#BestJobEver Having this platform is so much fun! Getting the opportunity to share with you all, the heart-and-soul of Strey Cellars. Giving you an inside look at a local winery, from both wine making and the tasting room. I was thinking, when I have an interest in something, be it a singer, a business, or a new hair care brand, I want to know EVERYTHING. I love the idea of having exclusive information, and I thought maybe you would, too, here’s a personal behind the scenes of how our tasting room ticks.
My youngest daughter was five years old when I started working in Strey Cellars tasting room, and when we told her I was going to be working at a winery, she said, “Mama’s never gonna leave that job.” (She’s very insightful.) Prior to working at Strey I was a stay at home mom, and provided child care for numerous littles. Which can’t possibly be a surprise, if you’ve been in the tasting room the last two years, half the time I’m holding a child. In fact, if you have a child, I was probably holding yours, while pouring one handed tastings, and discussing the bright red fruits and hint of smoke on our 2014 Syrah. This is one of my favorite parts about Strey, we are not only dog friendly, but we are family friendly. I love that I can say, “Bring the family and a picnic, OR Grubhub food over and stay all day!” We want you to hang out with us. We know there are not a lot of places you feel comfortable enough to bring the kids, but Scott and Katie are a young couple, raising kiddos of their own. They understand the importance of creating a space that is inclusive. We offer markers and paper for kids to draw pictures, we have a chalk wall, we play fun music.
Anyway, working at Strey truly has been a turning point in my life and despite our family friendly atmosphere, I finally have adult time. (And I’ve needed it! “Let it Go” was on constant repeat in my head.) You would not know this about me, because you probably met me while I was standing behind a counter, but I am actually an introvert. Working with Scott and Katie at Strey taught me how to talk to strangers. Granted, liquid courage may have played a part, but seriously, if you met me outside of Strey, well we might not have met. I would have been too busy pretending you don’t exist because of “Stranger Danger” and so preoccupied with the notion that I might say something weird that I would be left rehashing the awkward moment for days.
Katie taught me how to start conversations, she gave me a safe platform to practice people-ing. She showed me how wine and the winery, itself is a fun easy subject. I have six wines in front of me, that’s six subjects! Six ways I can connect with people. In the beginning it was really scary, but I knew my script. I found that I learned so much from our customers and wine club members. So many of you are so willing to share wine experiences and even tips and tricks to flawlessly use a double hinged corkscrew (Thanks Dale!). Did you know that when Katie offered me this job, I initially said no because I didn’t think I would be very good at it? Even though it was my dream job, I was afraid our wine club members would not accept me. I know how much you all love Scott and Katie. I was worried I would not fit in, or I did not have enough wine knowledge… or even look old enough to be taken seriously behind the bar.
But what did Katie do? She saw through my insecurities, did not accept “no” as an answer and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I am so grateful that she did. Strey has been a lesson in so many capacities. I have learned how to avoid politics in public (still working on that one on social media), how to be welcoming to people even if they are mean (OK once a customer made me cry, but that was really early on, and I almost quit that day… but guess what, Katie hugged me, gave me a pep talk, helped me shake off the negative vibes and now I know how to deal with people who aren’t nice.), and my self image is more secure because Katie is constantly taking and posting pictures of me for everyone to see that make me feel beautiful and confident. Oh, and when it’s busy, I have developed a magical power to remember which tasting you’re on. Aaand I think I’m also physically stronger than I was before because stocking the bar is quite the workout.
It’s not really recommended to become friends with your boss, but how could Katie and I not? We spend almost every weekend together, our kids love each other and it’s quite possible that we are both each other’s first call when we need a sounding board. She flows so well between business and fun. Katie has an ability to transition from “management mode” smoothly, giving people a comfortable place to openly ask questions. By breaking down wine terms into an easy to understand tutorial, you won’t feel overwhelmed with information. She is the same way with me, she teaches patiently, and has a way of simplifying the subject. Pairing this with her fun personality, our friendship was inevitable.
When Katie was pregnant with their first daughter, Ivy, she had to take a step back from the tasting room. This was a little bit scary for me, and probably her, too considering up until this point she single-handedly ran the tasting room. I certainly was not sure if the wine club members would accept me, knowing that personal connection is very important when it comes to customer loyalty. To my surprise, our wine club members have welcomed me with open arms. I’ve had members specifically ask for me to work parties and weddings so that I was able to be a part of their special event… I have also had people ask specifically for me to not work parties and weddings so that I can attend their special event. I have developed great relationships and even a best friend in our tasting room. It’s more like family visiting… in a good way… (I might even be your unofficial therapist.) I am so grateful for the last four years. Thank you to Scott for making such delicious wine. Thank you to Katie for seeing something in me that I didn’t even know was there. Thank you Husband for sacrificing weekends together so that I can go to a job that I love. Thank YOU for opening up to me and bringing me joy and friendship. I felt the need to share these very personal stories because this is what sets our tasting room experience apart. This is the heart and soul of Strey. Our phenomenal wine, and edgy decor are just as important as the relationships. You don’t come to Strey Cellars just for a tasting. You come to Strey Cellars for an experience.
