Idle Hour: Oakhurst’s first winery is thriving
The Idle Hour Winery website calls the business off Highway 41 in Oakhurst a “hobby gone wild.”
Gauging the smiles from patrons filtering into and out of the beer garden and wine bar on a late August Saturday night, word about the 7-year-old winery – Oakhurst’s first -- has spread and business is humming right along.
Winemaker Anna Marie Dos Remedios and business partner Deb Payne own and operate the accompanying Queen’s Inn By The River, an eight-room inn within walking distance of the winery.
Idle Hour’s story is also one of a career change.
Dos Remedios was a photojournalist for the San Jose Mercury News but had friends who were winemakers, so she started asking questions.
Her inquiries fueled a stronger interest and Dos Remedios began taking online winemaking courses from UC Davis. She earned a certificate from the university and met Payne, whose family has owned the property off Highway 41 since 1964.
The two women decided to go into business full-time. They also operate a tasting room in Carmel Valley.
They named the winery Idle Hour after a fishing vessel owned by Dos Remedios’ paternal grandfather. The family spent many hours sailing on the boat near Hong Kong, where Dos Remedios was born.
The inn is named after Payne’s grandmother, Naomi Ashby, whom the family called “Queen.”
Ashby’s memory is close at hand. A 1950 photo of Ashby walking along the sand in Coronado adorns bottles of the Queen’s Pinot Gris from Wulf Vineyard.
Dos Remedios releases new wines twice a year. "We don't want to make the same wines."
Each of Idle Hour’s bottles has a label designed by Tim Cantor, a professional painter based in San Diego.
Dos Remedios sources her grapes from vineyards throughout California, including the Central Coast and Madera and Sacramento counties.
Payne admitted they don’t want to pick grapes when asked if the Oakhurst property has any vines onsite.
Dos Remedios crafts wine with precision and a hands-off approach, using native yeast, gravity flow and neutral French oak barrels. She learned winemaking methods from renowned pinot noir producer Josh Jensen from Calera Wine Company in Hollister.
Payne walks us into the tasting room and we start with a 2013 cuvee blanc from Wulf Vineyard in Madera.
It boasts three types of grapes – Marsanne, Viognier and Roussanne. The wine is crisp and clean, with a hint of acidity and subtle sweetness.
Next come the reds, and Idle Hour has plenty of choices.
Some pinot noirs can be too jammy, but the one Payne pours tonight – a 2013 from Sarmento Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands – is not as powerful as other reds. It’s a smooth wine that begins with blackberry flavors and gives way to cherry notes on the finish.
A 2013 cabernet franc from Heringer Estates vineyard in Clarksburg, like the pinot noir, would be equally enjoyable on its own or paired with food. The wine boasts white pepper, plum and berry flavors.
Dos Remedios releases new wines twice a year.
“We don’t want to make the same wines,” she says during a phone interview.
Idle Hour doesn’t serve food, but customers often order pizza delivered to the outdoor patio. Dos Remedios and Payne book musicians on weekends May through October.
Everyone is in a good mood around here. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a glass of fine wine and a slice of pizza.
Written by Bryce Alderton, a staff writer for Times Community News covering city government and education in Laguna Beach. He has written dining reviews for Southern California-based magazines.
Photos by Dan Minkler.
Idle Hour Winery
41139 Highway 41
The tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
Central Coast Tasting Room
9 Del Fino Place, Suite 101
Carmel Valley 93924
The tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
For more information, go to idlehourwinery.com