Newport Beach Wine Tasting: Wines of Artisan Uprising

Newport Beach Wine Tasting - Balboa Wine

I first met Billy Vondrasek in 2015 when he and his brother David presented their Artisan Uprising wine to LA Wine Writers. Now eight years later, I am still impressed with the caliber of wine the boys, as I call them, produce. There have been many changes over the years since I saw them last. Today they offer a distinct Newport Beach wine tasting with their Balboa Wine shop.

Newport Beach Wine Tasting

From a location on the Lompoc Wine Trail to Newport Beach wine tasting, their wine journey has seen them add another wine label, Wine Cowboys. David currently distills for the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. Although their wine adventures continue, their philosophy behind the wines has remained.

Balboa Wines is located in Newport Beach on Balboa Blvd. Walking into the tasting room, I immediately thought of a speakeasy. Something clandestine about the interior makes one wonder what mysteries lie within—the secret, the extraordinary wines that Artisan Uprising produces.

Wine Cowboys Desert Rose
Wine Cowboys Desert Rose

Artisan Uprising Philosophy

Although the locations may differ, the traditional artistic concept behind the wine remains the same. The wines still strive to exemplify Vondrasek’s hands-on approach to winemaking.

They describe their philosophy: “The pallet we paint from Is a collection of ideas and colors represented by our character. The science is black and white, but we like to tinker with it a little… There is no form. There is no structure. To us, this is a form of art. Another canvas to paint on. A mechanism of color to enhance the lives of those who appreciate it. A rebellion against the normative standard of rules and mass production. That which is made in small amount, displaying the highest quality in craftsmanship and ingredients.”

They aim to present us with what they consider the best version of a varietal. Although most consider this a science, the Vondraseks consider it an art.

As mentioned in my 2015 article, “Like the artwork on their label, an artist who is forging forward on his terms with only an easel, brushes and paint, they are taking an unbeaten path to make their artistic statement with wine. It is a creative statement using the wine as their palette and mixing some science in the background to help formulate the process.”

Billy Vondrasek Artisan Uprising
Billy Vondrasek Artisan Uprising

Newport Beach Wine Tasting – Malbec

The Vodraseks create wine to age. The tasting showed off the nuances of vintages and aging. I evidenced the differences through a vertical sampling of six Malbecs, starting with 2012 and continuing with 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2012 Artisan Uprising Malbec – An Excellent yet dry Malbec
2013 Artisan Uprising Malbec – More European in style with more red fruit
2014 Artisan Uprising Malbec – This Malbec was the boldest and most tannic of the lot.
2015 Artisan Uprising Malbec – Delivered the lowest alcohol and acidity.
2016 Artisan Uprising Malbec – This year had the highest alcohol at 15%.
2017 Artisan Uprising Malbec – Very drinkable with lots of red fruit

Looking back at my notes from the 2015 tasting with Artisan Uprising, I wrote the following about the 2012 Malbec. I could smell this varietal’s rich, silky, and velvety qualities. The fruity flavors of blackberry and black cherry made this an exemplary example of a California Malbec.

My favorites at my recent tasting were 2013 and 2017.

Artisan Uprising Malbec Vertical
Artisan Uprising Malbec Vertical

Newport Beach Wine Tasting – Other Wine

In addition to the Malbec, we sampled several other wines.

2015 Petit Verdot: I found a very balanced and integrated wine.

2015 Petite Sirah – I found a big wine with dark fruit.

2017 Sangiovese – The wine delivered a light texture and flavors of cranberry. I found the wine delightful.

Artisan Uprising Sangiovese
Artisan Uprising Sangiovese

Finishing up our tasting, we sampled the Moonlight Rising Apricot Brandy. Subtle hints of apricot are the essence of this yummy dessert wine.

If you are visiting Newport Beach and want to try some high-quality wines, I highly recommend visiting Artisan Uprising, as it represents the best in Newport Beach Wine Tasting.

Artisan Uprising Moonlight Rising Apricot Brandy
Artisan Uprising Moonlight Rising Apricot Brandy

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