Strey Cellars

Archives: August 2019

Wine Trends

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So, I was thinking about wine… I’m almost always thinking about wine, obviously. In this case, I was thinking about some trends I have noticed, and even a few I predicted. You’re welcome for all the delicious Rosé at Strey Cellars. 5 years ago Rosé wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now, but I used my spidey senses (AKA Housewife Life) and really supported the Rosé idea… every year… While “Rosé Season” has been a thing for a while, Rosé totally outgrew it’s summer only status. We are allowed to drink it all day every day, now. I personally think we can thank moms for breaking that particular stigma. Our 5 o’clock comes much earlier than yours, and Rosé pairs nicely with goldfish crackers. Dads started jumping on our Rosé all day bandwagon, too, particularly as they became drier. There is absolutely no shame in drinking pink, especially if it means you can pop a bottle at noon! 

It’s thrilling that these trends can unfold and reshape over time, I remember when White Zin was the only pink wine I had heard of, and I’m not saying it was “trashy”, but it wasn’t good quality. It was totally drinkable, like an alcoholic juice, just not award winning. Then we started seeing more and more winemakers creating Rosés from other grapes than Zinfandel. Beautiful colors ranging from the prettiest pinks, to the calmest sunset. Which brings me to another trend I was not expecting, but totally approve of, orange wine. No, the wine is not made from oranges, it’s the color of the wine thanks to a certain amount of skin contact. We are used to striving for very specific colors in winemaking, this trend is changing up the game.

 I also remember the horror I felt when I discovered wine in a can. As a Jewish woman, tradition is extremely important to me, and within a few years, screw caps and canned wine not only made an appearance, but hit the ground running. I was reeling from all of this newness! I LOOOVE the sound of popping a bottle, how boring to unscrew the cap! Oh, the horror of cracking open a can of wine! Blasphemy! Well, my dismay was short lived, thanks to that time I forgot a corkscrew, and sighed in relief when I realized the bottle of wine had a screw cap. My apprehension over canned wine came to a quick halt when I realized I could easily smuggle wine to the pool and the beach without the risk of potential broken glass. Not to mention the constant irritation that I can’t take my bottles to the recycling center… but I can take my cans! (Where else do I get allowance money for my kids?) I was sold, guys. The purest in me has been slowly infiltrated by the practicality of these ideas. In fact, it’s not just me who’s buying it. In January, when Scott proposed the idea to add a tap for wine, I immediately suggested canning our whites and Rosés. The canning part has not come to fruition yet, but our fancy tap is pouring our beautiful 2018 Barbera Rosé. We will be switching different wines onto the tap here and there for a fun twist. Scott has been working on different limited addition blends that will be sold by the glass, out of the tap. (If you are not already following us on social media, I’d get on that. You’ll find out when we change the wine on tap, release new wines, upcoming events, and a little birdie may have mentioned an imminent 1K giveaway on Instagram that you should definitely keep your eyes peeled for.)

Alright, here is a trend that is actually a serious pet peeve of mine. The “I don’t like Merlot.” line. I feel like Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways when he yells, “I am NOT drinking any f***ing Merlot!” Not because I don’t want to drink Merlot, but because too many people have come into our tasting room claiming that they don’t like Merlot, and it’s not because that don’t like Merlot. So imagine me throwing a fit and yelling, “You probably DO f***ing like Merlot, you’re just brainwashed by a mis-perception based on a movie!” Let’s think about this for a second, why on Earth would anyone be that upset over a wine varietal? It’s not about the wine. Miles’ heart is broken, and his ex wife loved Merlot. It’s not about not liking Merlot, it’s about not tasting his heartbreak, not drinking the memories of a woman he loved. In the end of the movie, you’ll notice that he does open that bottle of Merlot and thoroughly enjoys it. Because Merlot is delicious. Thanks to that unfortunate scene (that actually is a beautiful representation of the hoops we jump through to avoid feeling our feelings), Merlot sales plummeted. Winemakers call it “The Sideways Effect”. It’s such a shame because all grapes have such beautiful potential, and every winemaker is going to have their own style. Please don’t skip Merlot when you’re out tasting wine. You just may miss your favorite bottle of wine.

I guess the lesson of the day is that some trends are innovative, creative and even life-changing. Others, not so much. In a world that is ever changing, what do we hold sacred? I think the answer is enjoying the moment, and not getting hung up on who put ice cubes in their wine glass. Of course there are traditions that may be lost, but isn’t that what France is for? Let the Old World hold up the rules, and scoff at our modernization. In America we are victims of the daily grind, and the “work to live” mentality. I say, pop, unscrew, or crack open a bottle, can or… dare I say box of wine, and enjoy this moment.

