Even the invitation was lighthearted and debonair. Cornell Winery's biweekly summer wine tasting event, "Wednesday at the Winery," made its well-attended debut mid-week.
As a first timer to the winery, my elation began as soon as the car curved onto Mullholland Highway. In less than five minutes, I had departed my suburban driveway and landed unexpectedly into what felt to me like the distant past, in an almost fairytale-esque locale.
Walking through the front door of the winery was like walking into a time machine. In its previous incarnation, this rustic and beautiful building was a one-room schoolhouse. But now its walls were covered in local artwork and its floors stacked with endless bottles of local Santa Monica Mountain wines.
Tim Skogstrom, the man behind the magic at Cornell, was anything but hidden. He was a gregarious and well-informed host whose charming and unassuming nature won over his clientele—many of whom were on a first name basis with "Tim." In fact, this felt more like a dinner party of close friends than a collection of strangers gathered at a local shop.
The evening progressed as organically as a dinner party would. Wine and cheese were served while guests waited to pay the dues for the night: a mere $20 for unlimited wine and delicious food. The invite's caveat that "ample food will be served during the event to compliment the wines so dinner may not be necessary," was confirmed and our taste buds and bellies delighted.
As the guests settled around the giant banquet table, wine glasses in hand and delicious hors d'oeuvres in mouth, the staff wasted no time in filling our cups with the next best wine. We were treated to eight featured La Fenetre wines, as well as the man who made them—Joshua Klapper.
Skogstrom formally welcomed us to the event, introduced us to Klapper, and told of his journey from sommelier at the world-renowned restaurant Sona to winemaker, and eventually founder of his own brand. Klapper then enlightened us to his passion for and the processes behind his wine. He was honest, funny, adoring of his vocation, and available throughout the night to answer any questions.
Later on, this time with a new Syrah in hand, we got a captivating surprise. Local artist and musician,Will Thoren, a Malibu Lake native, whose enchanting photographs of the local landscape graced the walls of the winery, adorned our eyes and ears with the sights and sounds of his Didgeridoo, the Australian aboriginal instrument made from a hollowed wooden branch. A young man of many obvious talents, Thoren's performance was absorbed with awe by his audience.
We continued to eat and drink and be merry for some time before Skogstrom graciously spoke a bit more about his establishment and his hopeful vision for the local Southern California wine culture and industry. At the end of the evening, attendees left in good spirits and few were empty-handed. All would await next Wednesday.
Stay tunes for this week's Agoura Scene on Cornell Winery.