One of my favorite things about working at Strey, other than the the delicious wine, is Scott. For some of you he’s a bit elusive, considering the tireless hours he puts in to bring us the wine we all love so much. I have the unique opportunity to actually spend time with Scott, usually this means we are stocking endless cases of wine, or sweeping and mopping floors, (Call me Cinderella) or setting up for events. Scott has a hard time watching other people work, seriously, the man doesn’t sit still, if he happens to see me doing a job that would be faster if two people did it, he’s helping me in an instant. That’s how my friendship with Scott began. Working side by side here and there became the perfect opportunity to ask the plethora of questions that roll around my brain surrounding wine, and wine making. (In true winemaker fashion, he often hands me a book.) Luckily this habit of mine has resulted in Scott and Katie inviting Husband and I over to taste a wine I had never tried (Nebbiolo), and more often than not we end up with a glass of wine, because, how can you talk about wine without drinking it? (Obviously I am drinking wine right now, never mind that it’s 11am… In fact, you should probably go pour yourself a glass before you continue reading. CHEERS!)
The rabbit hole of the wine world is deep and fascinating. Scott has so much knowledge and love for this profession. Honestly, you MUST love winemaking to be a winemaker, nobody in their right mind would choose a career that doesn’t pay-out whatsoever for years, takes up every weekend and many many nights, requires you to put in physical labor, is time sensitive, messy, sticky and endless. Winemaking truly is a labor of love, and he never complains about it. There are weekends that I don’t see Scott other than through the window from the tasting room because he’s so busy racking. (Racking is when you remove the wine from the barrels, from a specific varietal, in order to clean out sediment, and mix the wine together in a big container so that once we get to bottling, each bottle tastes the same. Each barrel ages differently, and it’s important for the bottles to taste consistent. This happens a few times a year per varietal, so, at this point it’s happening year round because of the amount of wine we have in barrels.) He has even been known to camp out on the office couch, at the winery, because he works so late into the night, and has to be back bright and early to continue. This is why we rarely find Scott in the tasting room. He’s only one person, and he’s the only one he trusts to do the job. (And as helpful as Katie and I are, between the tasting room, and the babies, we have our hands full.) Occasionally he pops into the tasting room, but I suspect that’s just when he needs a little break, he’s usually back to the grind after greeting a few wine club members or customers.
You might be asking yourself now, why would anyone choose to live this way? You might also have a deeper appreciation of our winemaker knowing the sacrifice he makes to realize his dream. Since when has anyone had a reason for love? They say love makes you do crazy things, Scott is a prime example. In 2007 Scott went wine tasting in Temecula with friends, he didn’t have much interest or knowledge of wine, little did he know, this innocent trip would change his future. After leaving one tasting room and entering another, he tried to stop the person behind the bar from pouring him a Cabernet Sauvignon, saying, “I just tired one at the last place.” When the tasting room barista heard this, she said, “No, you don’t understand, depending on the winemaker, the region the grapes were grown and the year, wine with the same name will taste different.” This blew Scott’s mind. It opened up a curiosity that eventually turned into an infatuation, thus Scott’s love affair with wine began.
The following year while wine tasting locally, at Cantara Cellars in Camarillo, Mike Brown, the winemaker gave Scott a tour. It was harvest season, and Scott asked if he could help. He came back at every opportunity he could, determined to get as much experience as possible. In 2009 Scott enrolled in a Wine Chemistry class and a Wine Analysis class at UC Davis. He also developed a relationship with Robert Wagner, who was making wine at Cantara at the time. When Robert opened Magnavino Cellars, Scott followed him and continued to learn the art of winemaking. In 2010 Scott bought his first two tons of grapes. Syrah grapes from Paso Robles and Zinfandel grapes from Lodi. Even though he worked full time in the film industry, he drove out to Oxnard daily throughout harvest to do punch downs. (After destemming and crushing the grapes, they sit in big bins and this is where chemistry comes in, Scott will add yeast and take temperatures, and measure brix… actually that part is usually mine or Katie’s job when we are helping out, so Scott can focus on the bigger jobs. After you hurry up and do all that work, you wait, while you wait, the wine ferments, it actually gets kind of warm and forms a cap of grape skins on top. Twice a day until pressing, you “punch down” the cap and mix everything together.) This is some serious commitment, and I fully believe that Scott being a Leo with a rising Taurus gives him the love of ritual, the need for hands on work, and most importantly, the loyalty. But that’s just the astrologer in me. Scott doesn’t believe in “that stuff”, obviously.
