Bye Bye Birdie

Bye Bye Birdie

Sunland Vintage Tasting Room w/ Winemaker Mike Giovinazzo

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 yous” 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 customer’s 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.)

Owner & Winemaker Benjamin Holland of HollandWatson Wines
Nabu Wines Owner Greg Barnett & Pantess Cellars Owner Cathy Pantess
Lester Family Wines Owner Elissa Rosenberg

Even with this niche market, I would not say that competition is at its 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.

Magnavino Cellars Owners Robert (winemaker) & Barbara Wagner

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.

Lucas Sellars Winemaker Luigi Lucas

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 salute 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 a part of the Strey Cellars family since infancy. Responsible for various roles, my favorite has been penning their blogs. During the hiatus of the pandemic, I took a leap of faith and began blogging and writing for different niche websites. You can search them through my IG @justinethewitch. Strey Cellars is my home away from home and will surely be your new favorite Ventura County Winery. If this is your first visit to our blog, you’ll notice that I write as if we are old friends because this is the energy of our winery. Visit sometime and see for yourself! If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with a friend. Cheers!