Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Four Brix: Craft Winery in Ventura

When one thinks of American wine, one is usually thinking of California Wine, as the Golden State produces approximately 95% of all wine in the country, from such well-known areas as Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, and, increasingly, Santa Barbara County. Ventura, both the county and the town, is not a name that often pops up on our wine radar, but it does have a nascent boutique wine industry, and one that is worth looking into.

Four Brix' beautiful tasting room
 belies the industrial park setting.
The Los Angeles Wine Writers group recently visited Four Brix Winery in the City of Ventura, located 65 miles north of LA. This small (2,000 cases total) boutique winery claims to be the first registered winery in Ventura County. Other Ventura County wineries that you might recognize are Ojai Vineyards and the cult-status Sine Qua Non (you are extremely lucky if you can even get a visit to the latter winery, or even get on their allotment list).

A trip to Four Brix is like a breath of sunshine ... in a West Ventura industrial park. But don't let that deter you. Yes, the location is reminiscent of "wine ghetto" areas in Lompoc and on Rt. 46 in Paso Robles. But like these places, once you step inside the beautifully appointed tasting room, it doesn't really matter that you are not out in the vineyard. Four Brix' tasting room offers wine, food, and the handiwork of local artists in a warm, plush, and friendly setting. It also sports a sizeable barrel and tank room behind glass doors in the back.

Four Brix is the passion project of three couples, who met at a Rotary home-wine-making club about 10 years ago. They realized they had in common a love of  varietal blends from four countries, namely France, Italy, Spain, and California, hence the "Four" in their name, which is paired with the word "Brix," the measure of wine's sweetness. Four Brix' first official vintage was in 2008. The very first wine they decided to make, "Scosso," is named for the riderless horse in the Palio de Siena horse race -- an event they attended while in Italy.

On our visit, co-owner Karen Stewart treated us to a generous tasting. Most bottles are priced between $24 and $40 (exact pricing can be found on their Web site).

I especially liked the Four Brix white wines, which included:
Cani Amante Riesling

2013 "Smitten" Viognier: Grapes are sourced from the Chumash-owned Camp 4 vineyard in Paso Robles. This wine has notes of melons and peaches, and is crisp and clean, thanks to its 100% stainless steel aging.

2013 "Desirous" Grenache Blanc: This crisp white is aged for 5 months in American oak (most of Four Brix' barrel-aged wines go into French oak), and is delicious, with fruit and minerality.

2014 Cani Amante Riesling: Crisp, fruit-forward, and lovely.

Red wines poured for us included:

2011 "Temptress": This is a Spanish red blend of mostly Tempranillo with Grenache and Mourvedre.

2011 Petit Sirah: This inky black 100% Petit Sirah, from grapes grown in the Gold Hawk Vineyard in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma, is lush with notes of blueberries.

2012 Meritage: This is a French blend of Merlot from the "Rest and Be Thankful" vineyard in Paso Robles, plus Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Burbank vineyard in Paso.

Scosso is the first wine
 Four Brix decided to make.
2013 "Scosso": This is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, and is made from grapes grown in Paso Robles Vineyards.

2013 Cane Amante Block 4: From Cani Amante Vineyard in Ojai, the grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. This wine received 90 points from Wine Spectactor.

An Italian blend of Barbera, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano is being bottled in June.

Rounding out our tasting was a special surprise, the "Porteau" port-style dessert wine made from 100% grenache. This light red, Banyuls-style sweet wine was paired with Pecorino Romano cheese, and was a beautiful way to finish our tasting. It's sweet, but not too sweet, just the way I like it.

Four Brix offers flatbread pizzas in their tasting room, and flights of wine are offered at $12 (the fee is waived with a 2-bottle purchase). Karen Stewart, the only one of the 6 owners who works full time at the winery, runs the tasting room, and Karen's husband Gary is the winemaker.

Visit Four Brix Thursdays through Sundays -- their hours are available on their Web site, www.fourbrixwine.com. The winery also hosts special events and will soon be expanding into another 4,000 square feet of warehouse space. Their wine club, known as "Brix Heads" boasts 500 members.

Until next time,
Cheers!





















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