While we at Strey Cellars may not be farmers, we deeply appreciate the viticulturists who so lovingly nurture the vines that produce the beautiful grapes which we look forward to smashing in a few months. Vineyard life is far removed from our contemporary Ventura County winery and tasting room, but still an important piece to the Strey Cellars puzzle. We look forward to the few and far between trips to wine country. Being mesmerized by rows and rows of grape vines, feeling the warm summer sun, and to our surprise, meeting a few four legged friends along the way.
Many vineyard owners have been shying away from the use of chemicals for weed and pest problems. Some have chosen to use nature’s weed killers and pest control. The most common “natural” weed killer on a vineyard is sheep! Sheep (and llamas) graze the grass and weeds, and are especially helpful after harvest, to clean up excess leaves, vines and any grapes that have fallen. Some vineyards even use sheep to leaf the vines, which is a process of leaf removal. When the bigger leaves form a canopy they cover the the lower parts of the vines, prohibiting sunlight and air from reaching these areas. This can cause yellow, dying leaves, and mildew. It’s extremely expensive and time consuming to hand leaf, so sheep have been called in to do the job. Babydoll sheep from New Zealand are actually used year round to weed the vineyards because they are too small to reach the grapes.
New Zealand probably has had the most interesting animal helpers, while sheep are used regularly, Kunekune pigs have been used to weed, and eat vegetation. I was surprised to learn this, because pigs can be rather destructive, rooting into the ground, bursting pipes, and upending your garden. Kunekune pigs don’t excessively dig, and provide fertilizer. Prior to pigs, one vineyard in New Zealand used giant guinea pigs (capybaras) for weeding, sadly, they were hunted by hawks, so that experiment was short lived.
Speaking of hawks, hawks and falcons are used regularly to hunt birds, rodents and rabbits that would eat the grapes, or ruin the vines. You can even rent hawks (and sheep) to guard your vineyard. Geese and chickens are often seen around the vines, eating worms, weeds and insects. They also provide valuable compost. Insects can be deadly to grape vines, which is a reason many vintners do choose chemical pest control. Luckily, chickens can help take care of that problem, particularly if sustainable farming is important to the vintner. Often, if a winery has chickens, they will also have cats. There is a program that re-homes ferrel cats to vineyards to take care of the rat problem that tends to surface (generally around the chicken’s food). Cats are helpful with most rodents, and won’t disturb the grapes.
There are a few less conventional animals used on vineyards, like armadillos and bobcats. Bobcats take care of jackrabbits and gophers. I’m not entirely sure if bobcats are rentable, or if you just get lucky when one discovers your vineyard and gets to work de-pesting. I can say, though, that the last thing you want to find among the vines, is a bear. Bears really like grapes, and are not peaceful negotiators. One winery in California noticed that the bear that discovered their vineyard loved Merlot grapes, but wasn’t interested in Gewurtztraminer grapes.
Dogs are not uncommon on a vineyard or in a tasting room. Sheep dogs are important for herding sheep, and protecting them from coyotes, and other predators. More than anything, dogs are companions. Case in point, Tawny. You all know her and love her, in fact, many of our wine club members look forward to seeing her so much that they bring chew toys, tug of war ropes and treats. Tawny is our happiest, most loving unofficial Strey Cellars employee. I cannot count how many people have chosen to visit Strey solely because they read about Tawny on our website. She is the happiest greeter, and seems to have springs in her feet. When I walk through the door I have to brace myself for her sixty pounds of love that’s rushing towards me. She has even had sleepovers at our house. My son pulls out his trundle bed and sleeps with his arm around her. (Yes we undo all of Scott and Katie’s rules by letting her snuggle on the couch and beds with us.)
