Workman/Ayer is the story of a couple who shares a passion for California Central Coast vines and wines. They’re an extremely boutique operation, with just 100 – 200 cases each of their current releases (which at the moment consists of one white and one red wine). So when Michel Ayer kindly sent me a bottle of each, I was eager to learn a bit more about the man and woman behind the  bottle — and honored to taste what was inside.

About the Wine:

Michel Ayer entered the wine industry straight out of college, immediately securing a job at the famed Robert Mondavi Winery. There he met his wife, Stacy Workman (Ayer) who comes from a family of wine professionals: her father worked at Robert Mondavi since 1974, and her uncle since 1975 (and is the currently General Manager).

Though neither stayed at Robert Mondavi for long, they continued to pursue their careers in wine, she at Far Niente, and he for

The Workman/Ayer 2013 “De Facto” name is a nod to Michel’s current career as a lawyer. De facto is a legal term meaning “In fact, in deed, actually.”

The Workman/Ayer 2013 De Facto red wine is a Rhone-style blend that’s not quite a GSM, comprised of 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre. Workman/Ayer sources most of their fruit from various vineyards along the California’s Central Coast. For this blend, 30% of the Syrah is from Los Alamos, 25% from Ballard Canyon, and 25% from Santa Ynez Valley. All of the Grenache and Mourvèdre was harvested from Los Alamos.

The final blend was aged for 20 months in new French oak (40% new).

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: When the cork pops out, there’s a subtle scent that wafts out of the bottle of plump round fruits with a bit of smoke — just enough to entice and intrigue. In the glass, the Workman/Ayer De Facto red wine is an opaque rusty rouge with hints of purple and a pink perimeter. The initial aromas are of red and purple fruits, along with a distinct floral aroma reminiscent of baby violets and lilacs sprouting in a field of wet grass. Swirl and sniff a bit deeper and there’s a definite background of white pepper, and an almost perfume-y smoke, like tobacco.

For all the fruit and floral elements on the nose, the wine is actually quite earthy on the palate — it’s dark, dirty, with flavors of burnt mocha, tree bark, with a background of roasted nuts. And yet, there’s still that perfume-y quality, and that combined with that burnt earthiness makes the wine drink like a fine cigar that’s just run through to the butt.

The finish — oh the finish — it leaves a bit of heat o’ the tongue. It’s a heat that’s spice-ful (as opposed to full-on spice-y). The wine leaves a tingle, nay, a warmth that takes over the roof of the mouth, the tongue, the cheeks, and the gums surrounding your teeth.

The tannins here are medium throughout, moving to a medium-plus level towards the finish. It’s a low acid wine through and through, but has enough to keep the wine balanced from start to finish. The overall mouthfeel is a pleasant, steady, and solid one.

Food Pairing: I paired the Workman/Ayer 2013 De Facto red wine with a grilled filet mignon and an herb-based salad topped with mandarin oranges, fennel, and a sprinkle of blue cheese. Loved this pairing. The spices and the warmth of the wine did well to cut through the creaminess and funk of the blue cheese as well as the sweetness of the fruit. Meanwhile that tobacco-cigar essence in the wine perfectly paralleled the crusty grill of the steak.

More Info: I received the Workman/Ayer 2013 De Facto red wine as a sample for review. (Cheers Michel!) Retail Price: $38. For more information about Workman/Ayer, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Workman/Ayer website.

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