Oftentimes when I visit a winery, I find that I enjoy meeting the people involved in making the wine just as much as I enjoy the wine itself. Such was the case when I visited Larner Vineyard & Winery in Los Olivos, CA.
I’m fascinated by the winemaking process and am always excited when I get to chat with a winemaker I admire first hand. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I walked into the Larner tasting room on a recent Saturday, only to find that it was empty and that winemaker & vineyard manager Michael Larner was behind the bar pouring.
Michael’s passion for wine is tireless. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, he went on to earn his Master’s in Viticulture & Enology from UC Davis. He then apprenticed in Tuscany and the Rhone Valley, co-founded the Ballard Canyon AVA, was named vice president of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, and began teaching winemaking & wine appreciation classes in Santa Maria. Somehow he and his wife Christina found time to make the first vintage of Larner Wines in 2009 and it’s been a family run operation ever since.
Located in a section of the Los Olivos General Store, the Larner tasting room is tiny and intimate. We walked up to the counter which is just big enough for about two people and Michael poured our first taste – a 2013 Malvasia Bianca.
From that point, we spent over an hour chatting with Michael about everything from vineyard management to the challenges that come with harvest & production to how to market & distribute the final product – particularly if you’re a small artisan winery. Michael is literally hands-on every step of the way in his craft, which made the visit not only enjoyable, but educational as well.
After the Malvasia Bianca, we tasted a 2012 Rose, a 2010 proprietary GSM blend called Elemental, a 2010 Syrah, a 2009 Reserve Syrah, and a 2010 Grenache. Larner specializes in Rhone varietals, all of which were nicely balanced and very food friendly. I particularly liked the ’09 Reserve Syrah and the ’10 Grenache.
If you’re a Rhone lover and you appreciate small production, hand crafted wines, you don’t want to miss Larner Vineyard & Winery.