Taste Wine, Make New Friends in California

Ojai, Calif.-What do a restaurant worker turned wine-maker from Santa Barbara, a house-flipper from Marysville, Harley motorcycle-mama from the Valley, traveler from San Jose and a screen writer from L.A. all share in common? Wine! You meet the most interesting varieties of people when you taste wine. Pictured on right is Michael Meagher, wine maker at Old Creek Ranch Winery in Ventura County, in charge of the winemaking under his label, Vino V Wines (vinovwines.com) and the Ranch's wines (oldcreekranch.com).

As the eclectic tour group wanders into Michael Meagher's lab, he's preparing for a bottling the next week. Describing himself as part scientist & part farmer, he looks like an urban cowboy. He wears a t-shirt that says "square", has a sleeping dog next to the door, and listens to John Prine as he makes wine.The wine maker is hospitable, intelligent, and passionate about his trade. He's California's best foot moving forward in promoting an industry that is hands-on and allows the public to become participants in wine adventures.

From wine tasting, to wine-making, chefs' classes to gourmet dinners, you can easily immerse yourself in wine experiences and make new friends along the way. There are approx. 2,843 registered wineries and 4,600 winegrape growers in 107 American Viticulture Areas in California (out of 188 in the U.S.) Each is a distinct winegrape growing area recognized by the U.S. government, a testament to the variety of microclimates in the state.

When California wins competition against French & Italian wines, the world takes note and finds it really difficult to snub the up & comer. California's wine growing and wine stocks took root thanks to the Spanish who began building missions — and wineries. In fact, Father Junipero Serra, the Father of California Missions, is credited as being the Father of California Wine. He (or his workers) planted the first sustained vineyard and first winery at Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1783. He led the work to found the first 8 of 21 California missions that included vineyards using the "Mission grape". It dominated California wine production until about 1880.

Today, Californians are returning to their very own roots, in fact. While residents and visitors come from nearly every country around the globe and every walk of life, wine offers broad appeal. One of the most interesting ways to familiarize yourself with wines is to visit California's wine regions and start tasting. You'll meet some interesting people who make the experience even more enlightening! Here are some wine facts.

Old Creek Ranch Winery is located at 10024 Old Creek Road, Ventura, CA 93001. It is open 11-5, Th-Su or by appointment. Call: (805) 207-7426. oldcreekranch.com. The winery will be pouring at the annual Ojai Wine Festival.

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