PICTURED: The Winery owners, from left: Adam Randall, Rick Boyer, Steve Holt and Josh McNutt. Photo by Seth Brandes
In case you didn’t hear it through the grapevine, Squashed Grapes is back . . . sort of.
Customers who loved the iconic Midtown Ventura winery and music venue waited a long time, but the popular jazz bar has opened its doors and uncorked its bottles once again. It’s operating under a new name, and has a new location — 4746 Market Street (next to Kelly Paper), putting it right in the midst of Ventura’s “Off Market” Tasting Trail.
“So, as of right now, we’re going by The Winery Ventura,” said Josh McNutt, one of four current owners. “Legally, because our wine bond is Squashed Grapes, that’ll still be the parent corporation. So the DBA is The Winery Ventura. All our branding moving forward will be The Winery Ventura.”
In addition, there are a few more people in charge of the wines.
“When we moved here,” said co-owner Adam Randall, “we picked up two more partners just on the winery side of it (Steve Holt and Rick Boyer), and they’re both winemakers, so now there are three labels under the roof: Boyer Wines, Sensation Wines and Squashed Grapes. But the facility is the winery and houses all three of us.”
New owners, new names, new wines and a much larger location. Remember the old wine barrel tables? That was real wine in those barrels, an indication of how pressed McNutt and Randall were for space in their former location. The wine barrels are now stacked to the side where they should be. You can officially sit at real tables, and eventually there will be a new sign indicating the new name.
Squashed Grapes began in 2003 when it was opened by Carolyn Taylor and Gwen Ripplinger in Camarillo.
“They based it on a business model like in Canada,” said McNutt, “where it’s a make-your-own-wine shop.”
Taylor and Ripplinger sold the business in 2006 to Randall and McNutt, and they moved the business in 2008 to the former location on Main Street near Seaward in Midtown.
So why move again? For McNutt, in a word: “Bigger.”
“We have proper manufacturing space,” Randall added, referring to the winery that has always been a part of the facility.
Yes, it really is a winery: They bring the grapes on site, crush them and vint them. The grapes come from Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles and parts of Ventura and northern L.A. County.
They are busy bees when it comes to wine production. Whites such as chardonnay and viognier, and reds like cabernet, pinot noir, syrah and a signature sangria. You can be assured that the wines you taste, whether they are made here or at other facilities, are their own. As Boyer emphasized: “It’s made by us.”
The new location also provides adequate space for performances, wine tastings and private events. It includes additional parking and a big outdoor space for large parties. The Winery offer wine, eats and a wine membership. All customers are welcome, including children.
Despite the changes, it is still the same Squashed Grapes feel. It’s a community winery built by partners who enjoy making their products locally for customers they know by name.
“You can walk in this room most nights,” said McNutt, “and most everybody knows each other. It’s a sense of community.”
Some of the customers have even volunteered to travel with the owners to help harvest the grapes. Call it Cheers West, except they serve wine instead of beer.
The same applies to the choice of music. Much of it is homegrown and the selection is quite organic. Just about all styles of music are welcome. The schedule reflects everything from reggae to blues to big band to jazz.
“We contact them, and they’ll contact us,” said Boyer. “We’ve had musicians who are up for GRAMMYs and they’ll ask if they can play.”
Musicians like the venue and the freedom that the winery offers to do their own thing and feel appreciated.
But wait. There’s more.
The Winery’s owners have another venue coming in about six months. The Grape will be located next to Yolanda’s on Main Street (not far from the old Squashed Grapes). It will be remodeled to include a 217-seat venue and a 21-and-over jazz club with a full bar. Big city sophistication. Ventura friendly.
The Winery is open Thursdays through Sundays. Like the venue on Facebook to get updated live music scheduling at www.facebook.com/thewineryventura. For more information, call 805-535-4295.