteristics of the wine desired, when it is expected to be consumed, and the expectations of the consumers. Whether you choose a bottle with a cork or a screw cap, we hope you lift your glass in the air and cheers to the wonderful complexities and variations of wine. If you are looking for your next bottle, we welcome you to visit our wine store. We have something for everyone and plenty of opportunities to try something new or just outside of your comfort zone.

 

Rock Solid Happy Canyon AVA

March 12, 2020

Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Emerges

The 2004 Academy Award-winning movie, Sideways, tours its way through the Santa Ynez Valley but doesn’t mention Happy Canyon. Perhaps that’s a blessing, considering the damage done to Merlot from the meltdown Miles had in our alley in one of the pivotal scenes. The movie’s torrid love affair with “thin-skinned and temperamental” Pinot didn’t leave much room for Miles to praise Happy Canyon’s hearty reds with notes of polished leather saddles and Santa Maria steak seasoning. Even if Miles had planned a day at the newly emerging wineries, the way he’d drive the hills and twists of Happy Canyon Road would’ve sent his red Saab convertible careening into an oak tree much earlier in the film!

Thankfully, discerning drinkers have ensured that Happy Canyon Merlot is still part of the Wine Merchant’s top-selling and most age-worthy wines, but this was far from assured when the movie debuted in 2004. The “Sideways effect” was a blindside blow for the growers, since Happy Canyon’s vineyards were only in their fourth vintage. Formal recognition of the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA wouldn’t follow until 2009. Longtime fans may know the region got its name from hiding a secret distillery during Prohibition. However, an even more amusing aspect of the story is that the “of Santa Barbara” suffix had to be added because Prohibition moonshiners left ravines named Happy Canyon spangled all over the American West. The patriotic heart swells with pride.

The AVA spans 23,941 acres, but fewer than 1,000 are under vine.

Even today, Happy Canyon’s story is very much still being written. The AVA spans 23,941 acres, but fewer than 1,000 are under vine. Sauvignon Blanc has long threatened to steal the show, but Happy Canyon remains a red-dominated appellation led by powerhouse Cabernet Sauvignon alongside a vibrant showing from the Bordeaux supporting cast of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec.

Aerial view of Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Photo Courtesy of Crown Point Winery

Nature dictates that thin-skinned and temperamental Pinot has no place there. Granted, Happy Canyon does enjoy sheltering mountains and generous sunshine which can boost the temperature up to thirty degrees warmer than the Sta. Rita Hills, but that’s where the easy road stops. Grapevines contend with massive nightly temperature swings, along with constant crosswinds whipping down the canyon and shearing between the carefully oriented vineyard rows. Vine growth is further harried by lean soils packed with cobblestones of serpentine and chert, whose added magnesium and calcium conspire to further reduce grape yields and pressure vines to put down deep roots.

Cabernet Sauvignon, in particular, is exalted by this crucible. The ripening grapes forge a thick skin and tannin-rich seeds with a snap pea’s crunch. Some winemakers walk through the vineyard chewing Cabernet’s tough hide like jerky for minutes at a time, hoping to coax out clues about the complexities of their finished wine. This expertise, supported by elite local vineyard management and occasionally by world-famous French vineyard sustainability consultants, means that the third decade of Happy Canyon vintages looks very promising indeed.

Try a never-jammy Happy Canyon red with grass-fed or aged steaks, dry rubs, hard-seared char crusts, and meats from the smoker. These pairings bring our staff and guests no end of joy, especially now that Chef Chris has his new wood-fired smoker up and running!

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant, we provide an in-depth selection of California Central Coast wines. We will always provide the most sought after wines of Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and the other stellar AVA’s in our wine region. Make yourself happy and pour Happy Canyon wines at your table. Here are some suggestions that are sure to bring a smile!

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Lane Tanner, Pioneering Femininity

March 2, 2020

Lane Tanner, One of the First Female Winemakers of Santa Barbara Wine Country

Lane Tanner of Lumen remembers the old days. She remembers the early days of Central Coast winemaking when the process was a lot more laborious physically and femininity wasn’t a desirable trait in a wine—or a winemaker.

Frequently, Central Coast Syrahs are made big, bold, and in a style that Tanner calls “manly.” So she decided to make wines that were the antithesis of that: softer, gentle, elegant, or what she calls, “feminine” wines.

But don’t be fooled, Tanner is a heavy hitter, a pioneer in the wine industry.

