Dining Reviews

Inside the New Ser Winery Tasting Room in Aptos

The head winemaker for Bonny Doon Vineyard launches a spot for her own wines

Alexandra Baker pours a 2016 Pinot Noir at Ser Winery’s new tasting room. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

One more tempting reason to visit Aptos Village is the new Ser Winery tasting room. Retro chandeliers and polished wood decor, pressed tin ceilings, spacious tables for group tasting and future food events—there is much to like about the sleek new showcase for Nicole Walsh’s intelligent wines.

The tall, lean winemaker never sleeps. She is a soccer mom, surfer, property manager of Randall Grahm’s San Juan Bautista vineyards, head winemaker for Bonny Doon Vineyard (BDV), and now the hands-on brains behind the spacious tasting room for her own wines. I sip a crisp 2017 Wirz Sparkling Dry Riesling perfumed with nectarines and admire the wall-sized GPS map of the Monterey Bay and coast ranges, with important vineyards flagged so that tasters can understand what they’re drinking. Walsh is happy to go into deep background with inquiring tasters, talking vineyard management, old vines, and terroir. Even a week before its official opening, the tasting bar—created by Walsh’s fireman husband from vintage wine barrels—was full.

“The idea for the mural came from telling people over the years about microclimates, and the growing needs of varietals. Now I can show them where certain grapes are grown, and why,” says Walsh. 

The flights offered for tasting will rotate among the dozen varietals Ser has currently in release. “In a couple of months, I’ll have a new rosé. And a Vermentino from Arroyo Seco. And then I’m doing a Vermouth.” My ears perked up at the mention of an artisanal, botanically inflected Vermouth. “I’ll begin with fortified orange muscat, herbs, and some bittering agents,” she promises, with a grin. “It will be a cocktail all by itself. Maybe over ice.”

Looking at the current tasting flight of five wines, I see some of the best vineyards in the state, including Tondre Grapefield and Wirz. As wine manager for the booming BDV back in 2003, Walsh dealt with 55 growers all over California. “Wirz was one of the first vineyards we sourced back then,” Walsh tells me. Those years with the expanding winery gave Walsh depth in the state’s wine industry and long-standing relationships with important grape growers.

The new tasting room, she says, “is crucial for my model.  I’m creating a direct-to-consumer product. Having a tasting room in my community, I can represent our specific interests, have events and food pairings, and also it will help to build a wine club. You can’t do that without a tasting room.”

The winemaker is delighted to be part of the Aptos Village population. “I love how it’s so local—you can feel the energy,” she says. Walsh’s neighbors are Cat + Cloud next door, and David Kinch’s new Mentone across the street.

I fell in love with the mineral-driven, ultra-crisp 2018 Nelson Ranch Dry Orange Muscat, one of Walsh’s current favorites, and took home a bottle of the hauntingly floral white wine. Ser’s eye-catching label with an abstract wave motif makes complete sense. “Our coastal wines are influenced by the Pacific Ocean, and I’m a surfer,” she says. Plus, her eyes are in fact the color of the ocean. A dozen varietals—including a Cabernet Pfeffer, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Graciano, as well as several choice whites and a rosé—currently wear the Ser label. 

Ser Tasting Room, 10 Parade St. Suite B, Aptos. Thurs – Sun, noon – 6pm. Tasting flights $15 for five wines. serwinery.com.

Nanny Reservations

I was forced to use Resy when making a reservation last week. During the following three days, I was reminded twice by text, and then scolded via text that I had “only one hour to be at the restaurant!” What? That’s way too much hovering for my taste. Hope this annoying feature will be abandoned ASAP.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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