Chasing Pipe Dreams

Less than 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean...

Shortly after our wedding my wife and I took a vacation to San Francisco and Napa Valley. We fell in love with wine country and vowed that one day it would be the life for us. Eight years later we sold almost everything to pursue that pipe dream. Napa and Sonoma are pretty developed and most folks with wineries are pretty well heeled. We were not. So, in picking a place to land we opted for the Central Coast, that gorgeous region along the coastal highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. We didn’t know anyone and we didn’t know what we were doing, but we knew we wanted to be there and working with wineries, somehow, was in our future.

We visited 200+ wineries throughout the coastal vineyards of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey (tough job but someone had to do it). In our journeys we figured out our next step, a step that would bring us back home to Oklahoma. We started a wine brokerage that would help small wineries from the Central Coast with distribution and sales. After 18 years of working/managing restaurants in Tulsa, launching our new endeavor in OK was the natural choice. But what wineries would we work with and bring to OK?

My wife is a planner, the best I know, which is good since I am not. She planned our wine exploration trips, scheduled our stops, packed our lunches, and I did the driving. One winery she picked for no other reason than that she liked the label. The wine snob in me was insulted. What gimmicky winery were we about to visit? As if good wine and good packaging can’t coexist. Thank goodness Miranda was planning the visits and not me because this visit, to Center of Effort, turned into our very first wine brokerage client.

At a rather large nondescript building, tucked on a winding vineyard road in Edna Valley just 4 ½ miles from the Pacific Ocean resides the Center of Effort winery. We arrive for our appointment, a tasting with a Cal Poly student intern, right next to the barrels and tanks on a concrete floor. No fancy tasting rooms, no marble fountains, and no visitor gift shop. My wife and I are impressed with the nuance and complexities of their estate grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. My wife, beaming with the “I get the credit because I picked this winery and you thought it was going to be gimmicky” glow gives the go ahead to tell the intern about our wine brokerage plan. The intern informs us the winemaker is here and asks if we’d like to talk to him….um, duh! Off the intern goes and several minutes later returns with the winemaker, assistant winemaker, a couple more interns, and a bunch of glasses and unlabeled bottles.

The vineyard at Center of Effort (COE) is planted to 100% Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The vineyard is divided into small groups called blocks. Some blocks are planted on the valley floor, some on the hillside, some get sun exposure all day, and some only in the morning. The COE team carefully harvests each block separately and cares for them individually throughout the winemaking process. On the day we arrived for our tasting, the COE team was tasting barrel samples, evaluating each block to see which was the best expression of the vineyard and which would end up in the very few prized Center of Effort Estate bottles that were to be produced. Nathan, the winemaker, asked if we’d like to taste with them…um, duh!

It was our first barrel sample tasting and even though I didn’t think they’d be influenced by me I still felt this pressure of not saying anything wrong because it might impact what goes into the final Estate bottle. Everything tasted so good, how in the world do you decide what makes the cut? That’s when we were introduced to their second label, Fossil Point. Named after a Cape near Avila Beach, the wines that weren’t selected for the tiny production of Estate bottles would be blended with grapes grown for them by neighbors. Fossil Point wines are like an introduction to the winery, giving people a chance to peak into the care and skill of the COE team for under $20.

We love these wines. We’ve seen firsthand the care they receive. They express a brightness and intensity that somehow showcases their vineyard’s bond to the ocean, just 4 ½ miles away. I invite you to try them, either the esteemed Center of Effort Estate or the delicious Fossil Point. If you like them, be sure to thank Miranda next time you see her, she deserves the credit.


Joe Breaux,
Founder & CEO