Ventura County’s Bud Break and Women in Wine

Lisa Stoll, Gwendolyn Alley, Gretel Compton

After plentiful December rains, followed by unusually dry weather through winter, spring dresses the hillsides of the Santa Clara Valley in orange poppies, purple lupine, yellow mustard, glossy avocado, and green grasses turning golden on sunny slopes. On this early spring morning, I’m headed to Santa Paula’s Clos des Amis South Mountain Winery for a story about Ventura County’s women in wine. So begins my latest cover article for the VC Reporter published in the March 24, 2022 edition and which you can read here. For the story behind the story, and for more fun photos from that day, keep reading!

VC Reporter cover 3/24/22 with Gretel Compton and Lisa Stoll in the Clos des Amis Albarino vineyard; read the story here 

It’s bud break, an especially exciting and vibrant time to visit the vineyards as we embrace a new cycle of life coming out of the dormancy of winter and the labor of pruning the vines. Lots of lovely lupine in bloom too!

Bud break in the Pinot Noir Rattlesnake Vineyard, Clos Des Amis

I invited several Ventura County women in wine to meet up at the Clos des Amis in Santa Paula for a photo shoot and wine tasting. It was pretty last minute, and the winery isn’t the easiest to find or get to so it ended up that only tour guide Lisa Stoll of Explore Wines was able to join Gretel Compton and I. I’ve been featuring Clos des Amis since January 2019 when I first started interning there as a cellar rat, and at the end of each month, I focus on a topic; scroll down for links. 

Explore Wine’s Lisa Stoll drives her new Lincoln Navigator to the Clos des Amis vineyards with winemaker Gretel Compton

I met Lisa many years ago, and during the past few years we’ve gotten together several times to practice tasting wine blind. In 2018 and 2021, Lisa went to France to compete for Team USA in the World Blind Wine Tasting Championship that I competed in in 2019. Hopefully we’ll go to Champagne together to compete in 2022!

Budding out– and Lisa’s Lincoln below

Gretel gave Lisa a quick tour then we jumped into Lisa’s brand new luxury Lincoln Navigator which did great on the narrow wooded road to get to the vineyards surrounded by citrus orchards.  

I took hundreds of photos looking for the right angles and placement — not the easiest under the sunny midday conditions along with the lines from the trellis and getting a good shot of both people!

 

When we returned to the winery, since we had sauvignon blanc from The Ojai Vineyard, Gretel thought we’d like to compare it with the sauvignon blanc from South Mountain so she carefully released some from the bottom of the stainless steel tank.

Gretel Compton

It was fun comparing with the same vintage with The Ojai Vineyard wine as well as comparing vintages. Lisa observed that the Clos des Amis wine reminded her of France’s Sancerre from the Loire, which Gretel said was an astute observation as it’s a French clone (and I think she said Sancerre #242 which is herbal and fruity in comparison to the Davis Clone #1 which is expressive and citrusy). 

I set out a simple picnic lunch of foods that I knew would be good with these white wines including brie, wine country chicken salad, crackers, bread, and truffle potatoes chips.

picnic time!

Former owner Sandy Hedrick, who planted the original vines and had the vision of vineyards here, joined us. Later, Sue and I tasted through the wines to take notes and pair them. All in all a lovely day! 

Note: In this article in the VC Reporter you’ll find details from interviews with Chris Brown of Cantara, Gretel Compton of Clos des Amis, and Sheila Donohue of VeroVino.

picnic time at Clos des Amis

WINES: in tasting order

  • 2021 Clos des Amis Albariño South Mountain Vineyard, Ventura County
  • 2021 The Ojai Vineyard McGinley Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
  • 2020 The Ojai Vineyard Presqu’ile Vineyard, Santa Barbara County
  • 2018 Vigna Petrussa “Richenza,” Friuli 
  • 2016 Clos des Amis Chardonnay Olivelands Vineyard, Ventura County 

dinner menu

MENU

  • Cheese Plate:
    Triple cream brie, organic goat cheese, green olives, fresh berries, raisin crackers, organic baguette
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp Bisque (made with local ridgeback prawns)
  • Brie and asparagus tart
  • Crab cakes with capers aioli over fresh greens
  • Fresh berry galette

Clos des Amis Albarino with Albarino bud break

2021 Clos des Amis Albariño South Mountain Vineyard, Ventura County

ABV: 14%
Grapes: Albariño
SRP:
Distributed by Verovino  
Sample for my review 

Color: Almost platinum, very pale, more golden than lemon, unfiltered, a bit cloudy, 

Aroma: Banana, lemon, white stone fruit, kiwi, 

Palate: Dry tart, white stone fruit, lemon, sea grass, very mouthwatering, kiwi (not very ripe kiwi)

Pairing: With food on the palate, the wine takes on a creamy citrus flavor. It was fantastic with our bisque. The cream and the seafood highlighted the wine nicely. So good with the crab cakes. While it would have been nice with a crab cake on it’s own, it was the aioli that brought the wine and the cake together so nicely. Very nice with the asparagus brie tart.

Read more about the potential of albarino including  planting, pruning, and bottling here. 

Three The Ojai Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Barbara County

2021 The Ojai Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, McGinley Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

ABV: 13.0%
Grapes:  Sauvignon Blanc
SRP NOT RELEASED (yet)
Sample for my review 

Color: Very pale yellow, 

Aroma: Banana, grass, lemon, peach, citrus, citrus blossom

Palate: Clean, lots of tart lemon, salinity, wet slate, peach, stone fruit, white peach, yellow peach, fresh unripe banana. 

