By Lilia L. Fallgatter JD | Photos by Manny Espinoza
On January 25, the Monterey County Wines Trade Tasting event, held at La Playa Hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, was abuzz with wine tasting activity. We caught up with Kim Stemler, Executive Director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association (MCVGA) which hosted the wine tasting. The event featured twenty-eight wineries and thirty brands. Attendees included wine retail owners, restaurateurs, sommeliers, chefs, wine distributors, buyers, and brokers.
Among those participating in the event was 28 year old Miguel Lepe, of Lepe Cellars. Miguel discovered his love of wine making after enrolling in a wine production class while attending Hartnell College. Although he was planning to study business administration, this single class redirected his path in life. Thereafter, he studied enology and viticulture at California Polytechnic State University. He began his career interning and later working at various wineries across the central coast. He also traveled to and was influenced by completing a harvest in Chile. His wines include a Gewurztraminer and a unoaked Chardonnay. Miguel’s Chardonnay, his first, won a Gold Medal in the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition.
Vintner Denis Hoey, of Odonata Wines, was also in attendance. Denis purchased Marilyn Remark Winery on River Rd. two years ago, and brought his family to the area from Santa Cruz. Odonata Wines is a multi-varietal cellar, whose production includes a variety of wines, “from bubbly fizz, to the dark, dense, chewy reds.” In addition to his own vineyard, he works with small, sustainable, organic vineyards across the Monterey Bay, from Cupertino to Hahn.
Through this event and others like it, the MCVGA strives to promote and support the “art, science, and business” of Monterey County wines. In addition to creating awareness and visibility, it serves as a means of building strong relationships between wineries and the local businesses, and thereby, looks to gain a greater representation of local wines on local wine lists. Historically, Monterey County wines have had extremely low representation in local restaurants, compared to Napa and Paso Robles. The MCVGA will hold a consumer event, the Winemakers’ Celebration, on May 7. More information is available on the website www.monterywines.org.