Melody in a Bottle: "Coda" Blends Passion for Wine and Music

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 4/21/16

Coda's Spencer Daley (credit: Anthony Horvath)
Spencer Daley is at Coachella for the first time this weekend.  The 26-year-old Goleta resident is an avid music lover, especially of the blues, jazz and classic rock-and-roll.  But he’s not there to join the close to 200,000 fans that descend on the Southern California desert for the very high-profile music festival.  He’s there to pour.

“I’ll be in the sectioned-off VIP area, representing Santa Barbara along with Andrew Murray and Steve Beckmen,” he tells me during a sit-down chat last week, referencing two of our area’s top winemakers.  “To pour with those guys is awesome, it’s an honor.”

It is, in fact, a pretty remarkable opportunity for any budding winemaker.  After all, Daley released his first wines just last year – a handful of 2013 and 2014 vintage reds and whites with a total production of just 400 cases.   But the buzz over his wines has been impressive; his inaugural wines are almost entirely sold out.  And the musical connection to the Coachella op is certainly apropos: Daley’s label is dubbed Coda, a word commonly used to designate a musical phrase.

Coda “is a way for me to bridge my two biggest passions,” says Daley.  His formative years were certainly music-infused, having learned to play guitar, bass and drums in middle school and having formed his own band by the time he entered high school.  But wine was in his teenage sphere, too, as his Italian dad taught him to manage the ¼-acre vineyard that he’d planted in the backyard of their Camarillo home.

Coda sources grapes from several top Santa Barbara Co. vineyards
“He was a home winemaker, but he took it very seriously and put together a beautiful vineyard,” says Daley, who also recalls making his own first wine – a sangiovese – at age 16 and “doing all my fermentation in trash bins.”

Fast-forward a decade and Daley now finds himself in very good company in Santa Barbara County.  After a harvest stint at Sunstone, he joined Andrew Murray’s team in 2014, where he leads educational tours and helps manage winemaking.  Daley’s regard for Murray, in particular, is high.  “He’s a pioneer in the Rhone wine movement,” he says of his boss’ prowess with wines like syrah.  “And Coda wouldn’t have happened without him.  He’s shown me not only how a cellar works but also how to develop a brand and run a business.  He’s a rock star.”

With Coda, Daley is able to underscore the connection he believes exists between music and wine.  “Both are artistic and both are a reflection of the artist,” he tells me.  “Like music, you’ll never get the same wine twice, and both bring people together.”

Daley makes wine inside "Area 51," a remote facility off Foxen Canyon Rd. that's also used by rock star winemakers like Chuck Carlson and Ernst Storm
Daley is in the tank for Coda Wines
Daley’s inaugural wines exude music in both nomenclature and design, and the winemaker pairs each one not with food suggestions but with some of his favorite albums. 

His 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ($22), the first white he’s ever done, features a large treble clef on the label and, as the first pour on his lineup, is dubbed Overture.  Clean and refined, with hints of grapefruit and grass, it’s refreshing and brimming with bright acidity.  Daley pairs it with the Cissy Strut record by the 70s funk band The Meters because their catchy rhythm goes really well with an easy-drinking wine, “especially after a couple of bottles.”  This wine is almost sold out.

The Coda2014 Rosé ($24) was an unorthodox blend of grenache, syrah and sauvignon blanc.  Labeled Medley, Daley matched it with Dave Brubeck’s 1959 LP Time Out because, like the assortment in the bottle, it features “musicians and instruments coming together.”  The wine struck a chord, because it’s gone.

Daley’s 2013 Sangiovese ($28) is also sold out but proved to be an especially personal effort.  It harkened back to the first wine he made as a teenager and, sourced from a vineyard near Solvang that he’d farmed himself, was a wine he oversaw all the way from beginning to end.  A single varietal bottling, it was named Sonata and, tannic and leathery, was paired by Daley with the Southern rock band Alabama Shakes’ Hold On record.  “Both are dusty and gritty,” he says.

We taste his last wine, the 2013 Syrah Cadence ($34), and it’s dark, concentrated, complex and full of dark berry flavors.  Sourced from Starfire Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, which he also farmed, it’s paired with The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street.  “It’s got different musical elements – blues, jazz, rock – and it’s full of complexities,” says Daley.  “It’s also my favorite album, and syrah’s my favorite varietal.”

The next batch of wines – the ’15 Overture, ’15 Medley and ’14 Cadence – will be released in June.  Coda has a retail presence at a few Santa Barbara locations, including the Santa Barbara Public Market, and select venues in Ventura County, Mammoth Lakes, Lake Tahoe and Los Angeles.  The wines also sell online, through the Coda Wines website.

Daley is aiming to grow his production to 900 cases by next year, when he’ll open the Coda tasting room in The Commons, a large scale culinary complex currently in development in Buellton.  And he’ll soon be adding cabernet sauvignon from the Happy Canyon AVA, as well as a port, to his portfolio. 

Or should I say, playlist?


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