Do you really need a reason to enjoy wine? Well, in case you do, September is the month of you: it’s California Wine Month. As a citizen of California, consider it your civic duty to swirl, sniff and sip your way to pleasure. Countless wineries across the state will give you plenty of reasons to put your tasting cap on during harvest season—but we decided to highlight some of the hottest new (and not-so-new) wineries in the Golden State. From renovations and remodels to full-scale debuts, here are the most talked-about additions to the California winemaking and tasting scene.
Sinegal Estate Winery
Technically, Sinegal Estate Winery’s new tasting room and terrace, wine caves and VIP lounge are not open yet, but the winery is scheduled to have its first online wine release on September 30, 2015. We’re predicting it will be well worth the wait. The highly anticipated new luxury tasting facility is designed by Signum Architecture of St. Helena, whose previous work includes HALL Winery, CADE and BRAND Napa Valley. The 30-acre property’s dynamic layout creates a quintessential yet idyllic Napa Valley experience. The land includes a 19th-century Victorian home, two-acre lake, olive orchards, hillside vistas, immaculate gardens to wander, and a classic poolside cabana. Tours and tastings will be available by appointment only.
B Cellars is fairly new to Oakville. Opening in August 2014, B Cellars debuted their new winery and tasting room, which includes a state-of-the art wine production facility, including more than 15,000-square-feet of caves for barrel storage, tours, tasting and private events, and a hospitality house anchored by an interactive demonstration kitchen. The space was conceptualized in partnership with San Francisco-based architectural firm Hart Howerton.
One of Gavin Newsom’s pet projects (along with Gordon Getty and GM and partner John Conover), Odette Estate has been wowing wine enthusiasts with its contemporary stance on just about everything—from its Juancarlos Fernandez-designed building in Napa’s Stags Leap District to its modern take on environmental responsibility. While the winery itself is not new, it recently opened a new contemporary Estate Lounge. The state-of-the-art, 3,500-square-foot facility off Silverado Trail provides an elegant and welcoming setting for visitors to enjoy the winery’s expanded offerings. Design features include black velvet sofas, a custom 10-seat dining table, an open patio with tables, cushioned benches and an inviting fire pit. Floor-to-ceiling windows facing the vineyards can be fully opened to further enhance the vineyard experience. The winery is open for tastings by appointment seven days a week, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. It seems like the perfect place for enjoying Odette’s full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignons—not to mention the winery’s tongue-in-cheek nod to Odette Kahn, the judge at the infamous 1976 Judgment of Paris who demanded her ballot back after unknowingly voting in favor of Chateau Montelena. Ah, you gotta love the French.
Ok, Raymond Vineyards isn’t new either—but it has been completely renovated by new owner Jean-Charles Boisset and we recently had the pleasure of checking out the private Red Room for ourselves. The winery’s reputation precedes itself, as locals often start describing its glitzy style in these such terms: “If Vegas and Napa had a baby…” If you don’t care to taste the private reserves in the quiet, velvety richness of the dimly lit Red Room (with its bar, lounge, piano and player, billiards, velvet poker tables, Pac-Man, chess and pinball room reminiscent of an 1890s New Orleans bordello), there’s always the dazzling Crystal Cellar with its stainless steel walls, mirrored bar and collection of Baccarat crystal decanters. A more conventional tasting room can be visited without an appointment but reservations are recommended and some tastings/tours require them.
Tooth and Nail Winery
Opening last year in the former Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles, Tooth & Nail Winery has been impressing with its traditional Central Coast flavors and edgy, fun, historical labels. The tasting room equally tows the line between edgy yet comfortable décor all designed to promote the casual but passionate wine chat. Headed by long-time Central Coast grape grower Rob Murray (who also owns the Amor Fati, Stasis and Force of Nature wine labels), Tooth & Nail Winery is one new spot fans of red blends should check out.
Photo courtesy of Field Recordings
Field Recordings is one of nine artisan winemakers that recently opened tasting rooms in what Paso locals have dubbed “Tin City,” an industrial area off Ramada Drive across Highway 101. We picked Field Recordings over the other Tin City vintners—Clos Solene, Aaron Wines, Desperada, Nicora,Torrin, MCV, First Crush, Giornata, and Powell Mountain Cellars—because winemaker Andrew Jones has dared to go where no other winemaker has venture to go before, when he started pouring his ALLOY wine brands—a Pinot Noir and a Grenache Rose—into 500-milliliter tallboy-style cans. Yes, you read that right. Canned wine. (And apparently it is good). This is one thing we must see to believe…
Any serious Southern California wine connoisseur knows that Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is one of the hippest places to get your swirl on—but there’s a newcomer in town that we’re pretty anxious to try. Potek Winery from local winemaker David Potter, owner of the popular Funk Zone tasting room Municipal Winemakers, will be opening “very soon” in The Mill, a new local artisan marketplace resting at the corner of Haley and Laguna Streets. According to a memo to his current wine club members, Potter found inspiration for the Potek name from the story of his great-grandfather’s immigration from Romania to the United States. His great-grandfather, Berl Potek, had his name changed to Benjamin Potter as he passed through Ellis Island in 1917. Open already Potek, so we can sample your Riesling and Syrah!
Nestled in the Sta. Rita Hills, an area many winemakers consider one of the best regions for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, you’ll find one of Santa Ynez Valley’s newest wineries behind an industrial wood and rusted metal gate: Hilliard Bruce. Owned by husband-and-wife John Hilliard and Christine Bruce, the Hilliard Bruce property is a sight to behold, 101 acres of grapevines, Arabian horses and an angled glass, stone and metal architectural building that achieved the county’s first LEED Silver certification for a winery. The winery does not have a public tasting room, but private visits can be arranged. We hear their Burgundian-style wines are particularly elegant—from Bruce’s Chardonnay to Hilliard’s Pinot Noir.
Winemaker Andrew Murray is hardly new to the Santa Ynez Valley AVA—after all, he is celebrating his 25th anniversary of his eponymous label this year—but he did open his new Santa Ynez Valley tasting room last year in the Firestone family’s former Curtis Winery tasting room. He renovated the space extensively and the result is one fresh, hip spot. We hear there’s a traditional tasting bar, comfy leather chairs and a leather scrap shag carpet for a mod vibe. Dramatic dark wood on the walls, flooring and custom table tops in reclaimed European oak lend that warm wine country ambiance. Metal accents on tables and sconces offer up an edgy, industrial feel. We can’t wait to take Murray’s Rhone tasting flight ($20 for 5 wines) out to the terrace so we can sip outside. It sounds positively divine.
Of course, there are many other regions throughout California that offer fabulous wines—Mendocino, Sonoma and Temecula—have all helped put the Golden State on the map for world-class winemaking. Oh, Odette. If only you could see us now.
September is California Wine Month and we’re celebrating our own Wine Week on the California Home blog. Click here for more posts celebrating California’s great wine culture.