The Scoop on Strey

In February 2014, owner-operators Scott and Katie Ballew opened Strey Cellars and dared to provide a wine-tasting experience like no other in Ventura County. Scott and Katie have poured their hearts and souls into giving locals and visitors alike a fabulous and affordable wine-tasting experience you can’t wait to tell your friends and family about.

The wine industry can be extremely intimidating. Strey Cellars’ concept is to “Stray From The Norm.” Strey embraces a fresh and modern perspective on who drinks wine along with when and where to drink it. They’re relieving insecurities and creating a safe space to taste, learn and ask questions about wine without feeling unworthy of drinking something nice. Their mission is to appeal to emerging wine enthusiasts while keeping seasoned winos fascinated with what Strey offers. Great wine should not be reserved for the elite; it should be accessible and meant for everyone. No need to wait for that special night at that “fancy” restaurant to open that perfect bottle; a random Tuesday satisfies just fine in your living room alone or among friends. Enjoy and indulge your taste buds now!

Their tasting room is an inclusive spot for solos and groups whether they be accompanied by littles and/or fur babies. It’s open for wine by the bottle, glass, and tasting Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 18’ ceilings, cinder block walls, stone accents, and concrete counters leave you feeling far from cold with clicks and pops of burgundy and warm welcomes every time you visit.

Strey’s barrel room compliments the front-of-house by offering fresh and alive energy with LIVE music & guest kitchen events on select Saturday NIGHTS and Sunday Fundays. It also serves as a versatile space to host a myriad of events. Comfortably seat up to 100 guests (formally) for Weddings, Receptions, Birthdays, Retirements, Memorials, Corporate Events & any other event you can imagine! You can customize a 5-star venue experience in the heart of Ventura County, California, by adding your preferred caterer, DJ, photographer, and more!

Strey wine is unequivocally a labor of love from the inside to the outside of the bottle! With meticulous attention to detail and their small case production of distinctive sparkling whites, roses, reds, and dessert wines, you will be drinking something extraordinary no matter your choice. Feel your heart smile at the first sip. You deserve it! Cheers!

Meet the Ballews

Scott Ballew is Strey Cellars’ exclusive Winemaker. Born and raised in California, he began his career in the California Film Industry as a Local 728 Electrician. When he turned 21, he took his first wine-tasting trip to Temecula and was enamored by the science, detailed process, and technique to turn specific varietal grapes into the delicious wine he was tasting. He quickly decided to dive into the world of wine. He spent the next decade volunteering at local Ventura County wineries such as Cantara Cellars and Magnavino Cellars, taking weekend classes at UC Davis, and finally taking the courageous leap to produce and bottle his wine from grape to glass. He discovered his passion; he found his niche in life. With a soft spot for Zinfandel, it’s a no-brainer that the Lodi Appellation is the source of most of his first-class fruit. All his wine production occurs in-house, within the 7,600-square-foot walls of Strey Cellars. It’s a second home, especially during harvest. Scott has all grapes delivered whole-cluster, from crush to fermentation, pressing to barreling, aging to bottling, and everything in between. He prides himself on an in-house, on-site, hands-on wine-making process. Scott has an infectious passion for wine that has catapulted his skill to a refined status in appearance and taste. He thirsts to share his craft and fabulous wines with local and visiting wine enthusiasts.

Katie completes the pair by overseeing Strey Cellars’ Operations and Tasting Room. She grew up a “theater kid” in Sarasota, FL, graduating from Booker High School Performing Arts Center, then obtained a BFA in Acting from Ithaca College upstate NY. She now seems pretty natural when planning, organizing and running all of Strey Cellars’ public and private events. She also manages Strey’s wine club, events, website, newsletter, and social media platforms. Weekdays call Katie to raise their two young daughters, Ivy and Iris; by the weekend, she’s sure to be your new best friend serving and selling Strey Cellars’ award-winning wines. Her personality is infectious and welcoming and provides an instant feeling of family when you walk in the door—looking for a laugh. Check out her raging TikTok account highlighting wine-themed content @lovliekate, further demonstrating the personality and joy that Katie brings to everyone she meets.

Familiar Faces

Mary Campbell is the latest addition to Strey Cellars staff, embracing the role of tasting room manager. It has been a long wait to add this powerhouse of a person to the tasting room staff. Recruited after service and introductions during a Local VC Dinner Series, organized and run by Ventura County’s non-profit champion Kat Merrick, owner Katie Ballew finally found her new right hand in Mary. She’s a hard worker with a remarkable attitude and work ethic that won’t quit. A long-term Ventura County resident, Mary enjoys all our area’s splendor. This woman is always ready for the next adventure, from hiking to camping, sea glass collecting, and sunset watching. She’s spunky, funky, and unique, which makes her shine like her smile. As a hairdresser by trade, she has honed skills to be a great listener,  a partner in crime (legally, of course), and an all-around good time. In her spare time, you can find her: watching actual crime docs, horror movies, and anything Disney. She loves reading actual crime books, snuggling her two cats, and hanging with friends and family. If you’re ever in the mood for a one-of-a-kind hug from a one-of-a-kind person, visit Mary here at Strey Cellars.

