607 Main St., suite D
An Australian who loves Burgundy has a tasting room in Ventura. Yeah, that sounds about right. It’s a Sunday as I head to the Main Street tasting room of Labyrinth, formerly a dress shop and now the only winery tasting room in Downtown, which opened four years ago.
Labyrinth was started by Ariki Hill, originally from Australia, and he focused on pinot noir. Hill was joined by co-owners Ed and Stephanie Schwartz (both Ariki and Ed were biochemists in a former life), who expanded their wine offerings, meaning they currently make 16 different wines. Tasting fees are $12 for five wines, and you’ll find whites, such as chardonnay (I’m loving the 2013 Presqu’ile chard), viognier and sauvignon blanc as well as reds including cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, petite Sirah and an unusual and fun touriga nacional (mainly used in port wines) full of black cherry, pomegranate and cranberry notes.
It’s easy to love this place, not only because of the wines, which have a stronger acidity than many Central Coast wines, making them ideal with food, but the red and black decor is classy and comfortable. You can hang on the patio on Main Street, or sit at the communal table, or sit at the bar, or sequester yourself at one of the stand-alone tables and do a tasting. And cool to note, Ed allows guests to bring in their own food, so you can get a bottle or just a glass, nosh, and have a good time.
Labyrinth makes about 2,000 cases, so by definition it is boutique and its wines are not widely available, unless of course you come here. Once a month it offers a wine education class, and other special events are peppered throughout the year. Two new wines, zinfandel and cabernet franc, will be joining the lineup but Ed tells me he’s partial to the Cuvée Stephanie pinot noir (named for his wife); “It’s my favorite wine by default.” Yeah, I’d say so. Labyrinth also offers a Wine of the Month, a different wine at 20 percent off for the entire month, yet another reason to check it out. And if bragging rights matter, Ed tells VCR, “Our wines are world-class and can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them.” Take that as a challenge and pay Labyrinth a visit.