She was one of the first female winemakers with her own label in Santa Barbara County. For 16 years, she was also the only winemaker who produced only Pinot Noir. Tanner said there’s a sensuality to Pinot Noir. For her Lumen label, she likes to produce Pinots with low tannin and velvety mouthfeel, and a long, lingering finish. She believes the Santa Maria Valley produces the ideal fruit for Pinots that reveal bright, strawberry, and cherry notes with herb over notes.

If there’s a sensuality to Pinot Noir, there’s just as much sensuality in the way that Tanner handles her production. For instance, for her Grenache, she does everything by taste. She does test Brix, but otherwise, taste rules. She likes to harvest when the grapes are just ripe, slightly past green. Then, it’s very little oak, and she doesn’t adulterate her Grenache with Syrah. It’s pure, vibrant, and youthful.

Though Tanner got her start almost by accident, it turns out she had a natural talent for winemaking. As proof of that, she’s worked with some of the most infamous names in winemaking. In the early ’80s, she worked at Firestone prior to being asked by Ken Brown to work at Zaca Mesa. From there, she began working with Frank Ostini who wanted something exclusive to his restaurant, The Hitching Post. She worked with him until 1989 when Ostini realized he wanted to make his own wine. They split barrels with Tanner starting her Lane Tanner label.

Still, Tanner hopes to see one more change in the near future…

Since those early days, Tanner has seen a lot change. Winemaking may still involve a lot of manual labor, but things have gotten easier, and females are now embraced by the winemaking community. Still, Tanner hopes to see one more change in the near future—she waits for the day when female winemakers are seen simply as “winemakers.”

Hear her full thoughts on women in winemaking and how the industry has evolved on the Central Coast in this month’s featured winemaker interview.

 

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D’Alfonso-Curran: A Perfectly Pleasing Pairing

February 4, 2020

Some things just make the perfect pairing. Like, a summer day and a fine breeze. Or a crisp, peachy, highly acidic Grenache Blanc and spicy Thai food. Similarly, winemakers Kris Curran and Bruno D’Alfonso of D’Alfonso-Curran wines are that complementary pairing.

The Recipe for D’Alfonso-Curran Success

It’s in their winemaking philosophy. Curran believes a winemaker must be flexible enough to treat each wine individually, taking into consideration, things like its ripening time or the size of the lot.

D’Alfonso sees a need to be rational. He believes a winemaker must anticipate the potential fails in order to be prepared to deal with such an eventuality.

Individually those winemaking styles give their respective labels identity. Together, they represent a union of strengths, forming the D’Alfonso-Curran line of wines designed to pair with food. And the Santa Ynez Valley is the perfect place for a culinary adventure as they determine the foods that pair best with the wines they are working on.

Our Interview with Kris and Bruno

D’Alfonso and Curran joined us recently to discuss their winemaking, their backgrounds, and their individual and D’Alfonso-Curran labels.  Learn more about what makes their winemaking styles unique in this month’s video interview.

The History of these Two Established Winemakers

D’Alfonso, who’s earned a reputation for producing outstanding Pinot Noirs, celebrated his 40th year as a winemaker last year. His career started at Chalone in the Edna Valley in 1980. A few years later he joined Richard Sanford at Sanford Winery. D’Alfonso became a partner at Sanford where he spent 25 years, before starting his own Badge and Di Bruno labels.

Curran, whose name is often cited as one of Wine Spectator’s Top Winemakers, started her winemaking career as the assistant winemaker at Cambria Winery in Santa Maria right after college. From there she became a founding member of Koehler Winery. She went on to become the first winemaker at Sea Smoke and helped build that wine’s cult status. After producing seven vintages at Sea Smoke, she accepted a winemaking position at Foley Wines where she made wines under the Foley, Lincourt, and Two Sisters brands. She built her Curran label in 1996 and was one of the first vintners in California to popularize Grenache Blanc, which she started making in 2003.

Together, the two renowned winemakers started the D’Alfonso-Curran brand in 2006 producing ultra-premium vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from Sta. Rita Hills and Chardonnays from Santa Barbara County.

 

About us:

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe we focus on providing a true wine country experience. Much of our produce for the Café is organically grown at our Café farm in Los Olivos. And our award-winning wine selection of over 500 mostly local wines compliments our fresh wine country cuisine. As a hub for the local California Central Coast wine scene, we love getting to know our local winemakers and sharing their stories with you! We welcome you to browse our over 30 interviews and blogs featuring local winemakers HERE.   

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Subscribe to our YouTube Channel so you don’t miss out on getting the inside scoop from our local winemakers!

