AWG Correspondent

Core Wine Company Photos

Core Wine Company Review

Regions: Santa Barbara County, California

Reviewed: March 2, 2013 by
Published: March 19, 2013

Often the word "fine" precedes the word "wine" during dinner conversation. I don't know exactly where and when in our history we began associating these words together; but I will say that the most natural word I can come up with in order to describe the wines of Core is exactly this: Fine. The mouthfeel is refined and soothing, the aromas are sophisticated and exuberant, and especially in the blend of the Hard Core, I find myself admiring not the sum of the parts but the quality of the whole. There is undiscovered luxury here.

The Central Coast is home to a little more than 1 million people - that's fairly unpopulated when you consider that 20 million people live in southern California, and that northern California is home to about 14 million people. This stretch between the population centers is home to 100,000 acres of planted vineyards. It's largely rural, with pockets of interesting side trips and a big city about every 3 hours from the next.

If you take Interstate 5, more inland, you choose speed over areas of interest. If you choose U.S. 101, you are destined to pass quickly through Santa Maria and you will miss one of my favorite little wine stops, in Old Orcutt, a small unincorporated portion of Santa Maria that is old anytown, USA. This place could be the next Los Olivos in ten years, or it could be exactly the same... it's that great timeless old American style. Situated among the small family-owned shops here is the Core tasting room. This is a place that people seek will want to do the same.

Core was founded in 2001 by Dave Corey, who has built a reputation on big time Rhone varietals and blends. Corey is an industry veteran, coming up through the vineyards of Cambria and later Kendall-Jackson. He founded Vital Vines in 1999 to provide sustainable agriculture consulting and support to vineyard owners, managers, and winemakers throughout the Santa Barbara AVAs.

I was greeted in the tasting room by his wife, Becky, and their two year old son Kellan, who was the unscheduled entertainment of the visit. I had the bar to myself, but I know this place gets busy later in the day as locals come to enjoy a glass and refill their wine racks with gems. As a family operation, they offer tons of options for you. You'll also be able to meet the family, hear stories, and gain an intimate understanding of the production.

If you like to meet the artist behind the art, this is a great place to do it. My timing was fortuitous, and I was able to see Kellan playing champion level peek-a-boo and sorting dinosaurs while talking to Dada on the phone (Dave was at the winery receiving orders; he expressed his chagrin for missing our tasting).

The bonus here is that the wine rocks. For $10, the tasting will get you five or six pours. I liked every ounce I tried, starting with the 2010 Core Viognier (Vee-OhN-yay): a 100 case batch that showed medium acid, bright minerality, and wild floral notes that I love in central coast Viognier. If you know you're not a "white wine drinker," and you've never had Viognier, I suggest you get a good central coast bottle of this varietal and see if your life changes. This is a good place to get a bottle. On to the reds!

I admit I've cheated and tried the 08 Core Grenache Reserve before this tasting, in fact, it's the hook that got me in the door. This 100% Grenache from the Santa Barbara highlands is ruby red, it offers cherry on the nose, and it folds robust spices like fennel in among the dried cherry palate. With a long creamy finish that opens up late - given time to decant, I'd recommend buying bottles of this vintage to store, as there doesn't appear to be any follow up years of the reserve.

The second red is the exuberant 08 Core Hard Core, a Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet blend that will only get better with more time in the bottle, and more time to decant outside of the bottle. Fruit forward to begin, with obvious rhubarb and red strawberries on the nose, the palate opened up later to show more balance with spices, clove, and some leathery tannins. This blend is better than its price point at around $20, and will be a centerpiece during any meal. I asked for a clean glass going forward so I could let this one open up in its own glass for the remainder of my tasting. Hint: it kept getting better.

Next up we veer away from the Rhone varietals and into the Bordeaux style of Turchi, Core's second label. Leading with the 08 Cabernet from Santa Barbara County gave soft tannins, coffee on the nose, and some fruit forward plum jam on first taste. This is another one that needs some time in a decanter... if you have time, ask them to open it up for you.

The last red is the Kuyam Cuvee Nolan 2007. This blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, and 3% Merlot showed big body, nice tannins, barrel age, and black cherry all the way. Drink this with that prized barbecue brisket or beef bourguignon.

All in all, this is a pleasant small town experience with wine that will leave your palate fulfilled. If you are the wine club type, their 60 Buck Club is a quarterly club that will send you a few bottles from the courageous catalog of the Core family.

This is a short destination away from your stay in Solvang, or on your commute between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. I wouldn't suggest staying in Santa Maria or Old Orcutt if you want any kind of view that does not include suburban sprawl.

Address & Contact Information: 105 W. Clark Ave. Old Orcutt, California 93455. Telephone: 805-937-1600, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Wed, Thurs, Sun, Mon 12:00-6:00, Fri-Sat 12:00-7:00.

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