Cayucos Cellars – Family Owned Winery by the Sea

Cayucos Cellars - Family Owned Winery by the Sea

Just a block from the ocean in the small beach town of Cayucos, California, Cayucos Cellars offers tastes of their wild-yeast fermented vintages, made with grapes grown in the hills above town.

This is a smaller craft winery, where wines are aged between three and six years in oak barrels before bottling. Creating just five hundred to eight hundred cases of wine annually, Cayucos Cellars is an excellent venue to taste and bring home a wine not everyone has tried before. Tastings are encouraged, and tasting fees refunded with the purchase of a bottle. A first visit during the annual May wine festival that spills from Paso Robles into the coastal communities of Cayucos and Cambria led to the discovery of exceedingly complex flavors served up in a friendly, family-owned atmosphere. Grilled oysters were handed out during the festival, tastings were generous, and vintner Stuart Selkirk, his wife Laura, sons and daughter, were all available to discuss their wine, and the unique process Selkirk follows in its creation.

Selkirk is a self-taught winemaker. He loosely follows Swiss-based wine-making techniques discovered from a neighbor who answered Selkirk’s questions about his wines by setting him up with a hand-cranked grape-crusher. The result is a strong belief in letting the wine take its course in the fermentation process whenever possible.

The use of neutral oak barrels and grape fermentation utilizing wild or natural yeast extends wine aging and results in low sulfite, flavorful wines. Cayucos Cellars does not add sulfur dioxide or potassium metabisulphite during the crush in order to introduce commercial yeast, making this winery quite organic in the process. Grapes come from the Selkirk family’s ranch and other local growers in Templeton Gap and the east side of Paso Robles.

According to Selkirk, each wild yeast strain offers a unique complexity to the wine created. Strains of wild yeast are numerous, with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the strain that’s associated with wine grape fermentation. Selkirk’s process is to press grapes in neutral oak barrels cellared for up to two years, and when it is racked off lees, only then is a low amount of sulfur dioxide added to the wine. The wine is then casked for three additional years before bottling takes place.

And exactly what does Cayucos Cellars bottle? Current offerings include a 2010 Chardonnay that’s sweet, tart, and yellow; a 2010 Pinot Noir with a richly fruity finish; and a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, with hints of cinnamon and cherry. The smoky 2005 Rustic One red is another unique selection, with notes of lavender and sage. But Zinfindel may be the ultimate wine here: a 2007 Zinfindel currently available is refreshingly light, dry, and crisp. The overriding impression of all the wines offered for tasting is flavor depth. The taste of each wine seems to grow more interesting with each sip. Selkirk credits the wild yeast for the evocative flavor.

The waves of Cayucos’ long sandy beach aren’t the only thing that’s wild in this coastal community. The wild yeast-fermented wines at Cayucos Cellars are also well worth a ride.

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