In the past, I have talked a lot about single grape varietals. Strey Cellars initially focused on these solo red varietals, since they tend to be our favorites, however, here we are approaching our sixth anniversary and things have changed. While initially, it was really important for Strey to make a name for itself in Ventura County, CA with wines that were 100% single origin; whether it be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, or Syrah. We have been proud of our big California style wines and have enjoyed sharing them in the tasting room. In 2013 our winemaker, Scott tried his hand at a blend, you may have heard of it? Slanted… at the time we weren’t sure how our customers would react to a blend because some people have a very “snooty” attitude towards wine blends. You see, there is this idea that it’s “easy” to make a good blend and it takes more skill to create a great single varietal. I can see why this idea is popular, however, it is important to note that wine is good, if you like it. There certainly are different expectations and bars to reach, as well as specific tasting notes that correlate to certain varietals, but ultimately, you should like what you’re drinking. Strey wines have been awarded many times with gold, silver and bronze medals in various wine competitions, we still urge you to taste and make your own decisions.
Often when you are drinking a wine that has a label with only one varietal listed, that isn’t entirely true. Legally a winemaker can add up to 25% of another varietal to enhance the color, nose or mouthfeel. Over the years I have come to appreciate the way Scott knows which flavor profiles compliment each other whether it’s choosing the tasting lineup, food pairing, or blending. Scott trusts his palate, and so do we. When we released our 2013 Slanted, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Syrah, and Zinfandel, we blew our own minds. I think that’s when I started to become a believer in blending magic. In fact, thanks to such a widely loved wine, Scott began to experiment with other blends. Remember Cynder? That stacked, packed Barbera Blend? We also released a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) with a little twist, the Mourvedre was a Rosé. It was such a lovely light GSM, and I personally held a place in my heart for it because during my first harvest at Strey, I helped out with the Grenache. That’s when I learned not to wear cute clothes to work during Harvest. Since our GSM, we created Slanted 2.0, and had our first “blending party”.
What is a blending party, you might be asking yourself? It’s when the winemaker invites wine club members, employees and friends with wine knowledge to taste different varietals that have not been bottled yet. We also blend some of these wines together to make blends that we think are worth bottling. With Harvest over, Scott’s next project is prepping for a massive two day bottling scheduled for the first weekend in April. That means everything gets racked and adjusted, we create Slanted 3.0 and also a handful of limited edition blends that we don’t even plan on bottling. A few months ago we installed a tap system in the tasting room. So during OUR blending party we were tasked with creating blends that we can pour by the glass as small production tasting room exclusives! Eventually we will introduce a growler program so you can take these blend gems home. Scott gave us each a few pages to write out our tasting notes, and a few bottles of wine he had just pulled from barrels… I think there were 8 or 10 wines. Scott walked us through the rules of blending so we weren’t just pouring random wines into glasses. We were tasting, meticulously blending, and recording our experiments. Scott had an idea of the types of blends he wanted, gave us a few guidelines, and let us get to work. He wanted a Zin Blend, a Zin/PetiteSirah Blend, a Bordeaux Blend, a Cab/Syrah Blend and our best creative concoction.
After many trails (and so much math you guys!), we bottled the top contestants and let them settle for a couple weeks. Over the next month or so, Scott, Katie and I took some time to open the blends, and taste them blindly (which means we numbered the blends, but none of us knew who had created which blend) to decide which blends were going to make the cut.
Since last harvest we focused solely on white wines, we decided to create a white blend that we will be calling Inclined (the perfect compliment to Slanted). This was such a fun day for me because months before I had helped Scott rack the whites, and tasted them when they were just weeks old. This time, while we tasted, I was able to take notes in order to write the labels for all the bottles, and weigh in on blend options. I can’t wait to share these wines with all of you! It is so satisfying to be a part of each of the stages of wine making, and winery life. While my true love is writing, I am giddy about the opportunity to introduce you to these creations in the tasting room.
Sometimes I write these blogs, and I feel like I’m writing one of those holiday letters that your grandma sends out yearly. You know, the ones you anxiously read to find out if Grandma outed anyone’s divorce, or simply to see if you even made the cut? Well, I won’t be outing anyone today, but I sure do feel like I have a lot to update my Strey Family on!
