Being a California native, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, and a regular ground-stomper of Monterey County, I’m amazed I’m only now learning about Big Sur Vineyards. But, to be fair, though the winery takes the name of a famous stretch of California coast, it’s a boutique, family-run operation.

Husband and wife duo Lenora Carey and Richard Gebhardt moved to the area back in 1983 becoming purveyors of lavender, olive and citrus trees, crafting essential oils and soaps in addition to selling their fresh produce. But it wasn’t long until they became enthused about what kind of grape varieties grew well in the area. Lovers of Rhone varietals, they picked and pressed the grapes of neighbors for many years — namely Grenache, Syrah, and Petit Sirah. And so it was, when they blended these three together, the “Big Sur Red” was born.

As of 2011 the family works with winemaker Ryan Kobza (who also owns and makes wine under his own label, Kobza Wines), whose helped the family expand their portfolio to include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in addition to their favored Rhone classics. In 2013 Big Sur Vineyards celebrated their first “official” vintage under the label, and today you can visit, taste, and enjoy a whole slue of events at the Big Sur Vineyards tasting room in Carmel Valley.

About the Wine: The Big Sur Vineyards 2014 Big Sur Red Wine is a blend of  Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah harvested from the Sycamore Flats Vineyard in Monterey County’s Arroyo Secco AVA.

14.2% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Big Sur Vineyards 2014 Big Sur Red Wine and it exudes immediate aromas of dark jam, redwood forest, and the “stink” of red meat. This GSP is an aged shade of purple-meets-red-brown, settling into the glass with a jewel-like iridescence, though the color is still very much maroon.

Initial aromas are of chocolate, mint, cedar wood, basil, black cherry, with a thin line of acidity that penetrates the nostrils. Swirl, and this Rhone-style wine releases lighter fruit notes like raspberry, and a wet river rock minerality.

With the first sip, the primary reaction may be that this wine is quite light. But as soon as that thought comes, it goes, as the textural tannins kick in and coat the tongue completely. Dominant flavors are of strawberry, black cherry, eucalyptus leaves, and dried tree bark. Indeed, this wine is full on, with a finish that continues to pack the punch in both flavors and textures. What else does one expect from the cool climate Monterey?

Food Pairing: This wine loves gamey meats — I’m talking the juicy, but thready-textured duck breast complete with crispy skin. The natural juices and fats, along with its funky flavors, will do well to contrast the tannin-happy wine. Enjoy the bird alongside some roasted heirloom potatoes, whose natural soft, butter-like taste and texture will round out the palate and bring forth more of those fruity elements in contrast to the root-vegetable’s innate earthiness. And, if you please, sprinkle those potatoes with a creamy, crumbly blue cheese — trust me, you’ll enjoy the extra stink.

More Info: I received the Big Sur Vineyards 2014 Big Sur Red Wine as a gift from a friend. (Cheers Kerry!) Retail: $26. For more information about Big Sur Vineyards, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Big Sur Vineyards website.

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