Cocktail Corner: Wine World News & Happenings

Presqu’ile Winery scores big in National Tasting Room Rankings, releases Rescue Wine Collection; The Pillars Wines showcase Bien Nacido Estate; Brick Barn Wine Estate Scores Big in Competition; Guarachi Wine Partners Acquires Parker Station; Cambria Estate Winery joins Stewards of the Land with Leonardo DiCaprio

Presqu’ile Tasting Room, photo by Avis Mandel.

Presqu’ile Tasting Room, photo by Avis Mandel.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Presqu’ile Winery Rates #2 in USA Today’s 10 Best Tasting Rooms in the U.S.

Presqu’ile, the Murphy Family’s contemporary estate winery in the hills of Santa Maria, placed second in USA TODAY’s 2018 National Readers Poll of 10 Best Tasting Rooms across the United States, serving as the only representative and entry from Santa Barbara County.

“Our mission at the Presqu’ile tasting room is to share our passion for the wines from Santa Maria Valley and our estate vineyard in a relaxed, elegant setting while providing world-class hospitality,” states Matt Murphy, co-founder and president. “The nomination for the top 10 Best Tasting Rooms and second place finish in the poll is a testament to the hard work our team puts in daily to deliver this experience. They are an extension of our family and do an incredible job living up to our high expectations for the guest experience at Presqu’ile. A huge thanks to our friends and extended family who voted for us; we are so appreciative of the support.”

Nominees for USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards categories are chosen by a panel of relevant experts. Presqu’ile (pronounced press-KEEL) is a small, family-run winery dedicated to making exceptional cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Presqu’ile is a multigenerational collaboration between Madison and Suzanne Murphy, their three adult children, Matt, Anna and Jonathan, and their daughters-in-law, Amanda and Lindsey. No strangers to agriculture, four generations of the wine-loving Murphy family have been farming land in Louisiana for almost a century. Led by eldest son Matt Murphy, the family founded Presqu’ile—the Creole word for “almost an island”—both as a tribute to a beloved Gulf Coast family gathering place that was lost in Hurricane Katrina, and because they envisioned Presqu’ile as an island-like haven amid the vines. Also on the team is rising star winemaker Dieter Cronje.

Left: Murphy family members Charlie, Anna, Matt, Pokey, Suzanne and Madison; right: Assistant Winemaker Mike Chase with Gus and Nyla. Photo courtesy of Presqu’ile.

Left: Murphy family members Charlie, Anna, Matt, Pokey, Suzanne and Madison; right: Assistant Winemaker Mike Chase with Gus and Nyla. Photo courtesy of Presqu’ile.

Rescue Wine Collection

Presqu’ile also recently joined forces with the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society to release the Rescue Wine Collection named for the winning dog and cat of the Presqui’le Spokesdog and Spokescat Contest honoring the second annual Presqu’ile 5K9 Run & Walk held this fall. The contest and event benefited the work of the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society.

The Miller Family Releases of The Pillars Wines, Historically Inspired to Represent the Foundation of the Bien Nacido Estate
Nicholas Miller, Stephen Miller and Marshall Miller, proprietors of the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates. Courtesy photo.

Nicholas Miller, Stephen Miller and Marshall Miller, proprietors of the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates. Courtesy photo.

The Miller family, owners and stewards of the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates, recently announced the release of The Pillars, a selection of three historically inspired wines from the most exceptional parcels within Bien Nacido Vineyard.

Since Bien Nacido Vineyard’s inception in 1973, the most impressive parcels of the vineyard have commanded the highest demand and demonstrated the greatest quality. It’s with this understanding that, after 45 years, the Miller Family has decided to craft these three special wines, anchored in the rich history of Bien Nacido and appropriately called the Pillars to represent the foundation of the winemaking program. 

 “The Pillars Wines were created to honor our family’s history, leadership and vision for growing the world’s best grapes and producing the highest quality wines from the Bien Nacido Estate,” shares Nicholas Miller, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “The name was really inspired by the pillars of our family.”

Bien Nacido & Solomon Hills Estates are part of The Thornhill Companies, the industry-leading umbrella brand owned by the Miller Family—one of California’s premier winegrowing families who have been farming California’s Central Coast for five generations. In addition to the Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Estates, The Thornhill Companies includes such well-respected brands as J. Wilkes, Ballard Lane, Smashberry and Barrel Burner wines, French Camp vineyard in Paso Robles and the custom crush facilities Central Coast Wine Services and Paso Robles Wine Services.

Brick Barn Wine Estate Scores Big in Competition
Brick Barn Wine Estate Winery, courtesy photo.

Brick Barn Wine Estate Winery, courtesy photo.

The Brick Barn Estate Winery & Vineyard recently won some awards at 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge and the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition. Here’s a round-up of the award-winning wines:

2016 Albariño: Block 1 / Albariño Clone 1 / 1.9 acres. A lively rendition of this classic Spanish variety. Bright white flower aromatics build in the glass, leading to a crisp and direct core of exotic citrus and pear. These qualities are enhanced with extended skin contact, light pressing and extended cold settling prior to fermentation and aging in stainless steel.  2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge:  Best in Class, Best in Show, Best White, Double Gold and Best of the Central Coast.2018 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition: Double Gold.

2016 Vermentino: Block 7 / Vermentino Clone Tablas A / 2.1 acres. An aromatic white that offers both crispness and length. Grown in a wind-protected block behind the winery, this wine shows delicate floral notes of peach and honeysuckle followed by vibrant white fruit flavors—all layered over a fresh sea breeze salinity and a lasting, stony finish. 2018 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition: Sweepstakes Winner White Wines.