She was 8 weeks old when Malibu Boxer Rescue called, making her birthday St. Patrick’s Day, 6 years ago. She spent less than 6 hours at the shelter before Scott and Katie picked her up. After having been abandoned in a field in Bakersfield she immediately became their constant companion. Her “rescue meal” was a cheeseburger from In-n-Out, and from that day on, she went everywhere they went. Tawny is extremely socialized, and isn’t shy about belly rubs. Scott and Katie have two little girls, now, and they love Tawny as much as she loves them. Tawny is famous for sneaking onto the couch while the family is asleep, and slinks off in the morning before anyone comes down stairs. She once managed to steal a raw steak off of a table while the barbecue was being prepped, and two years ago she stole not one, but two chicken burritos off the counter while Katie and her brother were setting up our famous suspended Christmas tree. She has not stolen food since, even when toddlers wave their drool soaked cheerios in her face. She will, however, happily lick their faces clean. We are so lucky to have such a powerhouse of love in our winery, and it truly would not be the same without her.
*PS: I will out of the country (while you read this, actually), and will resume blogs after my trip. I can’t wait to share with you all about the wine in the Israel. Some of the oldest evidence of wine making was discovered in the Middle East, and I look forward tasting and learning while I am visiting. Cheers!
Wine is one of those subjects that opens us to endless conversation. You don’t need to know much about wine to love it, but often, the more you love it, the more you want to know. The love affair with wine mimics falling in love, you want to know every little thing about the person, and spend as much time with them as possible. You remember special moments and dates, and certain scents and colors bring you right back as if it were yesterday. Love evolves, the beginning is new and exciting, and over time the butterflies don’t erupt in your belly quite as often, what used to be your favorite thing about someone, might feel a little dull or boring, and you begin to wonder what happened. Where did that feeling go? That’s when it’s time to spice it up, and try something new.
If you speak with someone who has loved wine for a long time, they’ll tell you that their tastes evolved over time. Personally, I first fell for sweet wines like Moscato and Gewurtztraminer. A lot of people start with white, sweet wine that is not tannic. The reason for this is because tannins taste bitter and astringent. Think of the taste of unsweetened black tea, in fact, a wet tea bag is pure tannin. When people come into the tasting room who do not drink much wine, or prefer whites, I often will recommend a (red) Zinfandel because it’s jammy, gives you the illusion of sweetness, and fills your mouth, making it water. While yes, it has tannins, it’s tannins are lower than say, Cabernet Franc. If you were to taste the two side by side, you’d notice that the Cab Franc dries out the front of your mouth a little, and the middle of your tongue. Kind of like dark chocolate, which also has high tannins. Tannins molecules in wine are attracted to the protein in saliva, so it’s not that the tannins themselves are drying, but the saliva is bound up by tannin molecules so it cannot lubricate your palate, then your mouth tissues rub together causing your palate to feel dry. Tannins are naturally occurring in the grape skins, seeds and the barrels, but not all wines will have as many tannins.
I find it rare that someone new to wine prefers the more tannic varietals. Usually newbies prefer that big fruity mouthfeel over the slight bitterness… But just you wait, over time, as their tastebuds acclimate to wine, they soon find that they can lean more towards a dry red, particularly while pairing their wine with certain foods. The tannins actually prep your mouth for your next bite! There have even been studies that suggest that tannins are actually good for your health, as they are high in antioxidants! Your relationship with wine, is an expansion, eventually you begin to crave new tastes. You may grow out of your love for fruitier wines, or as with having a second child, your heart and taste buds may grow, opening you to the multifaceted world of wine.
I will begin by reminding everyone that I am not a doctor, I am NOT giving medical advice. You are responsible for your own decisions, and wine consumption. Much of what I am sharing here is opinion, medical professionals and scientists do not all agree on these subjects.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions in regards to wine. I hear several of theses on a weekly basis as I pour tastings behind the counter at Strey Cellars. The number one bogus thing people say to me is that they have an allergy to a specific varietal. For instance, people will stop me before I pour a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot and say, “Oh no, I’m allergic to Cab…I’m allergic to Merlot….” At which point I try very hard to keep my face from betraying the massive eye roll that’s itching to show itself. Grapes are grapes, guys. If you are allergic to grapes, then you probably should not be drinking wine. If you have had a particular reaction to a specific varietal, like Cab, for instance, it most likely means you have an allergy or sensitivity to one of the additions that the specific wine maker used. Many factors can have a hand in allergic reactions. But being allergic to only one specific type of grape is not realistic.
