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Review: General

Presqu'ile Opens Tasting Room

Laurie Jervis, Santa Maria News Times

Presqu’ile Winery, one of the newest to capitalize on the pinot noir and chardonnay for which the Santa Maria Valley is known, opened its first tasting room late last month in Los Olivos.

The Creole term Presqu’ile (press-KEEL) translates as "almost an island," and resonates in the hearts of members of the Murphy family, owners of the Santa Maria Valley vineyard of the same name.

As natives of the Gulf Coast, generations of the Murphy clan gathered on their own presqu’ile until the family’s land was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.

Winery president Matt Murphy, along with his wife, Amanda, and his siblings, Anna and Jonathan, teamed with winemaker Dieter Cronje, and in 2008 produced their first vintage, a sauvignon blanc sourced from other Santa Maria Valley vineyards. But they kept it for friends and family and didn’t release it, Murphy said.

Today, the current sauvignon blanc release is the 2010 vintage, a blend of two vineyards: 78 percent Riverbench and 22 percent White Hills. Of the 200 cases produced, only about 10 cases remained available as of mid-February, Murphy noted.

Case production doubled for the 2011 vintage, which is a 50-50 split of Riverbench and estate grapes and is scheduled for a May release.

"We love this wine with oysters on the half shell, a Christmas tradition in our family," he said. "It’s a great pairing."

The sauvignon blanc is produced "with minimal contact on the skins" before being racked into stainless steel tanks overnight, then divided between steel, neutral French oak and a concrete "egg" for aging on its lees for up to seven months, Murphy noted.

"We get nice aromatics that way," and this wine is a by-the-glass type of wine, a real "people pleaser," he added.

That 2010 sauvignon blanc, as well as the 2009 chardonnay, 2010 rosé and a flight of three 2009 pinot noirs, are available for tasting in the new tasting room at 2369 Alamo Pintado Ave.

The facility, which Murphy said formerly housed an office, is now hip and sleek with dark gray walls and stainless steel barstools and table seating. A room at the rear is designed for special events and will cater to wine club members, he said.

Prequ’ile’s estate vineyards on East Clark Avenue total 72 acres and contain pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah. His family has plans to open an on-site tasting room and winery in time for the 2012 harvest, Murphy said.

Murphy and Cronje, a native of South Africa, together practice a "hands-off" style of winemaking that focuses on use of native yeast and some whole cluster fermentation, as well as mostly neutral French oak.

"We’re trying to build both wines that age well but are also accessible right away," Murphy said.

The new Los Olivos tasting room will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Information:

Freelance writer Laurie Jervis can be reached at Her blog is

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