Author’s note: My name is Justine and I have been working in the tasting room at Strey Cellars for over four years. We are a small family owned local boutique winery. If this is your first visit to my blog, you’ll notice that I write as if we are old friends, because this is the energy of our winery. Come visit sometime, and see for yourself. If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with a friend. Cheers!

Carnivores and Herbivores and Winosaurs, Oh My!

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There are a few conversations I have had on repeat for the last four plus years in our Ventura County tasting room; I can’t imagine it’s different anywhere else. One of which is “What food would you pair with this wine, steak, barbecue?” And I usually laugh and say, “I’ll take your word for it, I’m vegetarian.” It’s funny how people assume that when we pair wine, we should be pairing it with a protein. I’m not going to get into the major annoyance of people asking me where I get my protein, instead I want to share with you the beauty of wine pairing, regardless of your food restrictions, preferences or diets. Even though this conversation sometimes leads to, “Well what would you pair it with?” and I laugh off the question by saying, “I like to drink my calories!” The honest answer is that the same rules apply when pairing wine and food. You’re going to want to pay attention to sweetness levels, acidity levels, fullness of flavor, spiciness, and the weight and texture of the food. So heavy goes with heavy and light goes with light. You don’t want to pair a light wine with a heavy food, because the wine will disappear. In contrast, you would not want to pair a heavy wine with a light dish because it will kill the flavor of the meal. Regardless of your meal being vegetarian, vegan, or meat based, you’ll want to be mindful. Proper pairing can change your attitude towards a wine you may normally not prefer, once you experience the magic that happens mid bite… or vice versa.

Remember that the Mediterranean, which is popular for its wine, was historically more vegetarian. Meat was not readily available to most people. Poverty was rampant, and this meant you ate what you grew. Wine was not an addition to a meal, as it is today, wine was just as much of a staple as anything else on the table. Wine and food were not separate. According to the amazing and informative podcast, “Wine for Normal People”, What grows together goes together. Test this theory. If you are eating, say a tomato based meal, like pasta, or pizza, you can’t go wrong with an Italian red. That being said, you can absolutely sub in our California wines, in fact, I highly recommend it! Our Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo and Merlot are each lovely when eating an Italian meal. Our fruity but dry Mourvedre Rose turns a simple salad into a delicacy. (Leave out the vinegar based dressing though!!! Vinegar can ruin the wine, and destroy the meal.) Both of our Cabernet Sauvignons complement a meal like a mushroom garlic dish, particularly if it’s sautéed. This has just as much to do with the flavor as the weight of the dish.   

There are other important factors when pairing wine and food, and sticking with the origin is not fool proof. For instance, if you like spicy food, it’s not recommended to pair your meal with high alcohol wines. This will heat up the food! Depending on the type of spice, say a stir fry with soy sauce, you’ll want a fruity Merlot. Curry can use a little cooling down, so a more fruity wine like an Albarino is a lovely option. (Lucky for us, we have Albarino grapes coming in this year!) If your food is more heavy or creamy, you might lean towards a more acidic wine like a Chenin Blanc (acidity refers to the tart or sour attributes and balances the sweetness or bitterness of the wine). Eating a root vegetable dish would pair well with a more earthy wine, like Malbec. I may not be a foodie, but I know what tastes good, because I know what smells good. My husband and two out of my three kiddos are omnivores, so I cook carnivorous cuisine pretty regularly. I have learned to use my nose to season food, even when I won’t be eating it. I was trained from a young age to trust my nose. This has served me incredibly well with pairing wine and food. People always give asparagus and wine a bad rep, but I think a Sauvignon Blanc pairs really nicely if it has greener notes. The same goes for bell pepper.

Pairing food and wine brings something special to the table. Tasting wine can spark that light-bulb in your head that reminds you of certain flavors or experiences. Certain scents can bring us back to childhood, for me, every time I smell eucalyptus it takes me right back to being a three year old, running through the trees with my favorite dog, Coop. Cinnamon brings me back to Disneyland, when I met “the real” Snow White. Hay is my grandmother’s ranch in Oregon with the mean chickens, and the nose on Gewurztraminer is the first hotel room my husband and I ever stayed in together, when we accidentally overfilled the bubble bath. If scents can capture moments and freeze them in time, why don’t we spend more time making these memories? In this day and age we are always on the move, too often eating on the go, or in front of the television. We give very little energy into how to nourishing ourselves. Part of nourishing is taking a bite, and actually chewing. Stopping and smelling the aromas in front of you, and the aromas in your glass. Nourishing is in the relationships to those sitting around the table with you, the conversation, the connection. I challenge you to find a day this week to pick a wine and prepare a special meal, taking note of these simple rules. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to whip up a hearty lasagna, toss a salad, or throw together a spicy chili. Just be mindful of your flavors, scents, and spices. And share it with someone you love.