One of my favorite things about working at Strey, other than the the delicious wine, is Scott. For some of you he’s a bit elusive, considering the tireless hours he puts in to bring us the wine we all love so much. I have the unique opportunity to actually spend time with Scott, usually this means we are stocking endless cases of wine, or sweeping and mopping floors, (Call me Cinderella) or setting up for events. Scott has a hard time watching other people work, seriously, the man doesn’t sit still, if he happens to see me doing a job that would be faster if two people did it, he’s helping me in an instant. That’s how my friendship with Scott began. Working side by side here and there became the perfect opportunity to ask the plethora of questions that roll around my brain surrounding wine, and wine making. (In true winemaker fashion, he often hands me a book.) Luckily this habit of mine has resulted in Scott and Katie inviting Husband and I over to taste a wine I had never tried (Nebbiolo), and more often than not we end up with a glass of wine, because, how can you talk about wine without drinking it? (Obviously I am drinking wine right now, never mind that it’s 11am… In fact, you should probably go pour yourself a glass before you continue reading. CHEERS!)
The rabbit hole of the wine world is deep and fascinating. Scott has so much knowledge and love for this profession. Honestly, you MUST love winemaking to be a winemaker, nobody in their right mind would choose a career that doesn’t pay-out whatsoever for years, takes up every weekend and many many nights, requires you to put in physical labor, is time sensitive, messy, sticky and endless. Winemaking truly is a labor of love, and he never complains about it. There are weekends that I don’t see Scott other than through the window from the tasting room because he’s so busy racking. (Racking is when you remove the wine from the barrels, from a specific varietal, in order to clean out sediment, and mix the wine together in a big container so that once we get to bottling, each bottle tastes the same. Each barrel ages differently, and it’s important for the bottles to taste consistent. This happens a few times a year per varietal, so, at this point it’s happening year round because of the amount of wine we have in barrels.) He has even been known to camp out on the office couch, at the winery, because he works so late into the night, and has to be back bright and early to continue. This is why we rarely find Scott in the tasting room. He’s only one person, and he’s the only one he trusts to do the job. (And as helpful as Katie and I are, between the tasting room, and the babies, we have our hands full.) Occasionally he pops into the tasting room, but I suspect that’s just when he needs a little break, he’s usually back to the grind after greeting a few wine club members or customers.
You might be asking yourself now, why would anyone choose to live this way? You might also have a deeper appreciation of our winemaker knowing the sacrifice he makes to realize his dream. Since when has anyone had a reason for love? They say love makes you do crazy things, Scott is a prime example. In 2007 Scott went wine tasting in Temecula with friends, he didn’t have much interest or knowledge of wine, little did he know, this innocent trip would change his future. After leaving one tasting room and entering another, he tried to stop the person behind the bar from pouring him a Cabernet Sauvignon, saying, “I just tired one at the last place.” When the tasting room barista heard this, she said, “No, you don’t understand, depending on the winemaker, the region the grapes were grown and the year, wine with the same name will taste different.” This blew Scott’s mind. It opened up a curiosity that eventually turned into an infatuation, thus Scott’s love affair with wine began.
The following year while wine tasting locally, at Cantara Cellars in Camarillo, Mike Brown, the winemaker gave Scott a tour. It was harvest season, and Scott asked if he could help. He came back at every opportunity he could, determined to get as much experience as possible. In 2009 Scott enrolled in a Wine Chemistry class and a Wine Analysis class at UC Davis. He also developed a relationship with Robert Wagner, who was making wine at Cantara at the time. When Robert opened Magnavino Cellars, Scott followed him and continued to learn the art of winemaking. In 2010 Scott bought his first two tons of grapes. Syrah grapes from Paso Robles and Zinfandel grapes from Lodi. Even though he worked full time in the film industry, he drove out to Oxnard daily throughout harvest to do punch downs. (After destemming and crushing the grapes, they sit in big bins and this is where chemistry comes in, Scott will add yeast and take temperatures, and measure brix… actually that part is usually mine or Katie’s job when we are helping out, so Scott can focus on the bigger jobs. After you hurry up and do all that work, you wait, while you wait, the wine ferments, it actually gets kind of warm and forms a cap of grape skins on top. Twice a day until pressing, you “punch down” the cap and mix everything together.) This is some serious commitment, and I fully believe that Scott being a Leo with a rising Taurus gives him the love of ritual, the need for hands on work, and most importantly, the loyalty. But that’s just the astrologer in me. Scott doesn’t believe in “that stuff”, obviously.
In 2014 Scott and Katie opened Strey Cellars on Valentines Day with only six wines, five years later we have over 20!!! In fact, over the years 11 of them have earned medals in wine competitions. Considering our growth, the winery has become more and more of a daily job, keeping Scott from the tasting room! Noticing this void of not having Scott’s interaction and connection with our members we decided to choose one day per month for Scott to host private tastings in our Library Room. Giving him the opportunity to share his knowledge and giving you the chance to learn from the winemaker himself.
These winemaker tastings will be held on the second Sunday of every month. Not only will you have an exclusive behind the scenes look at Strey, the chance to geek out, ask wine questions, and hear personal stories, but you will taste library wines and have a barrel tasting! (Library wines are vintages we have a very limited supply of, and no longer serve in the tasting room.) Availability is limited, so be sure to preorder your tickets on Eventbright! I hope you decide to take advantage of these fun events to get to know Scott. At the very least check out and follow his new profile @streymaker on Instagram!