The Visionary & the Winemaker behind Liquid Farm

January 4, 2020

Some ventures are fueled by inspiration, and others begin simply with the pursuit of passion. For Liquid Farm, it was a little of both.

Jeff Nelson and James Sparks of Liquid Farm began their venture with the desire to create Chardonnay in the Burgundian-style they enjoy so much. Prior to establishing Liquid Farm, the duo strived to eat and drink local, but they found something lacking with the local wines they were coming across in the early 2000s. Like many entrepreneurial-spirited individuals, they decided to take matters into their own hands and create wines that showcased some of the stellar cooler-climate vineyards in the Central Coast area while incorporating the Old World style that they both personally loved.

Liquid Farm Wines at the Los Olivos CafeLiquid Farm began in 2009 and by 2010 they were available by the glass in Santa Ynez Valley restaurants like Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe. The wine quickly found a following because of its earthy minerality and delicately nuanced style. In Old World tradition, the wines feature lower alcohol, high acidity, and more earth-driven characteristics. Fruit from the cool-climate and ancient soils of the Sta. Rita Hills complements this European winemaking style.

Working together Nelson and Sparks bring balance to Liquid Farm in many ways. As owner and CEO Nelson works on getting the wine to its audience, Sparks makes the wine. That balance also spills over into their winemaking philosophy.

James Sparks of Liquid Farm in warehouseSparks said he likes to make wines that reflect his personality, delicate and layered with much to explore. It’s a balance between science and artistry, with a little less emphasis on the science and more attention to craft and treating each barrel of wine individually.

 

 

We got to meet Jeff & James and now you can too!

Though they started Liquid Farm intent on making a stellar Old World Chardonnay, they shared a glass of their Pinot Noir with us at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant during their recent Featured Winemaker interview. In the video interview, they share how the evolution to include red wine in their production transpired, as well as how the label has found its niche in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Get to know James Spark’s winemaking style this month at Los Olivos Café and Wine Merchant. Taste LIQUID FARM wines by the flight or purchase one of three featured bottles at a 20% discount throughout the month of January!

Stock up and Save Big! January Only!

 

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe we focus on providing a true wine country experience. Much of our produce for the Café is organically grown at our Café farm in Los Olivos. And our award-winning wine selection of over 500 mostly local wines compliments our fresh wine country cuisine. As a hub for the local California Central Coast wine scene, we love getting to know our local winemakers and sharing their stories with you! We welcome you to check out more of our interviews and blogs here.

Would you like to get to know more local winemakers and stay informed about our upcoming wine deals like our Final-Day-of-the-Month Blowout Wine? Sign up for our NEWSLETTER here.

Rick Hill of Labyrinth: Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe Featured Winemaker

September 30, 2019

A Labyrinth Led Rick Hill to Santa Barbara Wine Country

Growing up in New Zealand Rick Hill couldn’t possibly imagine the circumstances that would eventually lead to him becoming winemaker for his Labyrinth wines—he only knew that he wanted to be in the wine industry. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, there wasn’t a clear path into a wine career. Instead, Hill ended up in the milk industry, and then the juice industry, all the while with an eye toward going into wine. His work took him all over the world– from Australia to the Middle East– but it wasn’t until he completed his wine science degree in 1997 that he would get to California.Rick Hill Labyrinth winemaker in the vineyard

He was placed in Napa during his internship, which is a problem for a Pinot Noir fan. The winemaker he was working with offered to find him a placement more suitable to working with his preferred varietal. That’s how he came to Central Coast Wine Services, a small operation that, in a twist of fate, would introduce him to his winemaking career, as well as his future wife.

As an intern, Hill expected he’d move from California to Argentina, Italy, and other renown wine regions.

“The funny thing was I fell in love with Santa Barbara County, I fell in love with the people I was working with, I felt instantly trusted in being involved with their grapes,” he said.

Rick Hill of Labyrinth next to surgboard with Labryinth logo Lane Tanner was one of just a handful of Central Coast Wine Services clients. Later, she and Hill would marry, but not before she gave him his winemaking start. When Tanner injured her knee right before harvest, she enlisted Hill’s assistance offering him 2 tons of any fruit to which she had access.

I said, “‘That’s wonderful, what I’ll do is, I’ll take 2 tons of Bien Nacido.’ And that’s how my career started,” Hill said.

These days Hill produces Pinot Noir for his Labyrinth label that is meant to be fresh and bright, bold and enthusiastic. But he has also branched out into bigger reds like Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and Tempranillo, and dabbled in a few whites as well.

Meet Rick! Check out our interview!

