Cantara Cellars: A hidden winery gem in Camarillo

Cantara Cellar, Camarillo Winery
A spur of the moment detour ended up with a wonderful winery find. My husband and I were at the Camarillo outlets shopping for some incidentals for my daughter’s upcoming wedding when we decided to end our day with a stop to the Cantara Cellars, a Camarillo winery.

Mike Brown, winemaker/owner, has been making wine since 2005. With his wife Chris, they started making wine at their residence in Moorpark. Naming the winery, Cantara seemed appropriate because the name refers to the section of the planned development where their home is located.

Chris Brown, Winemaker Cantara Cellars
Chris Brown, Winemaker Cantara Cellars

Mike was not a newbie to the wine industry; he grew up in Lodi, where his family roots go back to 1847. Today his parents grow 28 acres of Chardonnay on the farm that his grandfather started.

Mike and Chris’ career change was precipitated by their concern with where their life would take them after they retire. Like many, they wanted some certainty for their future. Mike, an Engineer by trade, was turning 50 and wondered where his career would take him. Knowing his family grew Chardonnay, what better way to start in the wine business than making wine from family grapes. The Brown’s first wine was, of course, was a Chardonnay.

Cantara winery tasting room is located in an industrial park in Camarillo. The tasting room is very welcoming, as are the wines. Mike has a lighter style of making wine. The wines have a more feminine quality to them and are very flavorful. Except for one of their Tempranillos, Amador County, Cantara sources all their grapes from Lodi.

Steel tank at Cantara Cellars in Camarillo
Steel tank at Cantara Cellars in Camarillo

Mike took us into the back for a barrel tasting. We got to sample the 2015 Syrah, Malbec, and Petite Syrah. I especially liked the Syrah and Malbec.

Camarillo Winery Portfolio:

We tasted through most of Cantara’s portfolio, but I will list just those that stood out on this particular visit.

2014 Chardonnay, Ruth’s Vineyard, a vineyard named after Mike’s mother, delivers a very crisp, refreshing wine. Created in a Burgundian style the wine ages in air-permeable totes. I found predominant flavors of pears.

Air Permeable Totes at Cantara Cellars
Air Permeable Totes at Cantara Cellars

2013 GSM, which is focused on Grenache, is a very lively and peppery lighter-bodied wine displaying red fruit.

2012 Intrepid is a well-integrated blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, which ages for three years. The wine is bright and balanced with nice florals on the nose and raspberry flavors.

Cantara Cellars Red Wines
Cantara Cellars Red Wines

2012 Franknvine is the most complex and full-bodied wine I sampled at Cantara Cellars. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Old Vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Malbec. The wine ages for three years.

2010 Amador Tempranillo ages for three years. With the grapes coming from the Sierra Foothills, this is a lighter Tempranillo, yet it comes across as a full-bodied wine. This wine was one of my favorites

Cantara Cellars, as a Camarillo winery, is part of the Ventura County Winery Association. They are less than 10 minutes from the Camarillo Outlets, so if you find yourself bored with shopping and want to do something different, this winery is the perfect diversion.

Cantara Cellars
126 Wood Road, Suite 104
Camarillo, CA 93010
Phone: (805) 484-9600

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer enjoyed a hosted wine tasting at the Camarillo winery. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.