My friend Manny made his life long dream a reality when just over a year ago, he bought a little wine and coffee bar in Avila beach called Avila Wine and Roasting Company. One of the things about Manny is he is probably one of the most knowledgeable wine bar owners you will ever meet. He spent 25 years in the industry and has worked as a wine rep for distributors and wineries alike, every time I go in there I learn something new. He has an ever changing wine list where he mostly focuses on Central Coast wines but often has some unusual finds from around the country and the world sitting around.
I went in with my friend Sandy on one of our wine tasting days, and Manny welcomed me with a warm hug and an even warmer smile. We pulled up a stool at the bar and Manny started us on his offerings for the day. He usually has some where between 7-10 bottles open to taste.
Our first taste started with a 2010 Hahn Estate SLH (Santa Lucia Highlands) Chardonnay. Hahn Family wines is a fairly large producer with multiple brands, but this particular wine is very limited. Their vineyards are located in the Santa Lucia Highlands, a part of the Monterrey County wine region. They practice green and sustainable farming, and according to Manny, the 2010 SLH Chard is made up of 76 and 96 Dijon Chardonnay clones. I found it has floral notes and a buttery, oak nose after being 100% barrel fermented in 33% new french oak. The palate was creamy and complex, with toasty fruit, and nutty butterscotch accompanying golden apple.
I am finding that Grüner Veltliners are the new hot ticket in easy drinking white wines these days. And the 2010 Darcie Kent Vineyards Grüner Veltliner out of the Rava Blackjack Vineyard in Monterrey County is no exception. It was a Medalist in the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and had a very light almost faint citrus nose. With a 0.43% residual sugar count this wine is very dry and mild with 13% alcohol. On the palate I found bright stone and citrus fruits like white peaches and lime highlighted by nice flowery notes. Even though the wine is so light it had a long, full finish.
Making our way to the red wine selections we started with a 2010 Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot Noir. Located in the expressive terrior at the southern end of the Santa Cruz mountains they only made 4 barrels (96 cases) of this organic and unfiltered Pinot Noir. Aged for 17 months in French oak, it has a deep ruby color with an earthy, traditionally Burgundian style nose. On the palate I found floral notes of purple violets and sweet blackberry.
Next we had a 2007 Curtis Santa Ynez Syrah from Ambassador vineyards. After spending 18 months in the barrel the nose on this wine was reminiscent of mesquite smoked meats with dark fruits and a smoky (Oolong, I think) tea. I found the wine to be full bodied having balanced tannins with flavors of smoky blackberry and currants with spice. Interestingly enough prior to the fermenting process the Must was cold soaked for 4 days to allow for gentle extraction of color and flavors.
After the Syrah we had the John Alan 2007 Bonne Terre Rouge from south of Paso Robles in Templeton. This is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cab Franc, 10% Petite Sirah and 10% Malbec and almost black in color. It had dark black fruit with a cassis and currant nose. On the palate it was full flavored and tannic with black plums, dark bing cherry, and mild white pepper. According to Manny this is one of the best vintages they’ve had and it really lived up to the name “Good earth”.
Birdland cellars 2010 Barn owl Zinfandel is the single vintage released by their cousin label Bon Niche winery in Paso Robles. Bon Niche is a 10 acre parcel that was planted in 2007 about 1000 feet above sea level. The nose on this wine is full of red raspberries and cranberry. And the palate is a big jammy raspberry.
The last wine we tried was a Vines on Marycrest ’round midnight 2007, a GSM blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre and 20 Grenache. I found this wine to be a very good classic Rhone blend with a deep, rich, dark color in the glass. It has smoky leather, with hints of white pepper on the nose and a silky mouth feel highlighted by juicy berries. This wine was a Silver medal winner at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Manny is a real family man and made his place a family business. If you are lucky you might get to meet his daughter Lindsey or Kathy, Manny’s mom who you can often see making Lavender sachets at one of the tables. All the nautical art in the place is by his cousin Colleen and around the bend and through the woods you can meet his other cousins over at Kelsey See Canyon winery.
Aside from Manny’s varied wine selection, because he spent so much time in the industry many of his wines are exclusives meaning he is the only one that carries them and he knows how to get the best per bottle prices for his customers.
Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.
Pope John XXIII