I have found wine fascinating from the beginning of my wine journey. I could not have told you then that ten years later I would be embarking on my second year writing a wine blog. I could not have told you then that ten years later, I would be a few months shy of celebrating my fifth year of working at a tasting room in Ventura County. Not only that, but that I would consider a winery my home away from home. I could not have told you then, that one day I would like red wine, in fact, I would prefer red over white. And I definitely could not have told you then, that I would love sparkling wines. I never really liked bubbly drinks, even as a kid. I didn’t like sparkling apple cider, or soda. In fact, I remember being 18 years old, I was friends with these guys in a band, and they snuck me and my friend into The Roxy, LA CA. Long story short, someone bought us beers. Well, my friend and I tried to drink them, but we hated the taste, so we poured them out in the bathroom. That’s how much I did not like carbonation! After all that, I dumped out my illegal beer!
Things have changed quite a bit since then (I like beer now, for one). If you follow me on social media, you know that my favorite drink is champagne. In the morning, I pour myself a flute of bubbly alongside my coffee, open my laptop, and get to work. I have grown to love sparkling wines so much, that I have this dream of one day making my own. (It helps that I know a winemaker who can help.) But full disclosure, I have no immediate plans to do so, because unlike Scott, I am not ready for my life to revolve around grapes. Not to mention, making sparkling wine is quite the process! Besides doing everything you normally do for wine making, plus temperature control, then you work on the carbonation process, which is equally delicate, time consuming, and requires a lot of equipment. I don’t know if it’s obvious, but a lot of wineries that offer bubbly, don’t actually make their own. Even if their label is on the bottle. Sorry to “pop YOUR bubble” but more often then not, that sparking wine you’re drinking was purchased as a “shiner” (label-less bulk bottled beverage) and then sticker-ed with the pruchaser’s logo. You may have even drank the same bubbles at two different wineries and didn’t even know it.
At Strey, it means alot to us to actually make the things we sell. While making champagne style wine is not in the cards for Strey right now, Scott has been playing around with a fun concept that you may have never heard of before. This last harvest a winery in Paso was selling Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for a ridiculously low price because they were on the vine too long. The deal was too great to pass up, especially since he had been considering trying his hand at Piquette. Piquette is a style of wine traditionally made from the leftover grape skins. Historically, Piquette was the wine used for slaves, and field workers. It has a low alcohol content, and it’s effervescent. Piquette has been made all over the world for centuries because it served a few purposes: There was less waste, your workers weren’t drinking your best wines, and with it’s low alcohol, the workers weren’t drunk or sluggish after taking breaks. While it may seem to be “the poor man’s champagne” it actually is still made to this day, and is extremely popular in France and Europe.
Scott knew that this was just an experiment, and has no intention of selling his Piquette, but mind you, we will have no problem drinking it! The grapes we bought were older, they were a super dense Cabernet Sauvignon, so we did whole cluster fermentation and re-hydrated them. After pressing, we used the grape skins, that would normally be thrown out, added water, and fermented them again for two days, then pressed again. Right now our Piquette is in a steel barrel, and we plan to bottle within the next month or two. We will bottle it champagne-style, using thick glass bottles. When we bottle, we will add a sugar solution, called liqueur de triage to each bottle, seal them, and allow them to go through a secondary fermentation that will cause that refreshing fizz. I am soooo excited to taste the finished product. I have never had a Piquette before, but I am told that it is reminiscent of a sour beer.
So, it’s not Champagne, but it’s a really fun experiment, and just might become a new favorite. The hippy in me absolutely loves the concept of Piquette because it’s basically up-cycling! Rather than throwing out the grape skins, and wasting them, we are able to create an entirely new product! IF you know me, you know that reducing waste and honoring Mama Nature lights me up. I have been a vegetarian for over a decade because I have a problem with factory farming, so, seeing these realistic, and potentially lucrative ways to use byproducts is makes this entire situation a no-brainer to me. And, even more compelling, this is an extremely old practice. This takes us back to the days when we nurtured what we created, when we respected all parts of the process, and used every last bit of goodness. This is something that is missing in this day and age, and a big reason Strey chooses sustainable vineyards to source our grapes. Also, did you know our wine is vegan? A fun fact that we don’t talk about often, but I believe is an important part of being the change. There actually is a bit of a “pretentious” energy that people assume when we use words like “vegan”, or “sustainable”, while Strey Cellars is FAR from pretentious, I’ll be honest, I don’t think Scott intended to make vegan wine. That’s okay, because the fact is, we make vegan wine, which does make a difference in the grand scheme of things AND it helps me and my conscience.
On a personal note, I wanted to thank each and every one of you who reads this blog. You have no idea how much I love to write, and you have no idea what it means to me when you tell me that you loved my blog. I hope I am able to open a window into Strey that makes you feel connected. If anything, the Strey Cellars family wants you to know that you are a huge part of our winery, and we do what we do because we want to bring you joy. Making you happy, makes us happy.
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!