In 2014 Scott and Katie opened Strey Cellars on Valentines Day with only six wines, five years later we have over 20!!! In fact, over the years 11 of them have earned medals in wine competitions. Considering our growth, the winery has become more and more of a daily job, keeping Scott from the tasting room! Noticing this void of not having Scott’s interaction and connection with our members we decided to choose one day per month for Scott to host private tastings in our Library Room. Giving him the opportunity to share his knowledge and giving you the chance to learn from the winemaker himself.
These winemaker tastings will be held on the second Sunday of every month. Not only will you have an exclusive behind the scenes look at Strey, the chance to geek out, ask wine questions, and hear personal stories, but you will taste library wines and have a barrel tasting! (Library wines are vintages we have a very limited supply of, and no longer serve in the tasting room.) Availability is limited, so be sure to preorder your tickets on Eventbright! I hope you decide to take advantage of these fun events to get to know Scott. At the very least check out and follow his new profile @streymaker on Instagram!
I remember the first time I stepped into Strey’s tasting room, only 6 months after they opened. Husband and I were celebrating our first wedding anniversary, he had surprised me with a private wine tasting tour in Ventura and Oxnard. I had no idea there were local wineries, and definitely would never have guessed that these warehouses could be filled with exceptional wine. Up until that day, we always went out of town to taste great wine. Of the four wineries we visited that day, Strey was the only club we joined (having promised ourselves we would NOT join a wine club at all), little did I know, that decision would change my life. Katie was so inviting, she had this big infectious smile, and we felt welcome. Up until this experience, I had never been to a winery where I was greeted as soon as I walked through the door. In fact, I often felt as if I didn’t belong, or the person behind the bar already had preconceived notions about my knowledge of wine. Maybe this is a good time to tell you a little bit about my wine experience… #dontjudgeme …
About ten years ago, my friend brought me a bottle of Gewürztraminer, and it was the first wine I remember actually enjoying. I had not tasted much wine prior to this, other than the wine my bestie and I used to sneak from her parents after they went to sleep. Now here is the embarrassing part, somehow I went backwards from Gewürztraminer to Moscato. My discovery of Moscato was a game changer. I think I drank my weight in that stuff regularly. (Seriously, this photo of me drinking straight out of the bottle, not just any bottle, a Sutter Home magnum still exists. I had just turned 22… That’s pretty typical, right?)
Obviously, I thought I was pretty fancy since I liked wine now, so the next logical option was to go wine tasting. To my surprise, you get laughed at for drinking Moscato (and NEVER say “White Zin” in a tasting room!) and I left my first experience in Santa Ynez feeling way less fancy. Which actually helped, I was determined to figure out what it was about red wines that people loved. So I started tasting everything. I stopped saying, “whites only”, and I tasted and asked a million questions to anyone who would answer. Eventually, this winemaker said, “Here, you just need to read this book.” and handed me “The Wine Bible”. The following year, with every paycheck, I would choose a varietal and buy 3 or 4 bottles, all from different regions. I would open one, and I read about it, and write my own tasting notes on it. Over time I started to find my preferences, and I noticed my tastes changing. I had a difficult time finding certain wines, and some of them were out of my price range. To this day I get really excited to find a tasting room that offers a wine that I’ve only ever read about. Wine became fascinating to me. But the tasting room experience was not always a great one. I think that’s a big reason why Strey has become my home. Katie’s smile, Tawny’s excitement, and Scott’s big California bold wine making style. Scott and Katie created an atmosphere that makes anyone comfortable, it truly does “stray from the norm”.
Which brings me to my exciting news! Over the last few years Scott has been working on a few wines that are off the beaten path. Up until now we have always had the staples, Cab, Syrah, Zin, Temp… We thought we would change the game a bit and bring you a few varietals that you may have never heard of, and are harder to find. When wine tasting locally, in Ventura County we just don’t have as many diverse options… I mean we DIDN’T, until now. I have the pleasure of announcing Strey’s Signature Series! On February 17th we will be releasing five new wines in honor of our fifth anniversary! Graciano, Nebbiolo, Touriga Naciónal, Malbec and Tannat. We cannot wait for you to taste these delicious wines!
