By Brandy Falconer, Brand Manager for Big Sur Vineyards

Monterey County’s Big Sur Vineyards can be called bold, but considering owner Lenora Carey, that’s not just referring to the wines. Recently she held a daring wine tasting at which guests tasted her wines alongside the French Rhône counterparts that inspired them. The fruit for their wines is sourced from sustainable vineyards in the county, including the Arroyo Seco and Chalone AVAs. 1,000 cases are produced annually, with some single-barrel limited release specialties, like the 2015 Syrah, a wine too good to blend.

Lenora’s inspiration for the winery came during her previous career as a documentary filmmaker for National Geographic, Nature, Nova and the BBC. A film project about wine barrel making took her to the Rhône Valley in Southeastern France. When she decided to leave that career and the city to raise her children in rural Monterey County, she didn’t realize that the varieties she had come to love grow particularly well in this area.

 Lenora and Winemaker Ryan Kobza on location at Sycamore Flat, Arroyo Seco.

Lenora and Winemaker Ryan Kobza on location at Sycamore Flat, Arroyo Seco.

 Big Sur Vineyards holds its first Wine Education event.

Big Sur Vineyards holds its first Wine Education event.

Rhône inspired

The Rhône Tasting event included three flights that paired each Big Sur wine next to its Rhône equivalent. It was truly a tasting event and not just a sip-and-chat. Kerry Winslow, wine writer and Big Sur Vineyards’ Wine Educator, offered details on terroir, climate and winemaking styles, which allowed guests to better understand what the same varietal can produce in different locations, and from different winemakers.

Looking forward

Lenora’s courage to hold such a bold tasting may have come from lessons she learned after the 2016 Soberanes Fire that burned for months and scorched over 130,000 acres in Big Sur, including everything on their property: the vineyards, olive trees, lavender fields, and family home. One thing not taken away by the fire was her dreams. Lenora is fearlessly forging ahead, taking inspiration from the animal that graces her Big Sur Red label, the California Condor. Close to extinction in the 1980s, this iconic bird is now making a strong comeback, something Lenora sees on her horizon as well.