Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Churches and Tasting Rooms

I live in wine country.  Within walking distance of my home there are 4 or 5 tasting rooms and if I drive 20 miles, I will pass a combination of about 140 wineries and tasting rooms.  If you saw the film Sideways, you saw the area where I live.  They grow and make some great Pinot Noirs on the western end of the valley and mostly Rhone varietals to the east.  The wines range from OK to spectacular with many being in the good to very good.  (If you're ever in this area, I can point you to the spectacular ones).  Going wine tasting is a common recreation and we do it a few times a year, usually when friends are visiting and when we have a pickup at from a wine club (we're members at Loring, Evans Ranch, and L'Aventure).  We had a friend visiting and did a few tastings this past weekend.

I'm always fascinated at the differences from one tasting room to another, the clienteles, and the overall atmosphere of the different settings.  It has to say something about churches, who a specific church attracts and why.  Two experiences stood out for me on Saturday.

from their website
The first was Brewer-Clifton, owned by two experienced and respected wine folk in the area.  Greg Brewer is the wine maker for Melville and Steve Clifton is one of the owners of Palmina. The room is minimalist as you can see from the photo to the right - mostly white and stainless steel.  It is located in an area of Lompoc where there are three other tasting rooms I think.  Lompoc is a less expensive town about 50 miles from Santa Barbara with an up and coming wine scene.  The background music was "Chill" from some satellite provider... electronic with a light beat.  I liked it a lot and  I think I heard a tune by an artist I like, Rhye.  There was nothing I could have sung along to.  The wine was excellent to spectacular.  It was also expensive with the least expensive bottles being $40.  I didn't purchase any but it was tempting.  Our friend bought an excellent pinot priced at $74.  The wine was worth the price.  The tasting was also on the upper end of the price scale for Santa Barbara County but it included a small cheese plate with excellent cheeses, dried fruit, and a piece of dark chocolate.  I thought the pourers were warm but our friend experienced them as being a bit standoffish.   It was a place that I will go back to and if I was looking for another wine club to join, Brewer-Clifton would be in the running.  I liked the space, enjoyed the music, and I really liked the wines.  We were the only people there.  Was it because the space doesn't fit in Lompoc?  Was it just because we were early in the day and more folk would show up later?  Price?  Got me.

from their facebook page
At the end of the day we stopped at Casa Dumetz which is owned by Emilio Estavez's spouse, Sonja Magdevski.  She is also the wine maker and is a very warm and outgoing person who has been there the two times we've visited.  She is passionate about her wine and is simply a delight to be around.  They are in a tiny town called Los Alamos which is about half way between the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria, right off the 101.  There are a few restaurants and one or two other tasting rooms but that is it in the maybe 6 or 8 square block town.  We parked about a block away and could hear the laughter and loud talk as soon as we got out of the car. The atmosphere of the room is much warmer, a bit "lived in," with eclectic decor.  I couldn't hear the music playing most of the time but it was a mix of a wide variety of styles from 80's R&B to pop to crooners.  When you could hear the music, you likely could have sung along.  While we were there, we were clearly the oldest folk present.  The pourers were warm and friendly and in spite of being very busy, took the time to engage us.  I was surprised that one of the pourers and the owner both touched my shoulder at least once.  The wine was priced at about 1/2 of Brewer-Clifton, maybe a bit less than that.  It was good... I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at the wine, but I also didn't purchase any and wasn't  really tempted to.  It was a fun place and I will go back there just to be there.  The only reason I would join the wine club would be to get to know Sonja and the pourers (Grace and Chris) better.  They really were wonderful.

So what does it say about churches?  I'm not entirely sure.  Clearly the experience was more important than the content.  The content - the wine - was clearly superior at Brewer-Clifton (at least to my palate.  Yours may vary).  It was also priced at a point that would exclude all but serious wine folk but for that matter, Casa Dumetz prices - $20 - 34 - would also exclude many.  I enjoyed the pourers both places but Chris and Grace really did make us feel welcome at Casa Dumetz.  So I'd say my takeaway is that the welcome is the most important piece.  Content can't be bad, but great content won't make up for a lack of connections.  And maybe something about context...

All in all though, both were positive experiences for me and I will go back to both tasting rooms.

1 comment:

Peter said...

One more thing we share, a love of good red wine!!!!