Michael Perlis discovers: Cypher Winery

It’s getting a little confusing in Paso Robles. When I tell people we are going to Cypher Winery, I get blank stares until I tell them it used to be Four Vines. Then everyone nods.

Four Vines always kind of seemed to me like two wineries anyway. First, there were the Four Vines wines, very good well priced Zinfandels, Syrahs and of course the Naked Chardonnay. But, much as I enjoyed these wines, they weren’t the reason I was in the wine club [known as the Four Vines Incident]. I was in it for the so-called Freakshow wines, awesome hedonistic Rhone-inspired blends, as well as Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Tempranillo, with names like Anarchy, Loco, Peasant, Phoenix, Monarchy, Cypher and ZinBitch.

So, I wasn’t too surprised that the Four Vines label was sold and the Freakshow wines [and Paso Robles tasting room] would go on under the name Cypher Winery. I was also excited to hear that they were going to be replacing the Four Vines wines with additional premium bottlings of Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah and other varietals as well.

Upon entering the Cypher tasting room, the first thing I notice are the amazing red glass chandeliers. Then, I asked to see Nicole, as we had scheduled the barrel tasting experience for our group of friends. Nicole allowed us to whet our palates with a taste of the Naked Chardonnay, then herded us through a side door into a darkened room with another red chandelier hanging from the ceiling. As our eyes adjusted to the reduced lighting, we saw that there were three piles of barrels in the room, and our experience began.

Each pile of barrels represented a different varietal – Zinfandel [from the Dusi vineyard], Syrah and Mourvedre. The barrels themselves were examples of barrels sourced from different parts of the world – France, Hungary and America. We got to sample wines from all the barrels, getting to compare how the different barrels impact the wine. Then, we got to try our hand at blending the three varietals together, getting to make the decisions of which barrels to use for each varietal. This definitely created a lot of conversation and sharing within the group. And in case you think this is an odd combination, this is what Cypher’s Anarchy consists of, which is often my favorite wine of the lineup, depending on what day of the week it is.

We finally finished the barrel tasting experience and strolled back to the bar in the tasting room to taste some of the latest releases:
Anarchy [as mentioned above, a blend of Zinfandel, Mourvedre, and Syrah].
Heretic [Petite Sirah].
Peasant [Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, Counoise, and Tannat].
Loco [Tempranillo].
Monarchy [Petite Verdot, Malbec, and Tempranillo].
Phoenix [Syrah].

I enjoyed all the wines, but that day I was especially fond of the Phoenix, so I purchased a 3-pack of it.

I’m looking forward to what the future holds for Cypher.


Michael Perlis provides outsourced controller services to businesses that do not need a full-time controller. He balances this with his interest in wine: reading and writing about it and, of course, drinking it. He is still trying to figure out how to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at mcpfinancial@aol.com or michaelthezinfan@aol.com.  “It is common practice for wine industry workers, wine writers and winery club members [and members of their party] to receive complimentary tastings and discounted purchases. Unless it is otherwise noted, it should be presumed that this is the case.”


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