Turiya Wine

I always get excited when I hear about a new winery, and taste their wines. This time was no exception. 

The best resource for finding new wineries and winemakers is from those that you already trust. I had been hearing some “buzz” about a winemaker that was doing small production, red wines, in Lompoc, California. Doing some basic research I was able to contact Angela Soleno, the winemaker and owner of Turiya Wines. We set up an appointment and met on a Monday afternoon.

Turiya is located in a warehousing area of Lompoc, not too far from the “Wine Ghetto”. When we arrived, Angela was in the process of punching down her recently harvested Sangiovese from the Stolpman vineyards. She had two large bins of red grapes fermenting: the Sangiovese, and a Cabernet Sauvignon that had recently been picked at Estelle Vineyards, right at the border of Santa Ynez, and Happy Canyon AVAs.

As we tasted some of the freshly fermenting juice, I learned a little more about Angela. She used to work as a Project Manager for Consilience Wines in Los Olivos, where she gained experience. As a single mom, raising two children, she found time to attend the Viticulture and Enology program at Allan Hancock College.  She was inspired by Stephan Asseo from L’Aventure and Eric Jensen of Booker Wines. With her contacts within the farming community, Angela secured her first fruit bill and harvest in 2008.

Turiya only produces red wines, and Angela only makes three wines a year. Two of the wines are single varieties, and the third wine is made from a blend of the two. Angela makes a very small amount of wine with each vintage, only producing as much wine as she can give her personal attention to. She said that she is constantly touching, tasting, and smelling each fermenter and barrel, making sure that the wines meet her personal style preference.

As we moved to her “tasting room” (really a cut out section within her warehouse), Angela poured the three wines from the 2008 vintage (total production of 96 cases): Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Perpetual Bliss (a blend of 60% Cab and 40% Syrah). Both varieties were sourced from the Camp 4 vineyard. She likes to be creative with her blends, combining grapes that are not traditionally blended together. Her 2009 vintage (total production of 182 cases), which was just released includes: Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Hither (a blend of 65% Petite Verdot and 35% Malbec).

All of Turiya’s wines are barrel aged for 36 months in once-used oak barrels. Versus new oak, this allows for a nice soft oak tannin flavor. She said she checks the wines after the two-year mark, but doesn’t rush the process. Once bottled, the wines age another year before release. The less manipulation, the better for Turiya. Her single variety wines are typically produced from free run juice. She allows the natural yeast to ferment, and doesn’t inoculate for malolactic fermentation (she lets the wine take its’ natural course).

The one thing you will notice right off the bat, with the wines that Angela produces, is that these are food friendly wines. The alcohol levels are lower than what we normally see in California, and the acid levels are higher. Remember our discussion about wine pairing from a past blog? Acid “excites” food and brightens flavors. These wines are intended to compliment your food pairings, and create an elegant wine and food experience.

The next thing you notice are the bottles. These are heavy bottles, with long natural cork closures. Each bottle is hand dipped in wax to seal the cork. The single variety wines have vertical labels and the blends have horizontal labels. The logo on the bottle is not your traditional paper label. Each bottle has a screen printed label made from 24k gold. Angela explained where she got the name “Turiya”…. “it is a state of consciousness, where reality and truth are the same”.

Angela wants to keep her production small, just enough for her allocation list, which is growing. The initial tasting of her fermenting 2014 Sangiovese  and Cabernet Sauvignon have me looking forward to their release in about five years. Asked what grape varieties she wants to add to her mix, Angela said she is trying to source some Anglianico.

The only way to acquire Turiya wines is by getting on the allocation list, or by visiting Turiya. Angela holds barrel tastings by appointment at her location at 316 North F Street in Lompoc. You can contact her either by email, info@turiyawines.com or phone 805.478.7016. To learn more, check out her website at www.turiyawines.com.

Turiya Wines capture the essence of a garagiste winery: small production, hands on at every step, and fine-tuned to express the winemakers style. These wines are unique, and offer the wine lover something that is different from the rest of the pack. Watch out for Angela Soleno, she could just be producing the next California “cult wine”.

Will Paso Robles be Divided?

Three years ago, I wrote about Paso Robles. Back then I pointed out that there was a proposal in the works to divide the Paso Robles AVA into eleven distinct districts. The thought is that a tightly defined district would help consumers determine what to expect when they open a bottle from a certain area. Think about it, Napa Valley has recognized districts, and you would expect that Stags Leap would taste different than Rutherford.

American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) are grape-growing regions distinguishable by geographic features such as climate, soil, elevation, history and location that are recognized by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau)  and used in wine bottle labeling.

The Paso Robles AVA is big.  At 612,000 square acres, it is the largest appellation in California that doesn’t have any smaller AVAs or districts within. From San Miguel, in the north to Santa Margarita, in the south, there are over 30 miles between. The climate, marine influence, elevations, and soils vary. To lump these into one large AVA, and say they are equal, doesn’t make sense.

The first proposal to divide the Paso Robles AVA began back in 2005. At that point, 21 local vintners and grape growers submitted a plan to create an east and west sub-appellation. That proposal fell through in 2007, when many of the original applicants felt it didn’t adequately represent all the differences among the growing areas. Shortly after, a group known as the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area Committee (PRAVAC), petitioned the TTB to establish 11 new sub-appellations within the existing Paso Robles AVA, that has remained as one large district since it was established October 4, 1983.

According to the TTB’s website, the new proposed areas would be Adelaida District, Creston District, El Pomar District, Paso Robles Estrella District, Paso Robles Geneseo District, Paso Robles Highlands District, Paso Robles Willow Creek District, San Juan Creek, San Miguel District, Santa Margarita Ranch and Templeton Gap District.

