TOP Winery: Striking the Balance Of Life Through Wine

Top Winery Precession Grenache

The word balance has many interpretations depending on how each person perceives it. Is it balancing your day between work and relaxation? Is it the risks and challenges we encounter every day that put our lives in balance? For TOP Winery, owners Elena Martinez and Stanley Barrios, the meaning describes their passion, the winery they are building, and the wine they create. Their lives are surrounded by the chances they have taken to arrive where they are today.

About Elena Martinez and Stanley Barrios

Life with wine started with Stanley and Elena being professional wine drinkers. Their interest drove them to seek more knowledge by discovering wines from around the world. As their passion for wine increased, the desire to craft their own wine became very apparent. That leap took them from the corporate world in Los Angeles to Paso Robles, where Stanley started working as an intern at Nicora.

TOP Winery Elena Martinez discussing balance
TOP Winery co-owner Elena Martinez discussing balance

In 2014, Stanley and Elena established TOP Winery, and they went from producing 200 cases to 800 in 2016. Next year, they hope that number will increase to 1000. The concentration is on Rhone Varietals, mostly single varieties. Their purity typifies each variety and the particular Paso Robles AVA’s terroir.

Why TOP Winery?

Stanley and Elena named the winery TOP because the spinning top symbolizes their life together and the goals they wish to achieve. It is a metaphor reminding them to keep their balance. Although the spinning top is a toy, it is constructed to maintain balance as it spins. The top may wobble while it turns, as if it might lose balance. This concept signifies the bumps in the road or challenges each of us encounters trying to achieve our aspirations. This path that is always in motion represents not only Stanley and Elena’s life but also the balance and interpretation they choose for their wines.

LA Wine Writers Luncheon

Recently, a wine tasting for LA Wine Writers at Café Del Rey featured the wines of TOP Winery. Chef David Vilchez superbly planned a meal that paired perfectly with the selection of wines we sampled. Elena stole the afternoon. You immediately felt her passion for what she and Stanley accomplish with their wines.

TOP Winery Elena Martinez - Cafe Del Rey
TOP Winery Elena Martinez at Cafe Del Rey

Top Winery Wines:

We started our tasting with the 2015 Poise – Roussanne, Adelaide District.  Salt Spring Mussels accompanied the wine. The Roussanne displayed buttery flavors of honey and pineapple. This wine delivers poise by standing out as a bigger, more prominent Roussanne than those we typically sample.

The 2014 Precession – Grenache, Willow Creek District, a wine seamlessly elegant, although Elena describes it as masculine with power. The wine is named Precession because it represents the moment the spin top loses momentum and has to move forward on its own. On the nose, one finds aromas of plums, red fruit, and jam. I found savory flavors mixed with plum and hints of tobacco. This wine paired with Tri-Peppered Pork Loin.

Cafe Del Rey - Tri-Peppered Pork Loin
Cafe Del Rey – Tri-Peppered Pork Loin

Although sold out, our group sampled the  2014 Lever – Mourvedre, Willow Creek District. This wine, another favorite because the wine most significantly symbolizes the philosophy behind TOP wines. The varietal proudly displays the balance that Stanley and Elena strive for. Usually considered a blending wine, Mourvedre works as a helper, bringing together the other components of the particular blend. In this case, the wine stands on its own with its sweet and savory flavors, a level above most other Mourvedre.

TOP Winery Lever - Mourvedre
TOP Winery Lever – Mourvedre

Our final course featured the 2014 Exert- Syrah, Willow Creek District, a blend of 92% Syrah, 5% Grenache, and 3% Mourvedre. The wine is bright with a smooth yet rich balance and exhibits dark fruit on the palate. This wine paired with Grilled Venison Loin. The Syrah softens the gamey flavors of the meat.

TOP Winery Exert- Syrah
TOP Winery Exert- Syrah
Cafe Del Rey - Grilled Venison Loin
Cafe Del Rey – Grilled Venison Loin

TOP’s Balance:

By far, my two favorite wines of the day were the Grenache and the Mourvedre. After tasting these wines, one undoubtedly knows the risks both Stanley and Elena took to get to this point, but also we reap the rewards they achieved through the balance and beauty of their wines.

To quote Stanley and Elena, “Our wines are crafted from the terroir of chance. Like the independent spirit of an exceptional wine, those who take risks – who balance chance’s guiding hand with meticulous craftsmanship, are greatly rewarded. Ignore fate and forfeit the opportunity for the extraordinary. So go ahead, take a spin, open a bottle of chance.” It is now your turn to take the challenge and discover the wines of TOP Winery.

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer was hosted to the wines sampled for the purpose of this review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.