Author’s note: My name is Justine and I have been working in the tasting room at Strey Cellars for over four years. We are a small family owned local boutique winery. If this is your first visit to my blog, you’ll notice that I write as if we are old friends, because this is the energy of our winery. Come visit sometime, and see for yourself. If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with a friend. Cheers!

Bye Bye Birdie

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There is a lot of magic in the wine community, (no, not my kind of magic *wink*), there is this camaraderie that is developed between wine makers. I have had the pleasure of wine tasting alongside Scott at several local wineries, here in Ventura County, and one thing I love is the way the winemaker’s eyes light up when they see Scott walk through the door. Winemakers have a repertoire that is familiar to them, and only truly understandable to other winemakers. There is an ease in the way they communicate, their body language, and this association that goes beyond the initial “nice to meet you’s” and transcends the unease of the unknown, opening a world of conversation that most wine drinkers would have trouble following! (Not me though, I totally get everything, obviously….) It’s like seeing them in their element… Winemakers in the wild! (Sorry I’ve been watching Shark Week) We could even call it a bromance. They don’t ACTUALLY slap each other’s asses, but there is totally an “atta boy” vibe. How many times have I seen a customers eyes glaze over when I explain why there is a difference between sandy soil and rocky soil? Or specific types of oak? Or residual sugars? Countless! When winemakers connect, it’s fascinating. They have this ability to remember specifics of each vintage. Like a mother who can recount which pregnancy caused her to crave pickles, or hate the scent of a certain cologne (always her husband’s unfortunately.)

Even with this niche market, I would not say that competition is at it’s core. What I see is people who have found their calling, their great love, their passion. Not listening when that little voice is reaching out would close a door to the person you are meant to become. Not all of us have that “ah-ha!” moment, not everyone is gifted this endowment. A select few have been gifted not only an impeccable palate, and a love for drinking wine, but also the drive to pursue their dream of crafting delicious wine. Wine making is a huge commitment. Choosing to make wine, even on a small scale is expensive and requires a lot of research and knowledge. Even if you woke up one morning and decided that you wanted to make wine, you’d need some assistance. This is a far cry from home brew kombucha (I would know). For like 5 minutes I thought I wanted to make wine… and then I experienced harvest and it changed my mind pretty quickly. Seriously, appreciate your winemakers! The commitment level between classes, research, finances, equipment, and real estate can be exponential. But the biggest thing is the time commitment. Between being at the mercy of the grapes, and then temperatures, and oxygen in general… it’s not a job for the faint of heart! As I have said before, it’s a labor of love.

Our winemaker, Scott is a rockstar, and I mean that! He even keeps rockstar hours! Not only does Scott work a full time job in the film industry, with call times as early as 4am, but after work he rushes to Strey to “sow the seeds” of his investment (by this I mean, an endless possibility of tasks ranging from racking, topping up, hand bottling, labeling, setting up or breaking down the barrel room/event space, hosting private tastings, or building a cold storage room). Scott feels a huge loyalty (not just because he’s a Leo) to Robert Wagner, the winemaker at Magnavino Cellars, because Robert opened his space up to Scott, giving him the tools necessary to create, apprentice, and eventually forge his own brand. Scott has chosen to “pay it forward” by assisting in facilitating, collaborating, and mentoring newer winemakers. Knowing how much is involved in winemaking, and the fact that you really can’t just dip your toe in, it brings Scott a lot of joy to share his gift with others. He has an ability to share knowledge, teach, and communicate in ways that build people up, encouraging them and supporting them.

Recently one of our “little birdies”, Luigi and Kimberly Lucas, flew our nest and opened their own local tasting room in Moorpark. While their style is unique to them and their tastes, as it should be, I feel that I can speak for Strey Cellars by saying how proud we are. It is always a delight to witness another’s success. From our end, knowing all of the blood, sweat and tears that brought them to this pivotal point, we salut Lucas Sellers. You did it, guys! Opening a tasting room doesn’t always come to fruition. Others have graced our production rooms and tried their hand at winemaking, only to decide that it’s not their cup of tea. Some have chosen to make wine, but just for personal consumption through our custom crush program. It is few and far between when a fledgling winemaker spreads his or her wings and takes the risk to follow their dreams.

Author’s note: My name is Justine and I have been working in the tasting room at Strey Cellars for over four years. We are a small family owned local boutique winery. If this is your first visit to my blog, you’ll notice that I write as if we are old friends, because this is the energy of our winery. Come visit sometime, and see for yourself. If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with a friend. Cheers!