Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Variety is the spice of life; at least when it comes to wine. So as I planned my latest trip to the Santa Ynez Valley, I searched for any new wineries that might have opened since my last visit. I was in luck! Brave & Maiden Estate was opening its tasting room the weekend I was in town, and I managed to be one of the first of the general public to snag an appointment.
Never heard of 'Brave & Maiden' you say? Although the tasting room is brand-spanking new, the winery has been producing its own wine since 2011, and the vines were planted some fifteen years before that. I had some familiarity with the brand, as I had ordered a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon at a local restaurant, S.Y. Kitchen a year or two before and remembered enjoying it. I like to joke that I can't remember what I wore yesterday, but I can pretty much remember every bottle of wine I've ever drank. For me, I have such an emotional connection to wine that the memory of each bottle is ingrained in my brain.
Brave & Maiden is a case study in how to develop a successful winery:
1. Hire an architect with experience building wineries in Napa and sculpt an amazing tasting room and high-quality wine production facilities.
2. Create a website that is both professional and beautiful.
3. Craft a story for the brand that intertwines the local Native American culture and a love story.
4. Create classy, swanky labels.
5. Keep production low and quality high.
6. Hire legendary consultant Paul Hobbs to assist in crafting the wines.
7. Provide a friendly and unhurried guest experience.
Since the vineyards are located on the Eastside of the 101 Freeway, the varietals here are mostly Bordeaux, which do better in warmer climates as opposed to the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that are grown in the Sta. Rita Hills, just West of the 101.
Our tasting was definitely a first-class experience. Upon arrival, we approached the mammoth front doors of the winery and were greeted with glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. We were then seated at a long table with four tastings of reds: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. As not to intimidate guests, there were no fancy tasting notes to describe what you were drinking. Tip: If you are curious about the nerdy details, as was I, you can find technical notes on all of the wines on the website. The notes include details on the weather of the vintage, the winemaking process used, the clones planted, etc. I was describe the style of the wines as approachable, balanced, and crowd-pleasing. There is enough fruit in the wines to appease casual wine drinkers, but not so much that the wines are too jammy for connoisseurs. Oak is used to soften the wines, but in no way was it overpowering. My favorite was the Merlot, but I enjoyed all of the wines. There was also a bonus pour of the "Rule of Thirds," a GSM blend that was quite good. To top it all off, we were gifted a cheese platter from a local cheese shop to pair with our wines as an opening weekend gift.
As we were finishing up the tasting, our guide took us on the tour of the grounds.
We tasted grapes directly from the vines, toured the production facility and perused the other areas of the property. There is an outdoor area that will be used to host member events (and presumably weddings), as well as tables where guests can sit and enjoy lunch while taking in the views.
The estate wines which go to the wine club are a little on the pricier side for the valley, but the experience here is closer to Napa (without the pretentiousness) than anything else in the area. Everyone we talked to was friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable.
For $30, the tasting was well worth it. I would highly recommend stopping by Brave & Maiden the next time you're passing through.