Which brings me to the next misconception, “I only drink organic wine because it doesn’t contain sulfates.” There is a lot of hype on this subject, but before you run around saying you can’t drink wine because it contains sulfates, be aware that sulfates are in a plethora of everyday foods from dried fruits to mushrooms to shrimp, so if you are having a reaction to wine, it’s unlikely that sulfates are the culprit, and it’s advisable to have an allergy test. What are sulfates? A natural by-product of yeast, and is used as a preservative keeping the wine tasting the way the winemaker intended. Sulfates have been used in winemaking for abut 2,000 years. Organic wines contain sulfates, because they are naturally occurring. If you are one of those people who has a reaction when you drink wine, like runny nose, rash, congestion, itchy throat or hives, it’s possible you do have an intolerance. In which case, my condolences.
This one is a little bit controversial, but bear with me, “Don’t drink wine when you’re pregnant.” OK, I have a theory on this, Americans don’t know what “moderation” means when it comes to drinking… or eating for that matter. It is safer for doctors to tell you not to drink at all rather than risk you going balls to the walls while you’re gestating. Yes, excessive drinking is dangerous while pregnant, or any time. There is a reason we have hangovers, over drinking is like poisoning your body. Just like with medicine, we take what is prescribed. Having a glass or two here and there might help uplift and relax you while your body is going through so much. In France and Southern Italy it is customary to drink a glass of wine a day while you’re pregnant. (Like the doctor literally prescribes a glass of wine a day.) Katie has still worked the tasting room and drank on occasion throughout both of her pregnancies. Actually, nearly all of my friends drank wine and or beer throughout their pregnancies. We all have healthy and intelligent kiddos. Now, these women weren’t throwing back shots, or getting drunk, they had a glass of wine or a beer. And in all of these cases, these pregnancies were uncomplicated. In this case, to each their own, if or when you get pregnant, talk with your doctor, and decide for yourself.
If you know me, you know this one was coming, “I get a headache when I drink champagne.” I mean sure, you CAN get a headache from drinking too much champagne, but it’s because you’re dehydrated. When you drink, you pee more often, and while alcohol is dehydrating on it’s own, the added urination is the straw that breaks the camels back. The bubbles don’t help this situation, these little guys push through your stomach lining into your bloodstream. When you have a competition between oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood you get drunk quicker. Not to mention it’s delicious and so easy to drink! So, you can now drink bubbly without fear as long as you hydrate properly.
Don’t judge a bottle by it’s price tag. Do you assume that a higher priced wine is better? Let me let you in on a secret, pricing wine has more variables than you’d think. Did you know that different shapes of wine bottles have a different cost? Which changes the cost of corks and capsules and labels. Not to mention the label design! Then there’s storage and aging overhead and labor costs. And since we are on this subject, I may as well mention that the age of the wine doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better either. It’s been aged longer, which means the price tag can go up based on the amount of time it was in barrels. Wine is good if you like it. Yes there are absolutely different qualities of wine, but basing your assumption on the price tag or the year isn’t going to be accurate. I have bought pricey bottles that I ended up not liking, or in the very least, not being impressed with. I have also had wine that was very moderately priced that was delicious. This is why paper bag tastings are so much fun!
Additionally, people say that white wine doesn’t need to age, but I found out while I was researching Verdelho, that Verdelho specifically ages very gracefully. This stopped me for a moment because I just thought white wine was different, and it would not taste as good over time, which launched me into the rabbit hole of aging wine. Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Semillon, and some champagnes are often purposely aged. (Other whites age well, too!)
