October 18, 2016 – For some time, Russell Joyce had been looking for a tasting room setup with a bit more elbow room and sufficient outdoor space to create a true wine destination. He loved the vibe of Walter Georis’ place near Talbott’s tasting room; such a sweet place to take in the profound natural beauty of Carmel Valley.
Joyce dreamed of having a fountain, a bocce court, plentiful seating and a fire pit: all the elements that make a place conducive to events. At the same time, his wife Charlotte and her sister Rachel Beshoff, dreamed of having a cool wine bar where guests could hang out when the Carmel Valley tasting rooms closed and enjoy some libations and cheese plates.
But, they faced a simple, yet intractable obstacle. The town is pretty much built out and with the influx of tasting rooms over the last 5 years, elbow room was at a premium.
Then, things fell into place in a way that still has Joyce’s head spinning. Right in the middle of a massive harvest of 300 tons (mostly his, but he does custom crush for others, including Albatross Ridge and Big Sur Vineyards, in his Salinas winery facility), his realtor tipped him off that an awesome property was about to come on the market. Dropping everything, the couple dashed to Carmel Valley, where they were treated to a tour of a breathtakingly beautiful and perfect space that for years had housed Jan de Luz Antiques.
“We literally walked around for 20 minutes, shook hands and had a deal,” explains Joyce. But there was a kink. The property was already on MLS and soon the cat was out of the bag. Multiple offers swarmed in from many interested parties, including Gallo, which outbid them considerably. And yet the property owner, French antique specialist and weaver of fine linens Jan de Luz, wanted to see a local couple have this special place into which he had poured so much of himself. De Luz and his wife own linen shops in Carmel and St. Helena.
Says Joyce, “Jan is a real perfectionist. Everything is meticulous.”
Not long afterward, Rob Jensen, founder and owner of Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos, was approached about the opportunity to share the newly acquired space. He had been looking at Carmel as a second location, but the moratorium on new tasting rooms shut down that plan. When Joyce showed him around the Jan De Luz property, it took less than ten minutes for Jensen to say, “We’re in.”
Joyce told him, “Carmel is not a wine tasting destination because there are so many other things to do there. Carmel Valley is different. People either come to taste, eat or hike. And space here is much more affordable.”
Thanks to the vision and thoroughness of former owner De Luz, infrastructure in the newly purchased property is already in place: restrooms, gorgeous concrete floor, a fireplace in what will be the wine bar, and a separate patio space for each of the three businesses. Naturally, they kept some of the fabulous fountains.
“I should be open by Thanksgiving,” says Joyce of his new 2,000 square foot tasting room, which will have an industrial farmhouse feel, featuring lots of distressed wood.
He admits the wine bar, which will serve beer as well as wine, along with small bites, will take a bit longer due to the permit process, as it is a historic property. The wine bar will be called “The Wine House,” and will have a décor best described as “farmhouse chic.”
Joyce has yet to come up with the right name for the entire complex, but, he says, “I lived here for 30 years, and never had any idea how extensive this place was. It’s really huge: it covers almost an acre.”
He notes that with Ian Brand opening his new tasting room, and the addition of Testarossa’s highly acclaimed wines, the Village takes on a new level of wine quality. Says Joyce, “Someone awesome will come into my old space. We need more awesome wine out there.”
Testarossa, does indeed, bring a wealth of experience in crafting top scoring wines from the nearby Santa Lucia Highlands. Winemaker Bill Brosseau, who grew up in the Chalone AVA, has made wine from the region for 16 years.
Says Julie Scopazzi, Testarossa’s Director of Marketing, “Bill grew up in that dirt! He knows it as well as anybody. Testarossa has been in the SLH since 1997, making wine from Pisoni and Sleepy Hollow, right from the beginning.”
Today, Testarossa makes internationally renowned Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from many storied vineyards in the SLH, including Doctor’s, Pisoni, Rosella’s, Soberanes, Fogstone and Dos Rubios. “Having a tasting room in Carmel Valley is going to be great for us,” says Scopazzi.
Testarossa is in the process of hiring staff, and hope, like Joyce, to open by Thanksgiving.
Of the new grand tasting plaza, Joyce says, with a more than a touch of incredulity, “I still can’t believe how lucky we are. It all fell into place. It was meant to be. It will change the entire village.”
Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.