In this month’s featured winemaker video interview Hill details his path to becoming a winemaker, how small production makes his wine business agile, and he shares his thoughts on the growing Santa Barbara County cannabis industry.

Get to know Hill’s winemaking style this month at Los Olivos Café and Wine Merchant. Taste Labyrinth wines by the flight or purchase one of three featured bottles for a 20% discount throughout the month of October.

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe we focus on providing a true wine country experience. Much of our produce for the Café is organically grown at our Café farm in Los Olivos. And our award-winning wine selection of over 500 mostly local wines compliments our fresh wine country cuisine. As a hub for the local California Central Coast wine scene, we love getting to know our local winemakers and sharing their stories with you! We welcome you to check out more of our interviews and blogs here.

From textbooks to tasting: Aaron Walker of Pali Wine Co.

September 5, 2019

If all had gone according to his plan, Aaron Walker would be steeped in academia shaping the minds of the next generation. Instead, those warm, magical SoCal breezes changed his fate. Now, he’s influencing palates and educating wine aficionados about the virtues of California-style wines as winemaker for Pali Wine Co.

An easy-going Southern California native living the surfer lifestyle, Walker was planning on getting his teaching credential while studying at San Diego State University. Like many college students, Walker waited tables to pay the bills. It turns out the job suited him. He made several attempts at working in other industries, but he always went back to waiting tables.

A life-changing harvest

As fate would have it, his girlfriend (who is now his wife) steered him away from pursuing the culinary arts and opening a restaurant. She instead suggested that maybe her father’s Central Coast contacts might have some opportunities for him in the wine industry.

Aaron Walker at work at Pali - pouring wine from barrel into glass

Walker spent part of 2016 working the harvest with Jenne Bonaccorsi of Bonaccorsi Wine Co., and instantly forgot about teaching, forgot about restaurants, and forged a career in wine. The hands-on physical work followed by the reward of seeing that work come to fruition gave him a deep sense of satisfaction.

Embracing the California winemaking style

By 2017 he was hired by Pali Wine Co., which turned out to be a great fit. Short for Pacific Palisades, which sits between Malibu and Santa Monica, Pali was established in 2015 bearing reference to the hometown of owners Tim Perr and Scott Knight. At the time, Pali’s winemaker was producing wines that didn’t accurately reflect the California wine style. Originally, the wines were big, rich, high in alcohol, and didn’t age well. Walker throttled that back a little bit, showcasing low-alcohol California wines that are big, yet approachable and can still age well. Pali especially favors Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills, an area that has become renowned for its ideal growing conditions for the varietal because of its moderate warmth tempered by coastal influences.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Aaron to hear his story and would love to share it with you. We invite you to pour a glass of wine and join us as we uncover his tale in our interview at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe.

Walker shared with us an example of that California style with the new release of the 2018 PCH. Pali produced 600 cases of this dry, crisp, and refreshing wine, which highlights flavors of watermelon, lime zest, and sweet summertime stone fruits.

Aaron Walker of Pali Wine Co.The California influence is evident in the winery’s operating philosophy as well. Pali has five tasting rooms throughout the Central Coast and Southern California, where staff has created a brewery approach to the tasting room experience. This has helped Pali foster loyal “communities of wine club members,” and allows them to occasionally roll out experimental blends like the Zinfelder—a blend of Zinfandel and Dornfelder.

 

 

 

 

 

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe we focus on providing a true wine country experience. Much of our produce for the Café is organically grown at our Café farm in Los Olivos. And our award-winning wine selection of over 500 mostly local wines compliments our fresh wine country cuisine. As a hub for the local California Central Coast wine scene, we love getting to know our local winemakers and sharing their stories with you! We welcome you to check out more of our interviews and blogs here.

The Science of Wine with Tara Gomez of Kitá Wines

August 7, 2019

A love of wine attracts a number of future winemakers to the industry, but for Tara Gomez, the winemaker for Kitá Wines, it was a love of science and a Fisher-Price microscope.

Tara Gomez of Kita Wines in the vineyardsA love of science leads to a career in wine

Gomez said the microscope that she had when she was 4 years old fostered her love of science and nature exploration. As a child, she would tag along when her parents went wine tasting. The sight of the giant stainless-steel vats and aromatics of the winery cellars sparked her curiosity but walking by the lab set her career trajectory. The young Gomez saw people in white lab coats using chemistry to test the acidity in the wine and that created an instant connection with her.