As you know, we generally source our grapes from Lodi, but Lodi did not have all of the grapes we wanted, so Scott drove all over California to bring us these specific varietals. Our 2016 Graciano grapes were sourced from the Sierra Foothills and has tobacco and leather on the nose, and a berry patch on the palate. The 2016 California Malbec, which is one of my personal favorite varietals, has this unforgettable mouthfeel, a vortex of fruit and active oak influence it is mouthwatering.
Luckily Lodi did have Tannat, Nebbiolo and Touriga Nacional. Our 2016 Lodi Tannat has dark fruit aromas and an approachable palate. The 2016 Lodi Nebbiolo has nuances of cranberry and cigar smoke. The 2016 Lodi Touriga Nacional will surprise you with berry pie, streudel and and fruit tart aromas.
We will offer a second tasting sheet highlighting our new wines. Members can choose to taste the Signature Series in place of the usual line up. I cannot wait to share these special wines with all of you! I hope to see you at our Five Year Anniversary Party on February 17th!
As I mentioned, the new wines we are releasing are difficult to find in Ventura County, however, I would love to point you towards a few other wineries that have varietals you are hard pressed to find. I don’t know about you, but it is so much fun to taste the wines from different wine makers, particularly when I am not very familiar with the varietal.
Millesime Cellars in Camarillo and Labyrinth in Ventura both offer Touriga Nacional. Pantess Cellars in Camarillo has a Tannat and Sunland Vintage in Thousand Oaks has Nebbiolo. Several local wineries do have Malbec, this is new and exciting for us, though. (I did not do an exhaustive search, so feel free to comment if you know of other Ventura County wineries that offer these wines!)
Hopefully in the next few weeks I can plan a field trip to some of the local wineries. I am not claiming to be a professional wine taster, or anything, but I have basically had wine for breakfast every weekend for the last four years. (In the tasting room we call it “quality control”.) I’d love to share some of my experiences with you all. In the meantime, you know where I’ll be.
Scott and Katie have given me the privilege of starting this blog, and I am so excited! You all know that my first love is writing, but that’s only because I learned to write much earlier than I learned to drink wine. At the risk of sounding like the letter your grandma sends every Christmas to recap the year, we wanted to share with you our whirlwind of a year, and give you a heads up on some exciting upcoming events.
Since the completion of the barrel room expansion we have been having a blast hosting parties, weddings, silent discos, comedy nights and even a baby shower! If you’ve got a special event in mind message Katie to book our barrel room.
We were honored to host our friends and wine club members, Tosh and Nicole Hostetter’s wedding. The barrel room transformed into a magical ballroom fit for a fairytale. I should really stop being surprised by the creative vision that Scott and Katie have and their ability to see it through. It never fails to amaze me how quickly this space goes from pumpkin to party! It is such a versatile space. Wine lab by day and the options are limitless by night.
Speaking of which, if you weren’t at our Silent Disco, you seriously missed out! It is so much fun because you get to choose what you dance to, but you can dance with everyone! You know how when you go to weddings and clubs you take a break when you don’t like the song? Well, you won’t want to take any breaks at a silent disco because there is always a great song playing! It’s basically cardio, (I’m sure you’re all still on new year diets) So, come next time!
If music and dancing isn’t your thing, you probably came to one of our comedy shows with Funny Girl Events. We hosted four shows last year, the most recent being the New Year’s Eve Party! We had so much fun getting dressed up, laughing, and of course drinking wine and champagne. (Katie and I may or may not have pregamed with a bottle of bubbly while we got party pretty.) We just booked our next comedy event for April 6th. As soon as we have the details we will email the Eventbrite link so you can purchase tickets. You can always purchase tickets in the tasting room, which is a great excuse to come in and taste wine and visit with us! We love seeing our wine club members and miss you when you’re gone!
