Santa Maria Sun / Eats
One-woman winery: Orcutt native Angela Soleno brings passion and principle to her high-end wines
BY WENDY THIES SELL
When hard-working Angela Soleno followed her heart, starting her own wine label in 2008, she still worked full-time at wineries in Los Olivos, bartended on weekends in Ventura, and took freelance writing assignments to make ends meet.
The single mother of two, who grew up in Orcutt, also juggled driving her children to cheer practice and guitar lessons, and all the while taking night classes at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria to learn more about winemaking and viticulture.
“Looking back, I don’t know how I did it or when I slept,” Soleno marveled.
She credits her dad and friends for supporting her through those sleepless lean years, whether it was helping to haul fruit or sorting grapes.
“I won’t pretend that I could have done it without [them],” she added.
Soleno started producing wine under her label Turiya Wines at Central Coast Wine Services, a warehouse in Santa Maria, home to many small artisan wineries under one roof.
“I had no prior experience. The facility had everything I needed at my fingertips, including other winemakers whose brains I got to pick. All I needed was fruit and some barrels,” she said.
That first year, she contracted for 1 ton of cabernet sauvignon and 1 ton of Syrah, both from Camp 4 Vineyard in Santa Ynez.
“I was elated, nervous, frightened, and excited all at the same time—still am. I tell people that making wine is a bit like falling in love: I suffer, if that’s the right word, through all the symptoms, every emotion emanated,” Soleno said. “My hands-on education began overnight and hasn’t stopped since.”
The 34-year-old Soleno currently handcrafts her luxury wines—Bordeaux and Italian-style wines—in Lompoc at 316 North F St., in a small industrial space that she shares with Scott Cellars.
She wants her winery to stay “small and focused,” producing less than 300 cases a year of ultra premium boutique wines.
Soleno’s philosophy, found on her website, is to make only enough wine, “So that each bin, fermenter, vineyard block, or barrel gets personal attention with touch, smell, and taste. The end result: dramatically fine-tuned wines.”
Soleno cherry-picks only the best grapes, takes great care of that fruit in the winery, will not manipulate her wine to enhance the flavors, and lets her wines age much longer than most wineries.
“I age the wines for three years in oak, bottle age it at least one more year, then release. Even though I began making wine in 2008, my first release wasn’t until 2013 because of my dedication to the aging process,” she said.
Those wines are now sold out. The excellent 2009 vintage was released last spring, and the 2011 vintage will be released this November. (Soleno did not make wine in 2010, which was rainy and then hot, because the available fruit, affected by the weather, wasn’t up to her high standards.)
Soleno’s 2009 Turiya Malbec (36 cases produced) is food friendly and complex, “drenched with flavors of raspberry mocha that continually evolve in your glass.”
The 2009 Petit Verdot (49 cases produced) is beautifully voluptuous, “dark and alluring, yet obvious berries that were tossed and turned, crushed and nurtured by a woman’s hand.”
Turiya Wines currently range in price from $65 to $85 a bottle.
Soleno believes that low-quality wines are a waste of time, money, and taste buds.
“I only produce red wine. I work with two to three grapes each year and create a red blend as my flagship wine for the year and also produce very small individual bottlings of each grape that goes into that blend,” Soleno said. “I mix things like sangiovese with petit verdot and syrah with cabernet. Since I don’t own any land, I work closely with the local farmers to find fruit sources that suit my needs.”
Turiya Wines are sold to the public via an allocation list accessible at turiyawines.com, or by phone at 478-7016. In addition to being able to shop online, members of the allocation list are guaranteed two bottles of each wine coming out in the future.
“These are my babies, I’ve handled each and every bottle from start to finish and even put my signature on them before I let them go,” Soleno said.
Want to taste Turiya Wines? Set up a $15 tasting at the winery, or for $25 you will sample the winery’s current release of bottled wines, plus Soleno will walk you through the barrels to taste wines still aging in the cellar.
“That way, people can taste what wines taste like really raw and fresh and then see how it evolves in the barrel. Then, I describe how I let it sit in the same barrel, and the tannins integrate into the wine, and I don’t filter, and all that fun stuff,” Soleno explained. “It’s very educational.”
“I truly believe in having a personal relationship with my customers. I want them to remember their experience with the wine I created. I want to make my customers proud,” Soleno added. “I guess that is how I get to exercise my control-freak, narcissistic personality—by knowing each and every person who has a bottle of my wine.”
The truth-seeking Soleno named her winery Turiya, a Hindu word meaning “the ultimate state of consciousness (or awareness).”
“By definition this pure state of consciousness is where reality and truth align,” Soleno said.
“Why make white wine just to add it to the lineup? Why hurry the process and bottle early just to free up barrels? ‘Why’ was the constant question that kept, and continues to keep me, on the right path.”
That is why she chose the word Turiya, “because, I believe in being aware, and I believe wine to be an experience, not just a product.”
Sun wine and food writer Wendy Thies Sell also tries to stay small and focused. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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