Justine Lieberman officially joined the Strey Family shortly after Strey Cellars’ 2nd Anniversary, in 2016, as Katie’s right hand. She has extensive knowledge of Strey vintages and varietals and can always steer guests toward their new favorite weekday indulgence. Her duties transformed after five years of managing the wine-tasting room to embracing her first love, writing. Thrilled for the chance to stretch her wings and continue this passion, she began curating Strey Cellars’ blog. She now has freelance copywriting jobs and offers Alternative & Holistic Health Services. She occasionally returns to the tasting room to assist with private events and public Saturday Night events.

Natalie Grones has a background in marketing and party planning. She served several years in a Santa Barbara wine-tasting room before switching to Strey Cellars in Oxnard. She has brought a fun personality and a fresh perspective to Strey Cellars’ tasting room. Her artistic eye and wine knowledge are vital compliments to the team. She is both a wine and animal lover, playing proud mom to two gigantic Maincoons. You might catch her taking scuba-diving classes or flying lessons in her free time. More recently, wedding planning has limited her appearances on Sunday afternoons; however, when she is behind the bar, you will have a memorable wine tasting with her quick wit and fun humor.

More Faces that Make the Magic Happen

Gayle and Steve Nichol are Strey Cellars’ off-site tasting room ambassadors and (occasional) on-site tasting room assistants. Always willing to lend a hand, their spirited personalities and infectious smiles brighten up any wine-tasting experience. If you have ever been to a local wine walk or non-profit pouring event, you’ve probably met Gayle and Steve Nichol. They serve Strey Cellars favorites and that familiar fun charm wherever they pour. Gayle has run for many wineries in Ventura County over the years but has found her home on Rice Ave. Steve recently discovered his love for wine thanks to his beautiful wife, having been immersed in the wine community from the beginning of their love story.

From time to time, Phil Cruz can be seen behind the counter pouring wine for large private events and exclusive wine club parties. More often than not, he’s elbows deep in pressed grapes. He has become a consistent and invaluable member of the Strey team, serving mainly at our winemaker, Scott Ballew’s side. He has a passion for winemaking, proficiency in technology, and MacGyver abilities that set him apart; he is a true jack of all trades. When he’s not in the cellar or tasting room, Phil can be found camping in the mountains or scuba diving under the ocean throughout Ventura County. If you have technical questions about winemaking or cellar equipment, ask him if Scott’s not around.

Kito Valenzuela is more than a Strey Cellars’ Wine Club Member. She is a Strey Cellars devotee. Kito was born and raised in Ventura County and savvies the ins and outs of local farmers’ markets and craft boutiques. For the past ten years, she’s been coordinating local vendor events in her free time, making her the perfect asset in cultivating Strey Cellars’ calendar of events. Painting to Succulents; Candles to Cookies; She selflessly schedules all Friday, Saturday and Sunday crafting events and small business vendors for Strey Cellars’ Sip/Shop Boutiques. Are you looking to share your skill or trade? She’ll find the perfect opportunity for you to do so.

Nick and Caitlin Child met Scott and Katie in February 2014 when the couple opened Strey Cellars, creating an instant friendship. From the back to the front of the house, there isn’t a task these two have not helped actualize. It is truly countless how often they see projects to fruition by offering themselves up on weekends, early mornings, and late nights for planned and unpredictable winery needs. Their perpetual and loyal support throughout the years has been significant. Today, the besties work intermittently behind the scenes as extra hands during harvest, fermentation assistants, bottling muscles, copyright editors, and marketing advisors. You may see their two boys, Declan and Connor, traipsing around as Strey has become a second home. 

Tawny 2013-2022

With an aching heart, tear-filled eyes, and so much grief, we knew we had to take a moment to share with our Strey family that Tawny passed away suddenly Wednesday, July 20th, 2022. The only thing harder than living with this hole in our hearts is knowing that we are breaking all of your hearts with this news. Tawny had unique relationships with each of you, and it brought us tremendous joy to see her greet you with her happy tail, spring-loaded leaps, and exuberant howl throughout the years. She knew which of you would throw a ball, play tug of war, and give her belly rubs. She laid at your feet while your wine tasted, lounged in the shade of your tables while bands played, and most likely convinced some of you to share a bite of food with her. We know that Strey will never be the same, and for us, life will never be the same. At this moment, we cannot imagine waking up without her; we can’t imagine walking through the door and not being greeted; we can’t imagine an Ugly Sweater party without her. We dread the inevitable “Where’s Tawny?” as our wine club members and friends approach the bar.

We knew that Tawny has always been at the top of the importance scale, and we were happy to see her so loved by each of you. Our world suddenly flipped upside down, and we ask for grace and patience as we grieve our beloved best friend and companion.