In other news, if you have not seen it yet, we hustled to finish the Library room before our huge bottling in April. March and April were a mad dash of tireless construction. As usual, we were lucky to have all hands on deck pouring concrete, staining shelves, painting walls and laying flooring. With less than a week to go, it was finally time to re-home all of our timeless favorites. Scott and I spent a day opening what seemed like endless cases of some of our long-lost favorites. It was like Christmas! We may or may not have popped open a bottle or two…
We called in the cavalry bright and early on April 28th for Bottling Day, the truck rolled in and we got to work. 23,772 bottles later we had a warehouse full of 1,981 cases! Since then we have released a few delicious new wines, 2014 Merlot which, in the usual Strey style will surprise you with it’s ability to have big fruit, and be well balanced, and smooth. This is such an easy drinking wine, and you’re sure to say, “Wait, THIS is Merlot?”. Our 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect party wine, this is the wine I bring with me when I want to share. It pairs easily with a variety of flavors, and stands alone for those of us who like to drink our calories. In September we released our 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel (OVZ) and 2015 Cabernet Franc, both have become fast favorites and best sellers. As a little surprise, in November Scott released our 2015 Tempranillo and we are in love with it! If you love Tempranillo, you need to taste this wine.
In July Scott and Katie welcomed their second daughter, Iris to the family! She was born on July 3rd and has brought all of us tremendous joy. Iris is the happiest rollypolly baby and if you’re lucky, you might catch her in the tasting room. Ivy has transitioned into a fabulous big sister, she is helpful, affectionate and has frequent dance parties.
2018 Harvest began in August and was exciting and fast-paced, we brought in 8 varietals totaling 15.45 tons of grapes. Katie and I had the pleasure of assisting Scott with crushing, destemming, measurements, temperatures and pressing. We even had a few new friends lend a hand. Most importantly, Ivy was our number one volunteer.
We know how much you all love having Scott in the tasting room, but we thought we’d give you something better. This year we are introducing Wine Maker Meetups. Every second Sunday of the month you will have the opportunity to book an hour for a private tasting in our newly built Library Room with Scott. This will include tasting a few library wines, and a barrel sample. Please ask us for details!
Starting this week our tasting room hours have been extended, we are now open from 12pm-8pm! Tastings are available from 12pm-5pm. After 5pm we turn up the music, turn down the lights and encourage you to order in some food and enjoy a glass (or bottle) of wine and hang out. We have really enjoyed our later hours on Fridays, it’s a great time to decompress after the stress of the workweek. Bring on FriYAY!
SAVE THE DATE(S)!
Our first Pick Up Party of 2019 will be Saturday, January 26th from 6-9. We will be releasing three new wines that Scott and Katie let me taste test last week (At our 8am staff meeting… #wineforbreakfast)!!! I cannot wait to share these delicious wines with you all. We have a lovely Paso Robles 2015 Merlot, a delicious Lodi 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and of course a big beautiful Lodi 2015 Zinfandel. You all know how much I love doing side by side and vertical tastings, we are gonna have so much fun tasting, juxtaposing, and mostly enjoying these new additions to our line up. As usual we will have a food truck and a band, so come ready to party! Unlike the last (almost) 5 years we will only be having the party on one day, but of course we will have our new releases open for the next few weeks, so you can come visit at your convenience. That being said, we hope you come to the party!
Happy 5th birthday to Strey! We will celebrate our fifth anniversary on Sunday, February 17th from 12pm-5pm, there will be food and dancing and wine flowing. I don’t even think we can really express how full our hearts are to be reaching this milestone. Even though I wasn’t a part of the Strey family in the beginning, Husband and I (you all know him as Husband, right?) joined in August of Strey’s first year, and it wasn’t long before I started to become a familiar face behind the bar. I can say from the bottom of my heart that Strey is a family, and I have been so honored to grow with it, to connect with each of you, to learn from Scott, and especially hang out with Katie, Tawny and the girls. Strey truly is a labor of love for Scott and Katie, it is literally a dream come true. I marvel at this commitment and this gift a lot, teasing Scott and Katie about living to work, but when you look at what they have created, how could they not. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your unending support. Please come celebrate this special day with us.
And I suppose this couldn’t be a proper blog about Strey if I don’t mention the elephant in the room: SLANTED, we know you miss it, trust me, we do too! We will let you know as soon as it is done with this malolactic fermentation. It’s been so cold lately that its been put on pause, but will most likely resume as the weather starts to warm up. So hold onto your Slanted and we will update you on the perfect day to pop those bottles.