Templeton Gap
On September 20, 2013, the TTB published the proposal on its’ website, and allowed public comment until January 12, 2014. A final decision on the proposal is expected prior to December, 2014. At the end of the public comment period, there were only 45 public comments submitted. Of those, only three were against.  One of the more interesting comments came from the Bronco Wine Company, and it’s concern about brand name recognition for one of its’ wines known as Estrella (one of the proposed districts is Paso Robles Estrella District). The PRAVAC  reviewed the comment submitted by Bronco Wine Company and agrees that, "Paso Robles Estrella District" and "Paso Robles Estrella", not "Estrella" alone, are the proper terms of viticultural significance for the Paso Robles Estrella District.

Pomar Junction
Another of the comments against, involved AmByth Estate. AmByth Estate is Paso Robles' first and only winery to produce Demeter certified Biodynamic wines.  They asked if their property was in the proposed EI Pomar District or Templeton Gap District, and if they could choose which area to be in. In response, Dr. Deborah L. Elliott Fisk (Geographer) wrote, “I reviewed his brief description of why he believed his property should be included in the Templeton Gap District, not EI Pomar District. I reviewed all of my climate data, soils maps, geological information, etc. I do not support moving the Templeton Gap District's eastern boundary further to the east to encompass the AmByth Estate and, as a consequence, retracting EI Pomar District at its western boundary. The eastern boundary of the Templeton Gap District is formed by connecting peaks ranging in elevation from 1,329 to 1,452 feet. The AmByth Estate vineyard is east of the Templeton Gap District boundary ridgeline and at an elevation of roughly 1,200 feet. Mr. Hart's comments describe winds and, therefore, temperatures, affected by the property's position on the leeside (eastside) of the boundary ridgeline with the proposed EI Pomar District. The AmByth vineyards are on the Linne-Calado soil complex, but this soil type occurs in many of the proposed AVAs. In my scientific opinion, the evidence presented by Mr. Hart does not justify moving the ridgeline eastern boundary of the proposed Templeton Gap District. His vineyard clearly fits the climate, geomorphology, and topography of the proposed EI Pomar District.”

Calcareous soil of West Paso Robles
As you can imagine, being in the “right” district might make or break certain wineries. As it stand right now, all can call themselves Paso Robles AVA (and they can continue to do so), but with the proposed districts, a winery may be able to capitalize on the differences in their soil, terrain, climate, and in the case of Tempelton Gap…the marine influence.

One of the other concerns is that the proposed AVAs will diminish the strength of the Paso Robles name. The California Business and Professions Code§25244 requires that “any wine labeled with a viticultural area appellation of origin that is located entirely within the "Paso Robles" viticultural area shall bear the designation "Paso Robles" on the label in direct conjunction therewith”. This means that the Paso Robles name must be used on all wines from the region, even on sub-appellation districts.

For wine lovers, the events occurring in Paso Robles should be celebrated. The division into distinct districts will help consumers, by supplying them with more information. If, and when, the final approvals go through, Paso Robles will have been the most thoroughly analyzed of all petitioning AVAs in the history of California. This could possibly open the door for other wine regions in California (watch out Russian River).

For more information, and to read the entire 32 page proposal, go to: http://www.ttb.gov/news/ttb-proposes-11-new-viticultural-areas.shtml

Low Country Boil

It is summer time, and what better to do that have a large group of friends gather together in the mountains, for food and wine?  Normally we would have everyone over for a barbecue, and everyone bring some appetizers or side dishes. This time, we decided to something completely different… a low-country boil.

Why a low country boil?  Cleanup is minimal if you skip plates and serve on paper-covered tables. The recipe is simple, and most of the time is spent boiling, not prepping, so you can enjoy time with a large group of friends, while it all cooks. The entire cooking time took just over an hour. Serving is simple too, just drain the boil and pile high where everyone can dig in. Peel, crack, eat and have fun.

The low-country boil is simply a combination of potatoes, corn, onion, sausage and seafood (stick to shrimp, crab, lobster, or crayfish). The best thing is that is serves a large crowd, and in our case, everyone brought their own seafood to add to the pot. Two of us supplied the veggies and sausages, and everyone brought their favorite wine. ..and there was plenty of wine!

Try this recipe for a flavorful, memorable experience.

 Start with a large 10 gallon, stainless steel pot with a strainer. Put this over a large propane burner. Start by adding 12 cans of beer (your favorite), then fill the pot about half way with water, and start boiling. We added 3 bags of Old Bay crab boil, 6 lemons (halved) and 6 onions (quartered). Next, you can add whatever spices you like. This evening, we added 1 cup (more or less) of Cajun spice, ½ cup crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, and “other spices”.

When everything came to a boil, we added about 10 pounds of fingerling potatoes. Shortly after that, we added the sausage. This evening, we used real Andouille sausage, along with Kielbasa and a small amount of hot links (the hot links can really add a lot of heat, so watch how many you use). The Andouille adds a really nice, smoky taste to the boil.

Once the potatoes began to get soft, we added the corn (take the cob, and cut into bite size pieces). After about five minutes, we added the shrimp and crab, and then turned off the heat. Once they were pink, we lifted the strainer out of the pot, and dumped the entire boil onto a paper covered table.

A simple mix of mayonnaise and spicy cocktail sauce was our “remoulade”. This worked great with all the stuff poured out on the table, and worked particularly well with the fingerling potatoes and shrimp. Yummm!

The wine of choice, for the night was Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé, but we also had some nice Gamay, and cool region Pinot Noirs. We even broke out a magnum of fruity Zinfandel.

The evening ended with small pecan hand pies, served with Rancho de Philo Cream Sherry.

I hope you will be inspired to give the Low country boil a try. Thanks to my friends Marty and Stan for guiding us in this gathering. We had been talking about doing this for a while, and we finally did it. Maybe you will too.