EDIBLE: New local brand Mana Wines draws a fast following.
Loosely translated from Hawaiian – and interwoven with the inked outline of the Hawaiian Islands – they go like this: Serve the land. Live with humility. Live with energy. Live with virtue.
Pebble Beach’s Hutchison, 38, added to the energy at Rio Grill’s kinetic 33rd birthday last week, which exploded with flavor – namely the candied pork belly “jolly rancheros” and sweet potato-quinoa sliders – and 400-plus people. Her new local wine is named after that third element (Mana), inspired by both Monterey Bay and the tropics where her mother grew up and Hutchison spent half her life.
Her first vintage includes a fresh Napa Rosé, a serviceable North Coast Chardonnay and an oaky Arroyo Seco Pinot she sources from Folktale Winery in Carmel Valley. They’re marketable, versatile and accessible, designed to be priced under $20. The label art delivers a mosaic image of a wave, made by award-winning Kraftwerk Design, that reflects a deep identification with the sea that’s extrapolated on the back of the bottle. My favorite thing about the bootstrap project, though, is that she’s doing it as a single mom, andbecause she’s a single mom.
That doesn’t recommend her because women have more sensitive palates than men (though they do, according to authorities at the Napa Culinary Institute of America, viaNPR’s The Salt) and are better mothers (that too). It recommends her because females are wildly outnumbered on both sides of the business.
The good news: Women winemakers and sommeliers remain relatively rare but are on the rise, with the majority of new Court of Master Sommeliers members being women for the first time in 2015.
The Weekly has highlighted as much with pieces on tastemakers like Pebble Beach Company Wine Director Wendy Heilmann and somms like Jannae Lizza, Sarah Youngbar Boynton, Erin Herendeen-Hill, Paige Bindel, Sarah Kabat-Marcy and Beccy Breeze; and profiles of remarkable winemakers like Emily Hunt (of upstart Drench), Annette Hoff(of Cima Collina) and Sabine Rodems (of Wrath and Scratch).
In fact, Scratch’s tasting room just debuted in the Winfield Gallery on Dolores in Carmel April 27 (320-0726, noon-6pm weekdays, noon-7pm Friday-Saturday). It reimagines the former Figge Cellars tasting space – Figge’s off to 3 Pilot Road in Carmel Valley – with modern light fixtures, an 18-foot bar and a selection of adventurous small-batch Rieslings and Grenaches unlike most anything out there.
The bad news: The gender imbalance grows exponentially on the sales side, where Hutchison has spent much of her career. And finding females in the higher rungs at the big wine and spirits distribution houses is like finding snowflakes in Honolulu.
Hutchison wants to help change that, but she refuses to be a novelty. “I don’t want you to buy my wine because I’m a woman,” she says. “Or because you’re my friend and you’re doing me a favor. I want you to buy it because you like it.”
Still, it doesn’t hurt that she has so many industry friends after 23 years in catering, restaurants, dining PR and repping wine (she continues to sell Miner Family Wines). Over an industry lunch at Sandbar & Grill, she ticks off the ways she knows just about everybody at the bar, who gather there Mondays to taste wines, slap backs and toast time-tested friendships.
“I know the market. You build trust. You become a part of it,” she says.
Sandbar and spots like Rio, The Wharf Marketplace, Tarpy’s Roadhouse, Surf N Sand’s shops, Melville Tavern and Affina Food and Wine are among those stocking Mana enthusiastically.
Melville owner Colin Ling prioritizes wines customers can afford to enjoy every day (and happens to have the Mana Rosé as his current $7 wine of the week).
“It’s easy to drink, fruit-forward and refreshing,” he says. “She’s a local girl who knows what people want. My customers love it.”
Hutchison’s karmic commitments – echoed in the tattoos – can’t hurt either. She’s served on more community boards than there’s room to list here. She’s about to auction off 200 cases of Chardonnay to benefit Operation Surf, a nonprofit highlighted by the Weekly and ESPN for its work healing wounded combat veterans with waves. Her boyfriend, surf instructor Noah Greenberg, helps train them; she was asked to join the board after organizing a successful Poppy Hills golf fundraiser in April. (A SLO Country Club followup comes June 26.) There are waves of energy running all through this woman.
In Mana, she sees less of a destination than a starting point for other projects, including a coffee-table book The Art of Spitting, in which she interviews her wine heroes; she’s already interviewed master sommeliers Geoff Kruph and William Sherer.
“Travel kills me as a single mom – I wanted something so I don’t have to get on the plane so much,” she says. “Mana is my emancipation from telling someone else’s story.”
In words, wine and ink.
More at manawines.com.
Read the original article at Monterey County Weekly.