Does anyone else feel like they’ve bit off more than they can chew in 2020? Even though I am not much of a “resolution” person, I absolutely feel the energetics of the new decade. All around me people are letting go of old habits, posting sweaty gym selfies, sharing inspirational quotes, and de-cluttering their homes. Katie and I both went full Marie Kondo on not only our houses, but at Strey Cellars. There is nothing like a new year to light a fire under your a$$ to get rid of whatever isn’t working. At home I found that my 11 year old has had to donate most of her closet because all of her jeans are high waters, and she has completely put her foot down regarding wearing dresses, or boots. (Is she even mine? That’s like my entire wardrobe!)
At Strey we painstakingly updated our inventory and to our surprise found 5 pallets of 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel!!!!! Our ’14 OVZ is one of our absolute favorites, but the reality of moving that many bottles when we are about to have a massive bottling in April, is just unrealistic. We don’t have enough space in our barrel room to justify storing THAT much wine… especially when you could be drinking it! So, we thought we would surprise you with a ridiculous deal: Half price bottles of 2014 Old Vine Zin, and YES, you may purchase by the case! That’s not the only new deal, We also found a pallet of 2013 Tannat hiding among-st the cases! Our 2013 Tannat is the very same Tannat that we used to make the original (2013) Slanted. Many of you chose to visit Strey Cellars based on the fact that we even had a Tannat on the tasting list. If you’re a fan, you’re in luck, we will be selling ’13 Tannat at half off as well!
To top off these New Year deals, we are also offering 2011 Durif by the case, for $100 out the door! (Durif is the original name for Petit Syrah, named for the botanist, Francois Durif who crossed Syrah and Peloursin grapes in the 1880’s. It wasn’t very popular in France, but people loved it in California; however the nickname, “Petit Syrah” stuck, and that’s how we know it today.) This Durif will make a delicious sangria, so stock up, we live in SoCal, summer weather is just around the corner!
I know a lot of you came in last weekend to take advantage of these deals, it was so fun to see faces I have not seen in a while, and, of course lovely to see some of our regulars! You guys know it means the word to me whenever you come in. I definitely feel lucky to have a job that feels more like socializing. For those of you who have already finished your cases, I hope to see you this weekend to restock those wine fridges, and for the rest of you, I KNOW you shared all your wine during the holidays and this is just the excuse you’ve been looking for to pop by Strey!
Clearing out our inventory is not the only big change for Strey, as of 2020, we have revamped our tasting sheets. Traditional and Signature Series line-ups have merged. We will have a set line up that will cycle through weekly, to give each wine a fair chance to be tasted and loved (because if it were up to me I’d have Cab Franc on the list every. single. day.). We chose the new order specifically to include include and feature one Signature Series varietal among five other Strey staples. AND I am excited for you to see our new tasting sheet holders! We have plans to revitalize our tasting room, by making it more comfortable with new seating arrangements and a generally more cozy feel. We want you to hang out, and we are working hard to create an atmosphere that continues to make you feel invited to spend time with us. Strey is such a special place, and in all honesty, you are our priority. Our members mean the world to us, so “Be our guest, put our service to the test!” While we are kind of re-branding, you will not lose the integrity and familiarity of Strey Cellars, instead we are enhancing what works, and leaving what doesn’t in 2019.
Lastly, but certainly not least, wine club memebers, mark your calendars! We are rolling out a new Pick Up Party format that you don’t want to miss! A swanky evening. Dress your best. Cocktail attire encouraged. The evening begins with a complimentary charcuterie spread and nosh followed by a Welcome and Winemaker Exclusive. We will reveal upcoming events and developments, then taste our new releases. As a special bonus, Scott will introduce “wine-in-the-making” with a barrel sample. Enjoy open tasting from 8-9p, then $5 glasses with a DJ and dancing from 9-10p. Be sure to RSVP through Eventbrite. If you’re a wine club member, your tickets are complementary, guests tickets are $15 each. We can’t wait to party with you!!! Being a club member has it’s perks (wink wink).
If new years do anything they encourage you: to be the best you, to have clarity, see yourself from a different perspective, decide who you are, decide how you want to be seen as and let go of old stories. As Strey makes strides to upgrade and really become more “Strey”, I ask you the same questions we asked each other during our 8am staff meetings: Who are you now? How can you shine, and be more you than you’ve ever been? What do you want people to think of when they think of you? How are you living your truest self? What doesn’t have to be true anymore? We have taken these questions very seriously, are thrilled to reintroduce ourselves to you. May you do the same.