Our group buying purchases led us on another chase through Southern California. This time we purchased a two for one wine tasting at a new winery called, the “Orange Coast Winery.” After wandering around a warehouse district in Newport Beach, we pull open the back door of a non-descript warehouse to discover one of Orange County’s newest hidden gems, “The Orange Coast Winery.”
The winery is owned by Gus DeFalco, who greeted us with a big smile and his Canadian sense of friendliness and cheer. This winery is a work of love that dates back to his childhood, where he grew up in an Italian neighborhood and made home brew wine with his family. Over the years Gus has been building on this experience and moved from amateur wine maker to a leader in the Orange County wine making scene. Gus is now living the dream and operating a new winery /tasting room that is popping with new customers and positive vibes.
When you walk into the warehouse, the front set up as a cozy tasting room. The tasting room is inviting, so you soon forget that you are in an warehouse and it is not unlike most winery tasting rooms. There is a large tasting bar with room for 15+ people (perhaps more if the crowd gets amorous from drinking too much vino). The tasting room also features merchandise racks with wine related gear, bins of wine available for immediate purchase and a snack table for cleansing the palate.
When we were settled in, Gus showed us the sampling menu (which was 3 columns long) and had Whites, Reds and Reserves. The standard tasting fee is $10, for your choice of 6 wines, according to the website. Gus explained that he personally travels to Northern California and selects all of his grapes directly from the growers. He then takes the extra effort of packing the grapes on ice to ensure they retain their freshness on the way to Orange County. He then carefully hand produces his wines in the old word Italian style and ensures that the natural flavor of the grape is dominant, ensuring you are tasting a true “Merlot” or “cab” and not an over manipulated varietal blend.
Gus indicated that he puts a lot of special thought and extra hard work into each vintage so that you can taste the quality of his wine. I can personally attest to this point, as I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted the clean and complex flavors of this wine. Another key point Gus energetically told me is that all of his wines are ready to drink the day you purchase them, s0 no aging is required.
Gus’s upbringing in an Italian neighborhood gave him a unique perspective to the importance drinking wine with your meals. He explained that “all of my wines are designed to be food friendly and can stand up to all types of food.” The 2006 Petite Syrah, for example, had a complex and mouth filling flavor of earthy berries and ” a long smooth finish” that I predict will go well with ribs or smoked tri-tip.
The bottles are relatively inexpensive at Orange Coast Winery, $14-22 for a superior wine. I will put my reputation on the line too by saying I find his wines superior to most upscale Temecula wineries, many wineries in Santa Ynez and dare I say even some of the snobby Napa monoliths. This is a big claim I know, but I do believe Gus’s wine style has clean flavors and remarkable character that separates it from most wineries I have tasted. I even put my money where my mouth is and joined his wine club and dropped South Coast Winery Club. Proof is in the pudding, or in this case proof is in the Cab.
Review of the White Wines
2009 Beach Bubbly Mendocino – This is a sparkling wine with 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir (fermented without the skin), resulting in a cream color sparkler. This sparkling wine has an up front fruit flavor of peach and apples, with a dry finish. This wine is absolutely perfect with cheese, fruit and crackers during a summer evening on the patio.
2007 Beach Blend White – This wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine has a slight peachy flavor and a nice mineral finish. This wine would be perfect on a hot day.
2008 Pinot Grigio (Colombia Gorge)– This is Pinot Grigio Wine, with some Viognier mixed in to add a level of creaminess to this aromatic wine.
2007 Chardonnay (Santa Barbara) – Hand harvested grapes and fermented in 25% French Oak. This Chardonnay is buttery, but is balanced and smooth. The wine also has a charred tropical fruit aroma and taste. Based on this description, you would think its a butter bomb, but rather it is refined, elegant and a pleasure to eat. This would be great with shrimp, crab and lobster. This wine is a pampered diva which is made from two different yeasts, uses two malolatic fermentations, meticulously transferred 3 times and rested in a toasted French oak barrel. The hard work and careful pampering is reflected in this wine’s outstanding quality.
2007 Sauvignon Blanc (Mendocino) – This wine had a nice crisp clean flavor. I found that this wine is similar to the wines you would find in the Marlborough Region of New Zealand, but without the mineral spike at the end of the palate.
The Red Wines
2007 Beach Blend – This was an interesting wine that contains Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, and Barbera. Each of these grapes were fermented in their own vessel and combined after fermentation was complete. This wine had very complex flavors, but had smooth and very approachable character. If this wine were a dog, it would be a friendly Golden Retriever that rolls over for you to scratch its belly.
2007 Zinfandel (Sonoma) – This is a very juicy wine which has a mellow, but rich character. The wine has a subtle peppery hint to the palate. This is a great wine that is a role model to other Zins.
2008 Merlot (Mendocino) – This wine had a mellow, easy to drink quality which is full of flavors including cherry and oak. This wine has a mellow long flavor profile throughout the palate. This wine has subtle hints of tobacco and leather that add to the overall character.
2006 Petite Syrah (Lodi) – This wine had a great Syrah flavor of earth and berries which consumes the palate, but finishes off with a lingering smooth finish.
2009- Primitivo (Amador) – This is an old vines Zinfandel from Italian cuttings. This was a pleasant wine with mature flavors typical of low yield old vines. The flavors were layers of silky smooth berry and earth.
2007 Zinfandel (Napa) -This is a non-filtered true Zinfandel that has flavors of licorice, anise and has a little attitude when you drink it. This is a big wine that would pair well with something like an Ox Tail Ragu over fries.
2007 Zinfandel (Amador) – This wine comes from 100+ year vines that yield a small, but flavorful harvest. You have to try this wine for yourself to truly understand the flavors, but I can describe this wine with the following statements
- The way a Zinfandel should be made
2008 Merlot (Dry Creek, Sonoma) – According to my tasting notes I wrote , “Dry on top of palate and then a swishy liquid feel when you swallow and the nose of the wine was like a bouquet of flowers”. It’s obvious that I was becoming inebriated as I started poetry to describe this wine. For example, I wrote, ” This Merlot was like embracing a long lost lover” and “Don’t worry my dear luscious Merlot, we shall meet again over a plate of lasagna.”
2006 Syrah (Amador) – I am sorry to say, I did not take very legible notes on this wine. What I could decipher was a double happy face , an explanation point and a heart. These hieroglyphic notes obviously meant I enjoyed this wine and was probably one of my favorites as I wrote “BUY!!!” next to the description.
My Final Thoughts
This winery was a great find and a hidden gem in the Orange County wine scene. This is obviously a labor of love for the owner Gus DeFalco, who is fulfilling one of his life’s dreams by making fantastic wines he can share with happy customers. Gus indicated that he is only making enough wines to satisfy the demands of a small wine club and weekend tastings /sales. What will make this winery successful is Gus’s business savvy, experience with wine and his friendly smile that communicates, “Come into my house, drink my wine and be part of the family.” I am giving the Orange Coast Winery a 4.5 out of 5 based on a welcoming environment, remarkable wines and tremendous value.
The tasting room is open only Saturday and Sunday’s from 12-5 PM. They are pouring all 15 wines that I have described. For $10 you can taste any 6 wines and keep the souvenir winery glass. This is a great deal for anyone who appreciates wine and wants to discover one of Orange County’s newest “best kept secrets.” I thought all the wines were very reasonably priced and had a good value in comparison to Santa Ynez and Napa Wines. I will be back!
Link to Orange Coast Winery Website: http://www.orangecoastwinery.com/
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