Get the Dirt about Coda Wines from winemaker Spencer Daley

24 Jun

CodaSpencer1. What was your first vintage year? This year is my first release, which includes 2013 reds and 2014 whites.

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? Close to 350.

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? I don’t have a tasting room, but I am always open to do barrel tastings in the cellar located in Los Olivos. Anyone can contact me at!

4. How did you get your start in the winemaking business? Coda Wines really started for me when I was 13. My dad planted a couple of rows of Sangiovese and Cabernet in our backyard in Camarillo, CA. By the time I was 16, I took part in my first harvest, making wine in the garage with my dad. We used trash cans for fermenters and a small italian basket press. All in all, we were making about 15-20 cases each year of Sangiovese and Cabernet. My dad still makes wine in the garage even today, to give to family and friends.

Once I turned 21, I began working at a local winery in downtown Santa Barbara, working in the cellar and in the vineyard. I fell in love with the vineyard, and began my own vineyard management company that year at age 21. In 2012, I managed 3 vineyards, about 8 acres total. By 2013, I moved to Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez, and began my second year of vineyard management. That year, I realized I had the opportunity to make wine from the fruit I cared for, and started my first harvest in 2013 for Coda Wines at Sunstone Winery. I am now at Andrew Murray Vineyards, producing, bottling, and looking forward to my third

5. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? Sangiovese and I have a long history, starting when I was 16. I think Sangio can express more complexities than people think, and it’s my goal to break the reputation the varietal carries as a “table wine”. Not to mention, tasting all these awesome Santa Barbara county Syrahs really got me excited.

codavines6. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? I’m working with Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Sangiovese, and Syrah. Although this next harvest I’m getting my hands on some Cabernet Sauvignon, in hopes to create a super Tuscan blend, along with a vineyard designated Cab. A pretty unorthodox group of varietals, I know, but I’m currently flirting with different varietals and vineyards to see what really connects with me.

7. What vineyards do you source from? Why? If estate, why did you choose the spot you’re in? The vineyards from my 2013 vintage reds are from the vineyards I managed that year, which are located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley. It really excited me to have the opportunity to care for the fruit from dormancy until harvest. Not only does it give me more of a connection to the wine, but it allowed me to farm the way I wanted to, with no discrepancy.

In 2014, I sourced Syrah from Thompson vineyard in Los Alamos, along with Grenache down the street at Alisos Vineyard. I love the Alisos Canyon road in general and the fruit coming from those vineyards. A little bit cooler climate, and ripens at a perfect rate while retaining acidity.

My Sauvignon Blanc is a vineyard blend of Curtis Vineyard and Kingsley Vineyard, and I was stoked on the combination of the two. Kingsley tends to ripen at a very slow rate, preserving the bright acidity I’m looking for in my whites. Meanwhile, Curtis tends to ripen much quicker, bringing out the tropical fruit and overall ripe characteristics. The two co-fermented together show the best of the two vineyards.

codabottle8. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? My reds were in 59 gallon french oak barrels. The Cadence Syrah hung out in 50% new oak for about 20 months, along with 50% whole cluster, which gave some really cool and fun complexities. The Sonata Sangiovese was all neutral french oak, some pretty old barrels, to let the fruit speak for itself. Nothing too geeky, sorry guys.

9. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? I think Santa Barbara County in general gives us lots of diversity. With the micro climates we get and range of soil types, it allows different styles to be expressed throughout the valley and county. I feel spoiled to be able to taste all different versions from such awesome winemakers.

10. What’s the story behind your name/label? Coda is representing my passion for music. The true definition is mostly associated with a phrase in a musical piece. I’ve been playing guitar, drums and bass for close to 12 years now, and have always been interested in different styles of music. I really always wanted to be a rockstar, but I knew that probably wouldn’t happen. So, when starting this label, I knew I wanted to connect my two passions somehow.

11. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? Get out while you can. While you’re still sane.

12. What do you love about small-lot winemaking?  It allows me to focus a little more on details and intricacies. It could be experimenting with vineyards, blends, barrels, yeast, etc. It’s the little details that matter the most to me, once the fruit’s in my hands.

13. Do you still have a day job? If so, do you mind sharing what it is? I currently work at Andrew Murray Vineyards, which is where I make wine for Coda. I help Andrew out in the cellar, and also do educational vineyard/winery tours on the weekends. Andrew has been one of the biggest influences for me, and if it wasn’t for him, Coda would not be in this position. I have the opportunity to learn from the godfather himself everyday, and he’s allowed my passion that started in my garage at 16 to reach the point of pouring at Garagiste!

To learn more about Coda Wines, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK.

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