Joan Escovar, left, at the Idyll Time release party. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Joan Escovar, left, at the Idyll Time release party. Photo by Robert Eliason.

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At its San Jose tasting room, Hollister’s Idyll Time Wines held an ocean-themed release party on Oct. 20-21 for their three signature wines, including the 2021 Poseidon Syrapinot, their trademarked blend of 35% syrah and 65% pinot noir.  

“I think we had 75 people the first day and around 50 on the second,” said owner Joan Escovar. “It could have been a little livelier, but we ran up against some sporting events. But you could not ask for better weather—I think the Big Man loves me!” 

A mix of wine club members and people just discovering the winery, guests were given the chance to try all the wines Idyll Time has produced to date. But the focus of the event was the Syrapinot, the winery’s flagship offering, which, if it follows the pattern of the previous two releases, soon should be scoring well with critics and weighed down with industry awards.

As with the previous two vintages, all the wines except a chardonnay come from a Hollister vineyard her father planted in 1999. And Escovar again worked with DeRose Winery’s Al DeRose, who blended the wines to her specifications.  

“Al is a tremendous winemaker,” she said. “I tell him how I want it to taste, and he really does what I want. He doesn’t act like he is the artist and that you are only going to get what he wants to make.”

Escovar and DeRose have developed a comfortable collaboration that has so far produced 15 wines, 

“It took a while for him to warm up to it,” Escovar said. “I don’t think he was used to my craziness. He sat down with us at first and just gave us the costs, but I am not sure he saw our future. But I think he sees it now after all the awards we have won.”

The first two iterations of Syrapinot have won honors with every submission, including those given to the 2019 release:

  • Rated 92 points and awarded a Gold Medal at the USA Wine Rating Competition
  • Rated 89 points and Editor’s Choice by Wine Enthusiast
  • Awarded a Silver Medal at the Sunset International Wine Competition
  • Rated 87 points and awarded a Silver Medal at the OC Fair Competition
  • Awarded a Bronze Medal at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

And those earned by the 2020 release:

  • Rated 91 points and awarded a Gold Medal at the West Coast Wine Competition
  • Rated 89 Points and awarded a Silver Medal at the USA Wine Rating Competition
  • Awarded a Bronze Medal at the OC Fair Competition

With that level of acclaim, Escovar finds it frustrating that the wines have not found greater distribution in restaurants and retail stores. When she first started out, she said, she did not realize what a “mean girl” game the wine business was.

“If a distributor sees my wine in a restaurant or a store,” Escovar said. “they are going to ask them where they got that wine. And then they say, ‘Well, if you buy that from them, we won’t sell you any of our wine.’ So trying to sell to them was a waste of my time.”

Her solution also partly explains why a Hollister winery would have a tasting room in San Jose: Escovar owns JP Graphics, a massive commercial printing and design service, and she brings all of its resources to bear on direct marketing of custom labeled “shiners,” wine bottles that lack a front label.

“That is how I am targeting my sales,” she said. “Nobody else in the business has got that secret sauce. Nobody has a print shop like mine that can enable you to customize an entire gift or promotional package that really will impress people.” 

Escovar can handle advanced printing tasks like die-cutting, embossing and foil stamping and with her staff of designers, she can produce pretty much anything a customer can imagine. 

The 2021 Idyll Time releases. Photo by Robert Eliason.
The 2021 Idyll Time releases. Photo by Robert Eliason.

As an example, at the recent Silicon Valley Business Journal Women of Influence dinner, every one of the 100 honorees got a bottle of wine with their own name on the label.

“They got them as they walked off the stage,” she said. “It was a great way for me to show what we can do, whether they take the bottle home and drink it or leave it in their office to show people.”

As would be expected, the packaging of the wine club release was immaculately designed and printed. Each of the labels reflected an ocean theme: a figure of Poseidon for the Syrapinot, an octopus for the ZinFest Zinfandel, and a seashell-like mask for the Que Syrah Syrah, all in deep tones with colored foil highlights.

Each box comes with a suite of three prints based on the label designs and a card with jeweled wine glass rings. This presentation of the 2021 collection of releases is also available through the website for $150. Each of the three wines is also offered in three-bottle “Evolution” boxed sets, each with one bottle of their 2019, 2020 and 2021 vintages if you want to taste how the wines have developed over the years.

At the wine release party, I had a chance to compare this year’s Poseidon Syrapinot with the previous two incarnations, and it measured up nicely. The 2020 Manifestation Syrapinot is Escover’s favorite of the three, with its subtle mix of tobacco and cranberry notes, a luminous acidity, and a lingering oak finish. For me, I thought the 2019 The Beginning Syrapinot offered a moodier contrast, with its darker tones of dried figs and mushrooms, which the Poseidon has swapped for a more distinct and bright fruit-forward profile.   

“I want our wine to be discovered,” Escover said. “They are a tremendous value, and every year the grapes are just getting better and better. We just want to be given a chance to prove ourselves in the marketplace.”

The 2021 Releases of Idyll Time Wines

2021 Poseidon Syrapinot ($25) – The aroma has a rich, dark fruitiness edged with tart, freshly picked cherries and a light but leathery base of earthy tannins. The taste is just as fruit-forward as the aroma, with light acidity and medium body. There is a subtle undertone of tannin that bows its head and quickly retreats, leaving hints of tobacco and sour candy along with notes of raspberries and prunes. The wine is perfectly balanced and smooth, gently melting in your mouth, and vanishing in an elegant finish. 

The Syrapinots have quickly become some of my favorite wines to gift because of their remarkable versatility and great price points. The blend is light enough to enjoy with fish or chicken and hearty enough to stand up to Mexican and Italian food as well as grilled meats and barbecue. It is also relaxed enough to just sip and enjoy on its own. All three are highly recommended, but I give an edge to the 2021 release.  

2021 Serpentine ZinFest ($45) – A dry full-bodied wine that presents with a dark musky aroma, the medium tannins and acidity provide a base for the rich dark fruit flavor of stewed plums and dark, nearly over-ripe blackberries. It is not a bold wine that demands attention, but rather a masterful balance of darkness and light, with a lingering but light citrusy-sour note in the finish. This wine benefits from giving it a little time to open, which enhances the depths and complexity of the fruit.  

2012 Leviathan Que Syrah Syrah ($55) – The cherry cola and hibiscus aroma carries into the flavor of this dark medium-bodied wine, with a sharp, almost effervescent, acidity hits the roof of your mouth while the bright fruit flows beneath, keeping the tannins subjugated. There is a nice dash of smoked pepper and vanilla as well swirling through the mix. For me, this is a food wine, the boldest of the three in this release, and would complement dishes just as bold, like a good carbonara or a pepper-crusted pork tenderloin. 

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BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market, for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.