Kenneth Volk isn’t just a wizard when it comes to making wine. He’s also a great storyteller—a guy who really knows how to spin a yarn! I was thrilled to sit across from him during a recent Harvest dinner at Luna Red, and not just because I was able to sip his famous pinot noir while listening to behind-the-scenes stories detailing “the old days” of winemaking on the Central Coast. I also got to ask lots of annoying questions. As it turns out, Volk is obsessed with two things: creating amazing heirloom tomato plants by crossbreeding his favorites, and growing elegant, complex pinot noir. I haven’t yet tried his tomatoes, but if this wine (made with grapes sourced from SLO’s Steiner Creek Vineyard) is any indication, I bet they’re magnificent.
• Kenneth Volk 2012 Pinot Noir—$60; 5230 Tepusquet Road, Santa Maria.
I’m one of those wacky people who creates playlists. There’s a “making dinner” playlist interspersed with ’50s exotica and ’90s pop punk girl bands. There’s a “road trip” playlist heavy on the old-school country and ’60s soul. In my mind, the more eclectic, the better. The good folks at Halcyon Winery are grooving on the same wavelength. This cabernet franc grown in the Templeton Gap District reflects the winery’s inaugural vintage, but offers much more than a taste of the Velo Vineyard from which it was born. The bottle comes with a music playlist to be enjoyed while drinking the wine! All I had to do was go to the winery’s website and click on the Spotify playlist, and I was instantly transported to a world of rich, dark flavor and moody musical textures. With balanced structure, soft tannins, and raspberry-clove nuance, this velvety wine is as close as it gets to putting on your headphones and diving under the covers.
• Halcyon’s 2014 Cabernet Franc—$39; halcyonwines.com.
Hayley Thomas is dancing with wine in hand at email@example.com.