Have you ever decided not to buy a wine that has a screw cap? (Personally, I am probably taking the bottle to the beach without a corkscrew, so that twist cap is a godsend!) It seems the rule of thumb with deciding whether or not to use a screw cap is based on when the wine is ready to be drank. If it’s meant to be drank younger, then a screw cap is a more affordable and user friendly option. If the winemaker wants the wine to continue to age in the bottle then cork is the choice. Whether you twist, unscrew or pop your next bottle, CHEERS!
With summer quickly approaching, the wine world is getting ready for local wine walks, festivals and fairs. These are some of our favorite occasions because we get to venture out in Ventura County and have a change of setting. It’s so refreshing to hang out outdoors, run into some of our favorite people and make new friends! If you have been to any of these wine, beer and food festivals you know they can be a little bit overwhelming, so I thought I would give you a few tips on navigating these types of events, you’ll thank me later.
Firstly, as every woman knows, the most important thing is “What are you wearing?” While most of these events are outdoors, and often on grass, it’s better to wear wedges instead of heels. Layers are a great idea, because Ventura weather can be a bit unpredictable. I also highly recommend wearing a hat and sunscreen. While drinking, time has a way of slipping away without you realizing it. Protect your skin! You very well may have a hangover the following day (if you ignore my tips), and adding a sunburn to a hangover is hellish!
Speaking of hangovers, let’s just avoid that situation completely, we have all had our fair share, and have no need to repeat the experience. (I secretly just need you to not be hungover so you don’t wake up the next day and decide you can’t even think about wine ever again, and never come visit our tasting room!) So I know this is the oldest trick in the book, but there’s a reason for that… HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE! Water is your *not so* secret weapon! Before you even leave your house, be sure to drink water, and eat something. Being out in the sun is dehydrating without alcohol, let alone tasting between 4 and 6 wines/beers per vendor. Those tastes add up quickly, particularly if you’re not paying much attention. It makes a world of difference if you drink a little bit of water in between each booth. It’s also helpful to alternate between alcohol and food tastings. You can always ask us which wine would pair with the food you’re about to try. I also like to plan out the booths I am going to visit. I like to remember the wineries, and keep notes of wines that I liked, or take photos of my favorite bottles so I can look back later. In the tasting room it’s very helpful for me to pull up a photo of a wine I enjoyed while I was wine tasting as a recommendation to my club members and customers. You all know that word of mouth is everything, so don’t forget to speak up about your favorites!
Be aware that these high ticket prices are for charity. I know that we tend to fall into the “all you can drink” thinking, which, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of alcohol, but the vendors are actually there because we want you to taste our wine. We want to leave an impression. All of these vendors are donating their wine, time and energy in the hopes that you taste something you love, and hopefully visit the winery. As fun as it is to bake in the hot sun and pour countless tastes of wine to people who throw it back and ask for revisits of a wine they cannot pronounce… we continue to contribute to these events because it’s a potentially incredible opportunity to showcase our wine. In this community, getting to know your local small businesses means the world to us. For Strey, it’s more than just wine tasting. We want you to experience our fun, welcoming, friendly event reps! Steve and Gayle are easily some of the most open hearted, happy and enjoyable people I know. If you meet them once, you will feel like you have friends for every event, whether it’s in our tasting room or not. We truly showcase the best, because first impressions are everything.
You don’t find me out of the tasting room very often, but there is one event that I, personally look forward to every year. The Camarillo Wine Walk, you’ll catch me alongside Steve and Gayle at Bone Deep Tattoo, and I’ll even hook you up with a free tattoo! In fact, I’ll tattoo you myself! Don’t worry, I’m a professional Strey Cellars temporary tattooer.
Even if you weren’t intending to drink too much, or if you have every intention of drinking too much, please consider Lyft, Uber or a DD as an alternative to the inevitable DUI. These events are on a very tight leash, and the city considers them a bit of a liability. So if you can do yourself, us, and the community a solid by planning your ride, we all win!
If you’re not following Strey Cellars on Facebook or Instagram, be sure to click that “follow” button! Throughout the season we will be having ticket giveaways for some of these upcoming events! Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog, too! And comment!!! I want to hear from you! Is there anything you’d like to know about? Do you have any burning questions about wine, wine making, Strey or even Tawny?
