I remember the first time I stepped into Strey’s tasting room, only 6 months after they opened. Husband and I were celebrating our first wedding anniversary, he had surprised me with a private wine tasting tour in Ventura and Oxnard. I had no idea there were local wineries, and definitely would never have guessed that these warehouses could be filled with exceptional wine. Up until that day, we always went out of town to taste great wine. Of the four wineries we visited that day, Strey was the only club we joined (having promised ourselves we would NOT join a wine club at all), little did I know, that decision would change my life. Katie was so inviting, she had this big infectious smile, and we felt welcome. Up until this experience, I had never been to a winery where I was greeted as soon as I walked through the door. In fact, I often felt as if I didn’t belong, or the person behind the bar already had preconceived notions about my knowledge of wine. Maybe this is a good time to tell you a little bit about my wine experience… #dontjudgeme …
About ten years ago, my friend brought me a bottle of Gewürztraminer, and it was the first wine I remember actually enjoying. I had not tasted much wine prior to this, other than the wine my bestie and I used to sneak from her parents after they went to sleep. Now here is the embarrassing part, somehow I went backwards from Gewürztraminer to Moscato. My discovery of Moscato was a game changer. I think I drank my weight in that stuff regularly. (Seriously, this photo of me drinking straight out of the bottle, not just any bottle, a Sutter Home magnum still exists. I had just turned 22… That’s pretty typical, right?)
Obviously, I thought I was pretty fancy since I liked wine now, so the next logical option was to go wine tasting. To my surprise, you get laughed at for drinking Moscato (and NEVER say “White Zin” in a tasting room!) and I left my first experience in Santa Ynez feeling way less fancy. Which actually helped, I was determined to figure out what it was about red wines that people loved. So I started tasting everything. I stopped saying, “whites only”, and I tasted and asked a million questions to anyone who would answer. Eventually, this winemaker said, “Here, you just need to read this book.” and handed me “The Wine Bible”. The following year, with every paycheck, I would choose a varietal and buy 3 or 4 bottles, all from different regions. I would open one, and I read about it, and write my own tasting notes on it. Over time I started to find my preferences, and I noticed my tastes changing. I had a difficult time finding certain wines, and some of them were out of my price range. To this day I get really excited to find a tasting room that offers a wine that I’ve only ever read about. Wine became fascinating to me. But the tasting room experience was not always a great one. I think that’s a big reason why Strey has become my home. Katie’s smile, Tawny’s excitement, and Scott’s big California bold wine making style. Scott and Katie created an atmosphere that makes anyone comfortable, it truly does “stray from the norm”.
Which brings me to my exciting news! Over the last few years Scott has been working on a few wines that are off the beaten path. Up until now we have always had the staples, Cab, Syrah, Zin, Temp… We thought we would change the game a bit and bring you a few varietals that you may have never heard of, and are harder to find. When wine tasting locally, in Ventura County we just don’t have as many diverse options… I mean we DIDN’T, until now. I have the pleasure of announcing Strey’s Signature Series! On February 17th we will be releasing five new wines in honor of our fifth anniversary! Graciano, Nebbiolo, Touriga Naciónal, Malbec and Tannat. We cannot wait for you to taste these delicious wines!
As you know, we generally source our grapes from Lodi, but Lodi did not have all of the grapes we wanted, so Scott drove all over California to bring us these specific varietals. Our 2016 Graciano grapes were sourced from the Sierra Foothills and has tobacco and leather on the nose, and a berry patch on the palate. The 2016 California Malbec, which is one of my personal favorite varietals, has this unforgettable mouthfeel, a vortex of fruit and active oak influence it is mouthwatering.
Luckily Lodi did have Tannat, Nebbiolo and Touriga Nacional. Our 2016 Lodi Tannat has dark fruit aromas and an approachable palate. The 2016 Lodi Nebbiolo has nuances of cranberry and cigar smoke. The 2016 Lodi Touriga Nacional will surprise you with berry pie, streudel and and fruit tart aromas.
We will offer a second tasting sheet highlighting our new wines. Members can choose to taste the Signature Series in place of the usual line up. I cannot wait to share these special wines with all of you! I hope to see you at our Five Year Anniversary Party on February 17th!
As I mentioned, the new wines we are releasing are difficult to find in Ventura County, however, I would love to point you towards a few other wineries that have varietals you are hard pressed to find. I don’t know about you, but it is so much fun to taste the wines from different wine makers, particularly when I am not very familiar with the varietal.
Millesime Cellars in Camarillo and Labyrinth in Ventura both offer Touriga Nacional. Pantess Cellars in Camarillo has a Tannat and Sunland Vintage in Thousand Oaks has Nebbiolo. Several local wineries do have Malbec, this is new and exciting for us, though. (I did not do an exhaustive search, so feel free to comment if you know of other Ventura County wineries that offer these wines!)
Hopefully in the next few weeks I can plan a field trip to some of the local wineries. I am not claiming to be a professional wine taster, or anything, but I have basically had wine for breakfast every weekend for the last four years. (In the tasting room we call it “quality control”.) I’d love to share some of my experiences with you all. In the meantime, you know where I’ll be.