Wednesday, January 27, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 47

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

After closure of Old Orcutt location, cnagy wines plans to streamline production and tasting under one roof


With a new year comes a new beginning for local winemaker Clarissa Nagy, who announced a big change for cnagy wines near the end of 2020. On Dec. 26, Nagy said goodbye to her winery’s original tasting room, which closed its doors for good after six years of operating on South Gray Street in Old Town Orcutt—not too far from where she lives.

“I’ve loved having my home and business in Orcutt. It’s just around the corner from my house. I go back and forth multiple times a day,” Nagy told the Sun.

Through the grapevine
Find out more about winemaker Clarissa Nagy at

Local winemaker Clarissa Nagy is currently in the process of moving out of her former tasting room in Old Town Orcutt, which closed its doors on Dec. 26. A new Santa Maria tasting room is tentatively set to open sometime during this spring.

Nagy called the decision to relocate a difficult one, but she’s optimistic about streamlining the winery’s production side and tasting room to one central hub. Initially, Nagy had only been seeking a new location for production and wine storage when she came across a few options with ample space for a tasting room and an office as well. 

“I’m looking forward to having the case goods, reception area, and office all in one location; no more moving case goods from winery to tasting room multiple times a week,” said Nagy, who is currently transitioning to a new location off of Skyway Drive in Santa Maria.

While the winery-tasting room combo is slated to open sometime this spring, cnagy wines plans to host private tastings (by appointment only, once current guidelines allow) at its current production facility, located at Miller Family Wines on Aviation Way in Santa Maria, until the new location is ready. Online orders and local deliveries will remain ongoing in the meantime as well. 

During its last week, the Orcutt tasting room continued providing bottle sales and curbside pickup until the final day. 

“The community and camaraderie will be what I miss the most. I love the small-town feel,” Nagy said, reflecting on the former site so close to her home. “I’m hopeful that there will still be many opportunities to partner with Old Orcutt businesses and remain in my backyard.”

Edna Valley Vineyards, Byron Vineyard and Winery, Curtis Winery, and Firestone Vineyard are among the venues winemaker Clarissa Nagy worked for before starting her own label, cnagy wines (pictured), in 2004.

Since its opening in 2014, the Orcutt tasting room took part in various collaborations with neighboring businesses throughout the years, including winemaker dinners and other events with Pizzeria Bella Forno, Trattoria Uliveto, Niya, and Far Western Tavern. The tasting room also hosted monthly exhibits and receptions for local artists and crafters, including Heidi Gruetzemacher, Beverly Johnson, Sheila Krausse, Kerry Donlon, and several others. 

“When tasting rooms were initially closed, I kept my staff busy with projects, processing online sales, and curbside pickup,” Nagy said, looking back on the turbulence of 2020. “It’s been a year of constant change with many opportunities to tap into creative ways to offer products and service to my customers in the midst of the varying guidelines. Every week brought something different.”

Although Nagy’s motto, “choose joy” (also the name of one of her rosés) already resonated with customers prior to the pandemic, the phrase took on a new meaning in the spring of 2020, the winemaker said.

“We were all in the same storm in different ships. The only thing in control is our attitude,” said Nagy, recalling the ups and downs of last year. 

Shortly after the first wave of stay-at-home orders in March, Nagy began sending out a weekly email to clients and subscribers “to offer some hope to battle the discouragement,” she said. The letters include positive messages, discounts, and special offers, including Nagy’s Spread Joy Special. 

“I like to say winemaking found me,” said Clarissa Nagy, who originally set out to work in food product development while studying food science at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. “I love sensory science—exploring tastes and smells. Winemaking was a natural match.”

But “choose joy” originated as Nagy’s mantra a few years ago, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she explained.

“In 2019, several winemaker friends made wine for me while I was healing and unable to do the physical work myself,” Nagy said. “Through my treatments, surgery, and healing, ‘choose joy’ was my motto.”

Among the long-standing support from a close circle of peers as well as neighboring business owners and frequent collaborators, it’s apparent Nagy has a contagious passion for community. The year prior to her cancer diagnosis, Nagy received the Women Helping Women Award during the Santa Maria Women’s Network’s annual Women of Excellence Awards

Former Sun contributor Helen Ann Thomas once described Nagy as “an all-around cheerleader for women in business.”

“I like to say winemaking found me,” said Nagy, who originally set out to work in food product development while studying food science at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Her curriculum included several classes on fermentation.

“I love sensory science—exploring tastes and smells. Winemaking was a natural match,” she said.

In 2017, Clarissa Nagy (pictured, center) was recognized during the Santa Maria Women’s Network’s annual Women of Excellence Awards. Here she is pictured with the network’s special event chair Lisa Murray (left) and fellow award recipient Marisol Cruz (right).

During the summer before her senior year at Cal Poly, Nagy and her best friend traveled to Europe for a backpacking adventure. This is when Nagy really fell in love with wine, she said.

“We were in Budapest and headed to Eger. We found ourselves in wine country, tasting in wine caves—with a violinist roaming the caves, playing. It was an incredible experience,” said Nagy, who later took on her first wine-related job at a local vineyard, during the fall after graduation.

Edna Valley Vineyards, Byron Vineyard and Winery, the Bonaccorsi Wine Company, Curtis Winery, Firestone Vineyard, and Rancho Arroyo Grande Winery are among the venues Nagy worked for before starting her own label, cnagy wines, in 2004.

Originally, Nagy planned to leave the area after graduating from Cal Poly for a career in sensory science, but the joy she found in winemaking kept her here, she explained.

“The aromas of pinot noir free run and the combination of brand new French oak while filling were intoxicating,” Nagy said, recalling the fragrances of her first winemaking experiences. “I never left the Central Coast and have been in production ever since.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is choosing joy. Send comments to

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