–How does one graduate from working at his father’s auto wrecking yard in Visalia to a winemaker on the Central Coast? That’s the question put to Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee Winery of Avila Beach.
“I thought I would become a high school shop teacher,” Sinor explained, “and was on that road at Cal Poly when I took a job at an Edna Valley winery.” The idea to work in a winery came from needing money for school and the suggestion from a friend. “I didn’t know anything about wine,” said Sinor. After working at six different wineries and tasting the results of his first harvest in 1993, his path changed to award-winning winemaker. Sinor’s 20-year old son, Tomas, following in his father’s footsteps, is working on his second vintage at Laetitia Winery.
Sinor apprenticed at Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley beginning in 1994 and became Assistant Winemaker. Marrying his college sweetheart, Cheri LaVallee,1996 in Burgundy, the couple honeymooned in the South of France. In 2013 they decided to purchase the Bassi Estate Vineyard near Avila Beach.
The first task, before planting their own rooted Grenache vines and Syrah from a friend’s vineyard, was pulling out diseased Merlot vines and let the ground fallow for three years.
The vineyard is blessed by sea breezes and marine type soil consisting primarily of sandstone. Located on hilly terrain, some blocks are terraced hillsides while others are contoured on rounded sides. The hills slope from 15-to 50-percent with primarily loamy sand. Sandstone is hard vine roots cannot penetrate it but this makes the plants struggle a bit and produce fruit with natural intensity and vivid site expression.
The vineyard today consists of Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Albarino, all varietals that produce well in the cool, foggy climate. Sinor farms organically and biodynamically, in his words, “organic with biodynamic inputs.” The theory is that what is great for wine is good for the land, the environment and keeps everything in balance. “When done well the wine speaks of place,” Sinor said. “It’s how it tastes to you that counts.”
For the best wine tasting experience, Sinor suggests visitors read about region, choose three wineries and focus on a single varietal. Focus on the wine of your choice, learn all you can about it and don’t be put off by the sales pitches.
Wine clubs are excellent ways to become familiar with wine. Join the Sinor-LaVallee Wine Club, enjoy exclusive savings on wine purchases, complimentary tastings and members-only events.
Enjoy and purchase Sinor-LaVallee wines at their tasting room at 550 1st Street, in Avila Beach. To support staff and patron health, tastings are held outdoors. Up to 12 people can be accommodated for tasting. The tasting room is open from noon-6:00 p.m. daily. No reservations needed.
Sinor-LaVallee wines can also be purchased at SLO Wine and Beer in San Luis Obispo.
For information about wine tasting, the wine club or the wines, visit: sinorlavallee.com or call (805) 459-9565.
-Ruth Ann Angus