Get the Dirt from Clarissa Nagy of C. Nagy Wines

5 Feb

While at Byron, I met my winemaking match and life-long partner, Jonathan Nagy.  We were married at the winery in May 2003.  We decided to make a barrel of Viognier that we would bottle and label ourselves to give to our wedding guests.  This was the original Nagy wine and so begins the story.

Extensive research was done at Byron for the perfect clonal and root stock combination for the Santa Maria Valley area, and the results were planted at Garey Ranch.  Both of us were looking forward to working with it, but I left for Longoria Wines before it came into production.

The property was sold to an investment group. Fruit from Garey was available. The one vineyard I had been wanting to work with since 2001 was at arm’s length.

I did make a small amount of Pinot noir from Garey in 2004.  The following year was my first commercial release of Garey Ranch Pinot Noir under Nagy Wines.

1. What was your first vintage year? 2005

2. How did you get your start in the winemaking business?  I took a temporary lab/cellar position at Edna Valley Vineyards for 2005 vintage.  I got bit by the winemaking bug.

3. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery?

Become a winemaker: 1999 Rock Hollow Cabernet Franc

Start my own label:  2004 Garey Ranch Vineyard

4. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why?

Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Syrah

If I have to choose, it would be Pinot Noir.  It is a challenging grape from vine to fermentation.  It longs to have the best drawn forth.  I love a good challenge.  It keeps life exciting.  Every vintage is different.  I learn more every year.

5. What vineyards do you source from? Why?

Pinot Blanc~Bien Nacido Vineyard

Pinot Noir~Garey Ranch Vineyard

Viognier and Syrah~ White Hawk Vineyard

I love Santa Barbara County vineyards.  I love Santa Maria Valley for its bright acid and silky tannins.  Bien Nacido is a meticulously kept vineyard that never ceases to amaze me.  Garey Ranch has such a unique character and expression of Pinot Noir.  I love working with White Hawk, cooler area in the county for growing Syrah.  It is a sand dune, that lends a very specific flavor profile to the wines.

6. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why?

Pinot Blanc and Viognier~ Barrel fermented in neutral  french oak.  I love the fullness and richness barrel fermentation brings.  I prefer neutral oak so that the full essence of the fruit can come forth.

Pinot Noir~ 30% New French Oak. Tonn. Boutes and Francois Freres.  The New oak brings a balance and completeness to Garey Ranch Vineyard.

Syrah~ Neutral French Oak.  White Hawk shows best when not masked by oak

7. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different/special? What region would be your second choice?

I love the weather and I love the people in the wine industry.  Santa Maria Valley is unique with its transverse mountain ranges and cool breezes.  Night time temperatures drop and help to retain bright acid.  Coastal fog burns off by mid morning.

My second choice would be Burgundy, France.

8. What’s the story behind your label?  Nagy Wines was born when fruit from Garey Ranch Vineyard became available.  It was one vineyard in Santa Maria that I had yet to work with and was willing to start my own label to do it.

9. What’s the biggest misconception about making wine in California? Misconceptions about making wine~ that I walk around all day carrying a wine glass, when in reality it is a lot of vineyard walking, forklift driving and topping.

10. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? I feel very blessed to have known what I was getting into and still love every minute of winemaking.

11. What piece of winemaking equipment is the most fun to use? My Punch down tool. The hardest? To clean~ destemmer. Most necessary? Bins and barrels.

12. If working in the wine industry wasn’t an option, what’s your other dream job? Being a full~time mother.  Do you still have a day job? This is my day job ;)

13. We’re curious…do you ever get tired of drinking your own wine? I never tire of drinking great wine, whoever makes it.

Tastings are available at the winery by appointment via email at or 805-286-7228.

For more information about C. Nagy Wines visit their website of follow them on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

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