Finding that tasting room that counts

Birichino’s John Locke pulls some bottles for a tasting.

I first encountered Birichino wines through Gus’ wine selection and Local Cellar which are both great for finding gems in small production Californian wine makers. One thing led to another and I started following Birichino on Instagram which is spare but actually performed the role that I want out of social media for this sort of thing, it gave me a better sense of what they’re up to while actually telling me useful information viz that their tasting room just opened in Santa Cruz. High signal, no noise.

So I dragged my family there on this weekend’s visit. We were racing to beat the Santa Cruz traffic back to Monterey so the thought was, ‘a quick visit and out the door,’ which instantly vaporized once we walked into the beautiful tasting room and started chatting with John Locke, one of their wine makers. Hours later we dutifully inserted ourselves into the traffic and happily dealt with it, the glow from the tasting was more than enough to help us cope with the frustrations of that drive.

So well appointed that you’ll just want to lounge for a while.

Just go to the tasting room for the design sensibility. I’d like to make it my new reading room then conduct mezcal tastings and dinner parties. It should be a social hub with a bed in back so that I don’t have to drive home at the end of the night. Then stay for the wine to appreciate what individuality can do for grapes in California. I know Jon Bonne has been beating this drum for some time but we appear to be reaching a nice new normal where the baseline is anything but average.

The tasting flight du jour.

Birichino’s wines are all full of individual personality. The little flight this past weekend started with their pet nat malvasia which gives you a sense of what the grape can do and makes you instantly relax like a glass of sparkler should. Appreciate it on so many levels without the fuss because it’s both simple fun and worthy of a second look. Then there are the other whites like their Chenin Blanc which changes radically over vintages revealing all sorts of variables; the 2014 is lean and restrained, the 2015 voluptuous. And then there’s the red line up that features all sorts of Rhone varietals like a Cinsault from, in the California context, truly ancient vines from Lodi. Their lean Grenache and a really ephemeral Mourvedre which are all well worth tasting and bringing home. Our informal tasting panel agreed that these are all nuanced enough to be enjoyed alone but sculpted to be enjoyed along food which we’ve been doing for the remainder of the weekend.


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