Pairing: This is a go to oyster pairing wine. The oysters are very sweet and brings out the lemon in the wine. Fantastic with goat cheese on top of a rosemary raisin cracker. The crab cake is nice, but the aioli brings the entire meal together. Great with the asparagus on our tart. 

2020 The Ojai Vineyard Presqu’ile Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

2020 The Ojai Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Presqu’ile Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

Organic

ABV: 13.5%
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc
SRP $34
Sample for my review 

Color: Yellow, very pale and light in color

Aroma: Jalapeno pepper, lemon, pico de Gallo, very savory, lemon, lime, cilantro, for Sue it smelled like tomatillo salsa. 

Palate: Jalapeno, with tomato on the finish, both of us just loved this wine. It is a very interesting and unique Sauvignon Blanc. 

Pairing: With our Kumamoto oysters, the flavor of the oyster is quite melon and carries on and on, lingering in the palate. Oh so fabulous with our crab cakes the aioli brought together the food and the wine perfectly. Very nice with a little goat cheese on a rosemary raisin cracker. The asparagus tart actuates the jalapeno characteristics in the wine. 

2018 Vigna Petrussa “Richenza,” Friuli

2018 Vigna Petrussa “Richenza,” Friuli 

ABV: 14%
Grapes: blend of friulano, picolit, riesling renano, Malvasia
SRP $32
Imported by VeroVino 
Sample for my review 

Color: Golden yellow, daffodil, buttercup

Aroma: Marmalade, tuberose, minerals, mulling spice with orange rind, thyme, lemon thyme. With food on your palate other aromas are available. Sweet florals

Palate: Clean, bright, acidic, herbal, lemon, castrivino olives, lemon peel, sea salt, very long lingering finish, rose petals. 

Pairing: The bisque and the wine elevate each other so much, the wine becomes sweet and floral, tuberose on the palate. Nice with the crab cakes, the aioli brings both the dish and the wine together so nicely. Our favorite was the asparagus brie tart and the wine. So fantastic with the dessert.

There is bee pollen and honeysuckle nectar that becomes present in the wine and marries perfectly with the tart lemony fruit in the galette.  

Stay tuned for more about this Slow Wine award winning winery! 

Clos des Amis Chardonnay

2016 Clos des Amis Chardonnay Olivelands Vineyard, Ventura County 

ABV: 13.3%
Grapes: Chardonnay
SRP $18
Sample for my review 

Color: Golden, golden yellow, buttercup

Aroma: Right off the bat, beautiful butterscotch, homemade sea salted caramel, apple, caramel apple, hint of paprika.

Palate: Bone dry, nice roundness on the palate, lemon curd, chaparral finish. 

Pairing: Our triple cream brie was so ripe and creamy that it went perfectly with the wine. Fantastic with our crab and shrimp bisque, the wine loves the cream and seafood flavors in the soup. Fabulous with the rich creamy brie and asparagus puff pastry. Nice with the crab cake, over the top with the aioli loving the citrusy tartness of the dish to bring out lovely fruit in the wine. While this wine went well with every aspect of the meal. It did not like the dessert. It was okay with the crust, but it did not hit it off with the rest of the dessert. 

 

RESOURCES

Chris Brown and her son Jesse in the Cantara tasting room

Cantara Cellars: Chris Brown
https://cantaracellars.com
(805) 484-9600
126 Wood Rd # 104, Camarillo, CA 93010
Read about Cantara’s Chardonnay here.
Read my interview from a few years ago with co-owner Chris Brown here.
PS On many Saturdays you’ll find my writing partner, chef, and scribe, Sue Hill working there! 

Gretel Compton

Clos des Amis: Gretel Compton
https://closdesamis.com
(805) 795-7743
Thursday and Saturday Tastings By Appointment Only
20262 South Mountain Rd., Santa Paula, CA 93060
3-7pm Friday
Santa Paula Certified Farmers Market 

Lisa Stoll

Explore Wines with Lisa Stoll, WSET 3
https://explorewines.com
(805) 364-2397

Sainte Helene

The Ojai Vineyard: Helen Tolmach, Leah Coles
https://ojaivineyard.com
(805) 649-1674
109 S Montgomery St, Ojai, CA 93023

Co-Owner / Chef Kelly Briglio and Co-Owner / Wine Curator Tina Thayer (photo courtesy Paradise Pantry)

Paradise Pantry: Kelly and Tina 
https://www.paradisepantry.com
(805) 641-9440
222 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001

Sheila Donahue in her Ventura warehouse

VeroVino: Sheila Donohue, Hilde Petrussa, Francesca Petrussa
https://www.verovinogusto.com
+1 805 535 4027

Hilde Petrussa and Francesca at Aviation museum fundraiser Camarillo June 2019

Read about 2021 in review here: Veni Vidi Vici? Veni Vidi Vixi? Viti Vini? Ventura County Vineyards 2021 and My Year in Review

Here’s a snapshot of 2020 in Ventura County vineyards:

Here are the articles I wrote in 2019, my first year at Clos Des Amis: 

World Class Tasters: Lisa Stoll, Gretel Compton, Gwendolyn Alley, Sue Hill

PS Where do you want to travel?! 

Please take this survey to help me decide which travel tours (domestic and abroad, wine, writing, walking, or other topics) might interest YOU and others! 
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