Travieso Winery was started by two science guys. Ray Sliter, the wine maker, is still a practicing geologist with the USGS. Mats Hagstrom, the visonary, is still a medical doctor. In 1999, Mats was treating a patient, who happened to own a vineyard, and who told Mats he could have his grapes so they wouldn't go to waste. That's how Travieso began making wine from the famous Louvau vineyards in Dry Creek Valley.
At first they started making their wine at home, then eventually bought a small warehouse in Campbell. One thing led to another. In 2005 they became fully bonded as Travieso Winery. Their wine making philosophy is to keep tight control over the grapes in the vineyard by purchasing only by the acre. Maintaining a close working relationship with the grower is key and one advantage a small producer has over a large producer. Large grape producers are unionized and have to schedule key vineyard management tasks months in advance; they've lost the flexibility of a small producer. None of Travieso's vineyards use pesticides; although they aren't certified organic. The fruit is harvested for flavor rather than grape chemistry and with long hang time when possible. To quote Ray, "We have seen others try to make French wine in CA, but we want to make California wine in CA".
The most minimal sulfite amounts possible are added during crush, often times no sulfites at all. Many of the fermentations happen without cultured yeast; that is, with wild yeast. Ferment times range from 7 to 18 days, then they usually let the must rest for additional skin contact before pressing. The wine is pressed into about 30 percent new French oak and aged on the lees at least a year, sometimes two. The standard aging regiment is 24 months but some of the wine is held back an additional year for the 36 month "extended barrel aging" program. After that, no fining or filtering. The result is a "Natural Wine".
The 2009 bottling was without "capsules", those foil wrappers that usually cover the cork, an effort to use less and move to being more "green". The cellar (warehouse) itself has no heat or air conditioning which saves energy. A curious thing about cellaring in a dry climate South of San Francisco versus a damp climate North of San Francisco, is that dry climates tend to make the wine more concentrated with aging. The usual thinking (since most cellars in France or North of San Francisco are damp) is that aging lessens the alcohol content and makes a wine seem more "dry" or taste less sweet and tannic. But in this case, the dry climate makes the aged wines super intense!
Travieso is a tiny winery (still less than 800 cases total per year), with lots of awards. And did I mention their cult, collectible quirky bottles? The Secret Wine Shop is lucky to be able to carry their wines!
2005 "Amaranta" Syrah, Kirk's Fairview Ranch, Santa Lucia Highlands. Winner Double-Gold 2008 San Francisco International Wine Competition. The grapes come from Kirk Williams’ vineyard also known as Fairview Ranch. Extreme crop management and cluster sorting really paid off. Barrel aged in 33% new French oak for 24 months. The original 2004 release also received a gold medal at the SF International Wine Competition. Getting wearied by all the medals, they've set up a gold-medal recycling program (part of their effort to go green). 92 points by Robert Parker. In Parker's words, "The 2005 Amaranta, a Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands, has a gorgeously complex and evocative nose of melted chocolate, créme de cassis, blackberry and spring flowers. It is full-bodied, velvety textured, intensely rich, yet pure and wll-balanced. It should drink nicely for 5-8 years."
2006 "Amaranta" Syrah, Kirk's Fairview Ranch, Santa Lucia Highlands. This wine was newly released a few months ago (the Secret Wine Shop poured at their release party). It is exactly what you expect from a Travieso Amaranta, intense deliciousness!
2005 "El Chupacabras" Red Wine, Santa Barbara County. Basically a Rhône blend. 37% Syrah Los Tres Burros Vineyard Los Alamos (877 clone), 33% Syrah McGinley Vineyard Santa Ynez (Estella clone), 23% Grenache Watch Hill Vineyard Los Alamos, 7% Viognier Louvau Vineyard Dry Creek Valley. Pleasant nose of smoky caramel and blueberry. Notes of herbs and spice. The good balance can be attributed to the Mourvèdre co-fermentated with Viognier. 91 points by Robert Parker. In Parker's words, "The 2005 El Chupacabras is a blend of 78% Syrah and the rest Mourvédre with a touch of Viognier. This wine has a complex Rhône-like bouquet of bacon fat or lard, lots of pepper, roasted meats (or could it be smoked duck?), and plenty of spice, black curant, and cherry fruit. The wine is spicy, exotic, medium to full-bodied, and a total hedonistic as well as intellectual turn-on. Drink it over the next 5-6 years."
2006 "El Chupacabras" Red Wine, Santa Barbara County. This wine was newly released a few months ago (the Secret Wine Shop poured at their release party). It is exactly what you expect from a Travieso Chupacabras, sinfully delicious!
Contact Travieso Winery to order wine. Also visit their Campbell tasting room:
165 Cristich Lane #F
Campbell CA 95008
Tasting room open Saturdays 11-4pm
Website & order wine: http://www.traviesowinery.com/wines.html