2017 Grenache Rosé: Block 2 / Grenache Blanc Clone 141 / 3.28 acres Alive with a vibrant fragrance of rose petal and chalk followed by a juicy core of fruit and beach stones. This wine is whole cluster pressed, settled and co-fermented with Grenache Clone 136, Grenache Clone 513 and Grenache Blanc. 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge: Silver Medal.

2016 Chardonnay: Block 5 / Chardonnay Clone 4 / 5.04 acres Block 6 / Chardonnay Clone 809 / 2.96 acres. A focused, terroir-driven  Chardonnay. Bright and alluring tones of citrus and pear are driven by a crisp mineral structure derived from the alluvial sands of our estate’s lower blocks. 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge: Gold Medal.

2016 Cabernet Franc: Block 18 / Cabernet Franc Clone 332 / 2.64 acres. Grown in the upper blocks of our estate vineyard, this wine derives power and finesse from an east-west row orientation along a rocky, hillside terrain. Deep red fruit and spicy aromatics lead to flavors of currant, pepper and dark cherry, all supported by firm, structured tannins. 2018 Sonoma County Harvest Challenge: Gold Medal

The 35-acre Brick Barn estate vineyard, which opened its Buellton tasting room in 2018, is open to the pubic daily. For more information, visit

Guarachi Wine Partners Acquires Parker Station from Fess Parker Winery
Parker Station Wine, courtesy photo.

Parker Station Wine, courtesy photo.

Guarachi Wine Partners  and Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard recently announced Guarachi Wine Partners’ acquisition of Parker Station, a Central Coast Pinot Noir brand. Guarachi Wine Partners will be representing and supporting the brand by leveraging its experienced sales team, developing marketing campaigns and national distribution to grow brand awareness and overall volume. The wine will continue to be produced by Fess Parker Winery for a period of five years.

“Ten years ago, I saw an opportunity to expand past South American wines and into California produced wines. Our domestic portfolio now features Guarachi Family Wines  —a high-end luxury label sourced from micro lots within Estate vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, and a gathering of high quality wine brands at reasonable prices including Black Ink,  tenshǝn,  Surf/Swim  and  BACON,” says Alex Guarachi, founder of Guarachi Wine Partners and owner of Guarachi Family Wines. “Parker Station is the perfect addition and fits a niche for our portfolio with its great price point Pinot Noir and drinkability that consumers are looking for. Part of the future plan for the brand is to extend the line to include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. I’m excited to share this wine with everyone and looking forward to a long term partnership with Fess Parker.”

Tim Snider, President of Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard, adds, “As we enter our 30th year as a family owned and operated winery here in Santa Barbara County, we feel a return to our core identity by focusing on our higher-end and single-vineyard wines is the best path forward for the family.” Snider continues, “Connecting with Alex Guarachi about his vision to grow the Parker Station label is a mutually beneficial opportunity, and we know the brand will continue to flourish as part of their portfolio, which represents the richness and diversity of the global wine world.”

Cambria Estate Winery Partners with Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation for “Stewards of the Land” Grant Program 
Courtesy Cambria Estate Winery.

Courtesy Cambria Estate Winery.

Cambria Estate Winery recently announced the launch of its “Stewards of the Land” environmental sustainability grant program in partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF). LDF has worked on environmental issues globally for the past 20 years and pulled from their broad network of leaders and organizations in the space to nominate the women for this new grant program.

The Cambria “Stewards of the Land” grant program identifies and empowers female leaders who are making meaningful contributions to environmental and community-based causes.  In partnership with LDF, Cambria Estate Winery’s co-proprietors Julia Jackson and Katie Jackson selected two recipients who will each receive a $25,000 grant to further their mission as Stewards of the Land.  The inaugural grant recipients, Calla Rose Ostrander and the Women’s Empowerment Program of Amazon Frontlines, were selected for their demonstrated commitment to environmental conservation and excellent stewardship of our natural resources, in California and around the globe, respectively.

“Our ‘Stewards of the Land’ program is not only focused on identifying inspiring female leaders in important environmental causes here at home, but the program seeks to extend its impact and reach to places around the globe that are not normally in our day-to-day conscience, like the Amazon,” says Julia Jackson, co-proprietor of Cambria and Family Ambassador for Jackson Family Wines. “We’re very excited to support Calla Rose Ostrander’s work to improve carbon capture and regeneration, and the Women’s Empowerment Program of Amazon Frontlines for its dedication to protecting over five million acres of rainforest that is vital to worldwide oxygen supply and sequesters vast amounts of carbon.”   

“We are excited to use our vast network of environmental change makers to help Cambria Estate Winery identify and champion women who are leading impactful efforts to protect the health of our planet,” says LDF Executive Director Justin Winters. “The inaugural grant recipients, Calla Rose Ostrander and the women from the Women’s Empowerment Program of Amazon Frontlines, are incredible examples of the type of thoughtful, innovative and collaborative leadership that we believe is the key to ensuring a vibrant our future.”

“We are proud to partner with LDF to help bring worldwide attention to environmental stewardship,” says Katie Jackson, co-proprietor of Cambria Estate Winery and Vice President of Sustainability and External Affairs for Jackson Family Wines. “We are supporting innovative initiatives that will have a real, lasting impact on improving soil health, while also empowering women to become environmental leaders in their own communities.”

Throughout its history, Cambria Estate Winery has taken serious, continuous steps to preserve and protect the land, take care of its employees, and support the local community.  Every aspect of the winery’s operations, from the cellar to the estate vineyard, practices sustainable farming and winemaking techniques. For more information, visit 

 Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 14, 2018.