As the weather warms up, and the sun stays out late, we are ready for fun local family friendly events. Look no further, Food Truck Friday’s are back! From April to September on the last Friday of the month, both Strey Cellars and Magnavino Cellars team up to bring you this exclusive experience in Ventura County! We host a live band each month in our barrel room, and park a local food truck outside, our tasting room is open, of course, providing the trifecta: food, entertainment and wine! Gone are the days when you could only find your favorite food truck parked outside of a brewery! We don’t just choose any food truck, we invite the best of the best, because we love food ALMOST as much as we love wine.
Each month has it’s own flavor, starting next week on Friday, April 26th with Baby’s Badass Burgers, which is owned by female entrepreneurs who just so happen to be foodies! In their search for the perfect cheeseburger, it became clear that they had to create it themselves. These gourmet burgers are not only award winning, but are paired with creative names, and served by an attractive friendly staff. To accompany this fun food truck, is a band that hardly needs an introduction, Hot Roux! If you have not heard Hot Roux, you won’t want to miss them! They are Ventura locals who play fun Louisiana blues and swampy rock n’ roll.
Cousin’s Maine Lobster food truck will be pulling up on May 31st, bringing us traditional New England style lobster rolls, tacos and tots! Founded by two cousins who had been reminiscing on their childhood traditions of being bibbed, elbows deep in hot lobster, they birthed the idea to launch a food truck with quality and affordable lobster, which is farmed sustainably. You may have seen them on the TV series, Shark Tank? Speaking of reminiscing, this evening will be a blast from the past, introducing the band, 80’s Invasion! Throwing back to the days when MTV played music videos, and the hair was big!
There’s nothing like comfort food on a summer evening, on June 28th be ready to eat all of your favorites from one of our favorites, SoCal Comfort! Think burgers, grilled cheese, hot dogs, coleslaw and their famous elote tots… my mouth is watering. This locally owned food truck is not only known for the delicious food, but also for their tireless charity and non-profit work. They just may be as much of a draw as our featured band, Road Brothers! Road Brothers are a blues and rock band from Oxnard, we always have a blast dancing and singing along, and I know you will too!
Our next food truck has a claim to fame, Shrimp Vs Chef and was recently featured on Food Network’s Food Truck Nation. I watched the episode and even though I am a vegetarian, I seriously questioned my lifestyle choices when the host, Brad Miller described each moment of tasting the Baja Shrimp Tacos. Beer batter tempura shrimp, cayenne aoli, toasted sesame seeds… I’ll have to live vicariously through you all on July 26th. Luckily, I will be able to thoroughly enjoy The Renegades 805 all night! They are a local dance band from Ventura with a truly talented vocalist and a three-piece horn section. The Renegades know how to have fun and get you on your feet!
Our summer would not be complete without the infamous Middle Feast food truck on August 30th! Middle Feast was the season five winner of The Great Food Truck Race! Complete with build your own bowls, felafel, gyro, tacos and salads, there is a gormet option for anyone. This is Middle Eastern food with an Asian and Mexican twist, with ever evolving flavors. We will also be graced by Craic Haus, which is a fun “shamrockabilly” high energy band from Claremont, California.
As summer comes to a close, we end the season appropriately with Cowboy John’s Smokin’ BBQ as our last hurrah on September 27th. This family owned, competition grade food truck is not kidding when they claim to be the best. Cowboy John’s has won countless awards and has earned this title. In fact, last year we teamed up with them and they made a barbecue sauce with one of our wines, and won a gold metal at the Ventura County Fair. So the answer is YES, wine pairs with barbecue! To our delight, The Renegades 805 will be back by popular demand, you’re welcome!
I am getting so pumped for summer, and can’t wait to hang out with you all during Food Truck Fridays, listening to music, and enjoying delicious food and let’s not forget, drinking award winning wine!