Andrew Murray Winery & Visitors Center
5249 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos, CA 93441, USA
I had pre-arranged a “Grape to Glass” tour for my husband and I at Andrew Murray on July 17th, 2015. We didn’t get off to a very good start when we found ourselves at the Area 51 Production Warehouse, rather than the actual winery. We were swiftly put right by the friendly vineyard workers moving barrels around with forklifts, and arrived at the winery about 10 minutes late. Our host, Victoria, was charming and didn’t seem too worried about our tardiness.
We began our tour with the 2013 Enchanté; a white blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. Elegant, light and refreshing!
As we walked out to the vineyards, Victoria gave us a brief history of Andrew Murray and the winery.
Andrew has been making wine for 25 years, yet is still only 42 years old. He grew up in Los Angeles and his family moved to Santa Barbara County when he was 18.
Having originally planned to study paleontology, instead he went to France and fell in love with Rhone varietals.
He embarked upon a 3 month internship in Australia, which turned into 11 months, and this is where he made wine for the first time.
On returning to California, Andrew earned his degree from UC Davis and began planting vines in the Foxen Canyon Trail. He has been making wine since 1990.
The land where the vineyards are located is owned by the Firestone family and the winery was originally an art museum. Andrew has taken out a long term lease on the property along with its 200 acres and renovated it. He has planted Grenache Blanc and Roussanne and now has around 50 acres of Rhone varietals including Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre.
Curtis Family was Firestone’s private label and Andrew continues to produce wines under the Curtis label. The winery also oversees production of the Jarhead label wines for Firestone. One dollar from every bottle of Jarhead goes towards the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation which provides assistance to families of fallen marines.
Andrew hosts an annual grape stop every October and the winery is also the location for other social events.
Victoria told us that Andrew is meticulous about everything he does, but is also a very friendly and personable individual. He’s a family man; he and his wife, Kristen, have been married for almost 20 years.
The vineyards have an in-built drip irrigation system which is important due to the ongoing drought conditions in California – so much so that they are self -sufficient until 2017 if there is no rain. Vines are trained on a vertical trellis system with nets below to wrap up the vines to protect them from birds. At harvest-time, grapes are picked between 11pm – 6am when they are the coolest.
Veraison had started during the past week; I have to admit the grapes were looking particularly colourful. Bud break was early this year due to the continuing warm dry climate and harvest is expected to be early again. In 2014, harvest was 6 weeks ahead of 2012 and grapes are becoming increasingly concentrated due to restricted use of water.
Tous les Jours” was being prepared for bottling whilst we were there. This is their everyday Syrah from their vineyards in Paso Robles and Santa Ynez. They produce about 12,000 cases of this per year.
In terms of winemaking, red wines are punched down 3 times a day to break up the cap of skins and pulp which would otherwise rise to the top of the tank. All whites remain in stainless steel.
In the lab, we saw the brand new device which Andrew has recently invested in which can test sugar and acids in seconds. Andrew had been testing wines on his new machine all week.
Andrew is a big fan of screwcaps but also uses Diam corks. Diam corks ensure taint-free wines, but are expensive; more than $1 each.
Andrew tends to make wines which are approachable now but with the ability to age, and the winery produces 20,000 cases per annum.
We headed back to the tasting room to try our second wine, the 2014 Espérance Rosé; 100% Cinsault from the Curtis Estate, made in the Provence style. Grapes are macerated on their skins for 18 hours to give this wine a pale salmon colour. The nose was an explosion of strawberries and the alcohol a deceptive 13.5%. They have more than 2 acres of Cinsault.
We then visited the barrel room which holds approx. 500 barrels. Andrew loves French oak and also utilises the Curtis Winery barrels which came with the property. He prefers oak from Nevers and Troncais with a medium or medium (+) toast. Barrels are used for 10 years and most wines are aged in barrel for about 18 months. Only about 20% new oak is used so that it is not overpowering. The barrels lose about one-third of a bottle every 3 weeks in evaporation.
We were also shown the members lounge and library which houses Andrew’s private collection from France. Simply stunning!
We returned to the tasting room for our final 3 wines.
The 2013 Grenache was made from clone 513 grown in the Curtis Estate. This is the first Estate Grown Grenache they have produced and it was packed full of ripe black fruit and a hint of spice.
The 2013 Roasted Slope; a blend of 92% Syrah and 8% Viognier had a deep black core and a very full body. The grapes were co-fermented similar to the process undertaken in the Northern Rhone appellation of Côte Rôtie – hence the name.
The 2013 Syrah Alisos Vineyard from Santa Barbara County was made with 30% whole clusters and a touch of Viognier. This wine had a beautifully long silky finish.
Victoria told us that she is originally from Los Angeles and moved to Los Alamos just recently. We were surprised to learn that she has only worked at the winery for a few months - you would never know - she’s extremely well versed in the culture already and obviously a huge fan.
We really enjoyed our visit to Andrew Murray and want to thank Victoria for being such a gracious host. The winery is beautiful and the wines even better. If you get the opportunity, I would definitely recommend paying them a visit.
Copyright of suerayuncorked.com - July 2015