Our wine journey would probably have been a lot different if we hadn’t wandered into a certain modest storefront winery tasting room in downtown Los Olivos back in the mid-1990s. Yes, we had already discovered California Rhone wines with a bottle of Le Cigare Volant from Bonny Doon Vineyards that we had purchased at a wine store in Glendale CA, but finding an easily accessible tasting room for a winery that was 100% devoted to Rhone varietals was an eye-opening and palate-gratifying experience. The wines from Andrew Murray Vineyards were delicious and they sent us down the Cal-Rhone rabbit hole and we haven’t looked back.
Andrew initially made his wines at – and sourced much of his grape supply from – the property owned by his parents in the Santa Ynez Valley. That property was sold in 2005 and Andrew spent several years making his wine at different sites while expanding his sources of grapes. Finally, in 2014, he took over the old Curtis Winery and Vineyard property, establishing not only a well-deserved permanent home for this star in the Cal-Rhone firmament, but also creating a wonderful place for wine lovers to visit – which we did and this is what we tasted…
2021 Viognier – 100% Viognier, a blend of two different vineyards – White Hawk near Los Alamos and a vineyard owned by AMV in the Santa Maria Valley. Aged in neutral oak. Peach, floral notes. Very zesty and lively. Nice long mouth feel.
2020 Esperance Rose – Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Curtis Vineyard. 97% Cinsault, 3% Grenache. Stainless steel, very light skin contact. Floral, rose flower and a touch of tomato notes. Soft and easy on the palate.
2020 Esperance Estate GSM – Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Curtis Vineyard. 65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre. Ripe berry, followed by stone fruit with soft spice notes.
2020 Estate Grenache – Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Curtis Vineyard. 100% Grenache. 15% whole cluster fermentation for added complexity. This was a warm year, resulting in fruit forward, very aromatic wine. Plush berry, balanced tannins with a medium body.
2020 Estate Mourvedre – Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Curtis Vineyard. 100% Mourvedre. Last fruit picked, mid to late November. Dropped fruit for better, more intense wine. Herbal, leathery notes, more weight than usual. Very meaty long finish.
2020 Estate Syrah – Santa Ynez Valley AVA. This 100% Syrah saw almost 30% new oak. Fruit forward, lots of spice. Cozy feeling, “Hugs in a bottle”, smoke and bacon notes. Very long finish, big mouth feel.
2020 Watch Hill Syrah – Alisos Canyon AVA near Los Alamos area. 94% Syrah, 6% Viognier. 25% whole cluster. From the cooler hillside. Deep, inky purple. Savory and fruity bite and finish. Always a classic.
2020 Etranger Estate – Santa Ynez Valley AVA. 60% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah. Inky, purplish grey in color. Massive body with chocolate, coffee notes and blue fruit notes. Added color and weight from the Petite.
2019 Brazen Estate – Santa Ynez Valley AVA, 70% Syrah, 30% Petite Sirah. Only 45 cases (2 barrels) this wine spent two years in barrel and another in bottle before release. Ripe plum fruit with hints of licorice and espresso notes.
From one wine to the next, it was evident that Andrew hasn’t lost his touch.
We got to spend a little time with Andrew discussing the AMV wines, as well as what happens to the non-Rhone grapes that are grown on the 150 acres that are farmed by Andrew and his team – some go into their E11EVEN label [which has now taken over that Los Olivos tasting room] and others go to other wineries, including some big producers like Sutter Home and Joel Gott. We hadn’t seen him in some time and it was nice to catch up. With his and wife Kristen’s kids pretty much grown he still manages to look about the same as we recall from over 25 years ago – winemaking must agree with him. His wines will attest to that.
Andrew Murray Vineyards
5249 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos, CA 93441
Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.