By Leah Etling
Kalyra, the well-known wine label of Australian vintner Mike Brown, celebrated the 15th anniversary of its Refugio Road tasting room in 2017 and is one of the several wine-tasting locations that is participating in the annual Restaurant Week sponsored by Visit SYV.
For the winery’s annual fall harvest grape stomp in October, food trucks and a band gave the work party an even more festive atmosphere.
And unlike many harvest stomp events, which are open only to wine club members, Kalyra – which means “a wild and pleasant place” in Aboriginal Australian — welcomes the general public to get their feet covered in grape juice slush.
“You do get to actually stomp the grapes,” said general manager and marketing director RaeLynn Milley. In addition to the flagship tasting room at 343 N. Refugio Road, since 2016 Kalyra has had a presence called Helix at 140 Industrial Way in Buellton.
At Helix, visitors can taste Brown’s dessert and sparkling wines, which are relatively rare on local tasting lists. The sweet and bubbly offerings are often more palatable to a beginning wine taster. Wine aficionados can stop by to pick up a two-for-one promotion.
“Mike Brown is known for his innovation in the wine world. He doesn’t sit still long enough to get bored,” Milley noted. “He’s not going to be aging along with his best merlot. He’s always shaking it up.”
To that end, Brown recently introduced a product called “239 Wine Mixer,” which is intended as an alcohol substitute for cocktail production.
“This is really valuable to restaurants that don’t have a liquor license. If they do beer and wine, they can now add cocktails to their menu using wine,” Milley explained. The “239” name is a reference to the 23.9 alcohol percentage of the mixer.
Brown attempts to stay in tune with social and cultural trends, and he noted the popularity of the craft cocktail movement before coming up with 239.
“We might take someone who isn’t into wine and turn them into a wine drinker by being able to create cocktails, but from wine,” Milley said. “Mike is always listening to feedback and growing with what the world is interested in.”
In another nod to Millennials’ habits, Kalyra has continued to keep its wine club options extremely flexible. Club members can choose from just 2 bottles per shipment or opt for an entire case (or something in the middle). With no upfront cost to join, it’s a comfortable way to try out a membership program that offers generous per bottle discounts.
At the end of the day, it’s the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of the Refugio Road location that keeps Kalyra visitors coming back time and time again. Guests can purchase wine by the bottle or glass and enjoy their own picnic lunch outside.
With dramatic views of one of the oldest local vineyards, planted in 1958, and the mountains on either side, the tasting room is truly a wild and pleasant place.