With the financial help of her Chumash Tribe, she sought out a career in enology in high school and then went on to Fresno State to get her degree. Kita WineShe got her feet wet at Fess Parker and J. Lohr wineries, and then went on to work two harvests in Spain. When she came back to the states, the Chumash Tribe was in negotiation to purchase the Camp 4 property that produces the majority of the label’s grapes, and so she returned home. It was a fitting return, according to Gomez, because the Chumash had financially supported her educational efforts and now she gets to pay it forward.

Dedication to each varietal

A producer of small-batch, ultra-premium wines, Kitá Wines produces 19 varietals on the 256-acre vineyard that sits on Camp 4 at the eastern edge of the Santa Ynez Valley. One of the hottest microclimates, it’s the farthest east Santa Barbara County AVA before transitioning into the Happy Canyon AVA. Kitá does produce Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay and Pinot Noir because of the cooler influences from that area and because the tasting room is located in Lompoc, in the heart of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.Kita Harvest - team with headlights in vineyard

As a winemaker, Gomez considers herself a purist. She believes in minimal manipulation to maximize varietal characteristics. While Kitá does produce three blends that allow Gomez to tap into her artistic side, the rest are 100 percent varietals. As proof of her dedication to a varietal, Gomez travels to Europe each year, picks a varietal she wants to work with, and learns everything she can about it. Armed with that knowledge, she returns to incorporate a blend of Old World and New World winemaking techniques in Kitá wines. Taste the result by the glass or flight throughout the month of August, or take one of this month’s featured bottles home!

Check out our exclusive interview with Tara!

 

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe we focus on providing a true wine country experience. Much of our produce for the Café is organically grown at our Café farm in Los Olivos. And our award-winning wine selection of over 500 mostly local wines compliments our fresh wine country cuisine. As a hub for the local California Central Coast wine scene, we love getting to know our local winemakers and sharing their stories with you! We welcome you to check out more of our interviews and blogs here.

Michael Speakman: Westerly Wines

July 6, 2019

A good wine can enhance a meal and contribute to that warm feeling among family and friends, but a phenomenal wine—well, that can change the course of your life. At least, that was the case for Michael Speakman, owner of Westerly Wines.

Love at first sip

It was a Côte Blonde that stole Speakman’s heart. Three days after he had his first sip, he was in escrow to buy the winery. He fell in love with all the wines, but he thought the Côte Blonde was simply amazing.

A blend of Syrah with just 5 percent Viognier for balance, the Côte Blonde is a fan favorite. It’s a wine that can stand up to a steak, but with the floral essence provided by the Viognier, the wine multi-tasks as a wine for all seasons.

From play time to wine down

Westerly Cote Blonde with Angels hat and ball

The effect of the Côte Blonde on Speakman is even more remarkable considering that he wasn’t even looking to get into the wine industry. A serial entrepreneur, Speakman started selling baseball cards when he was just 9 years old. Eventually, that first endeavor became a trading card company. He followed that with more businesses inspired by youthful trends–like the milk cap game POGs and then Beanie Babies. After those successful businesses, he turned to real estate before taking some time away from business.

These days he enjoys making his own wine deliveries and “hasn’t worked a day” since he purchased Westerly. He considers himself fortunate that he has good wine that he gets to share with friends and his family, which includes his wife and 17- and 19-year-old sons, who he hopes will follow him into the wine industry.

 

A tradition of Bordeaux

Westerly Wine Owner
Michael and Joyce Speakman, owners of Westerly Wines

Westerly Wines has been producing wines in Happy Canyon for more than 20 years. It’s one of very few

wineries located there, but that’s just another reason it’s so special Speakman said. He calls it the best wine-producing region on the Central Coast, citing a recent increase in national recognition.

Because it’s well-established, Speakman has no plans to make major changes to Westerly Wines. The wine will still come primarily from Happy Canyon, while the pinot will come from the much cooler and coastal Sta. Rita Hills appellation.

This month you can fall in love with the Côte Blonde, too. It’ll be available by the glass or as a tasting flight along with the 2017 Happy Canyon Rosé and 2013 Westerly Red, a fruit-forward blend of Cabernet, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

 

At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe we focus on providing a true wine country experience. Much of our produce for the Café is organically grown at our Café farm in Los Olivos. And our award-winning wine selection of over 500 mostly local wines compliments our fresh wine country cuisine. As a hub for the local California Central Coast wine scene, we love getting to know our local winemakers and sharing their stories with you!

We welcome you to check out more of our interviews by subscribing to our YOUTUBE CHANNEL or checking out our BLOGS– you too can get to meet our talented local winemakers!

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