SORT THIS OUT CELLARS
Nostalgia has always been an important part of the American experience. Sort This Out Cellars is a small producer of California wines that has given nostalgia a new venue. Established in 2007, Sort This Out Cellars produces wines from grapes grown throughout California's wine country using diverse varietals and appellations which they feel represent the best of what California's wine industry can produce. "I have relieved myself of the restrictions associated with owning vineyards or producing wines from a singular viticultural area," says owner Michael Cobb. This means he can search the state for the best grapes to crush, or in some cases the best juice from another winery to purchase, and then finish it into his own wine. "Tired of the traditional wine country narrative, I wanted to move beyond the iconic family winery, or estate grown grape paradigms that have dominated the California wine landscape, and instead make wines that looked more like the people who drank them," he says. Cobb is rather proud of the fact that he doesn't have a farming background to draw on, something many people in the wine business might consider a handicap. "I think of myself as a degenerate gambler-turned-winemaker," Cobb jokes. "I try simply to make the very best wine I can. I'm in the entertainment business and wine is entertaining. At the end of the day the wine in the bottle has to meet people's expectations." And Sort This Out Cellars is doing just that.
Inspired by an old photograph of the famed Rat Pack outside The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in 1961, and a love of that specific time period, Cobb conspired to create a new type of winery. He doesn't own any vineyards and frankly he has no desire to. Cobb decided early on to "throw all the traditional corporate structure out with the bath water," as he puts it. This doesn't mean however that he came into the wine business as a novice. Far from it. Mike Cobb was the Wine Buyer for Disneyland's Club 33 located inside the famed park. You may not have heard of Club 33, and that's because it is an exclusive members-only club that Walt Disney himself started decades ago and still operating inside the park. From those beginnings he decided to venture out and get in the wine business, but to do it as simply and with as much fun as possible. "I make wines that are just as at home at the poker table as the dinner table. Wines that pair with good times and friends," Cobb says. And his winery name factors into this idea as well. Cobb never had a desire to name the winery after himself so he pulled a line from one of his favorite movies, the 2001 film, "Made" starring Vince Vaughn. But since that is such an obscure movie, often he tells people in his tasting room, "If you don't like my wines we'll go outside and sort this out," which usually gets the laughs that sets the tone for the tasting. Sort This Out Cellars has a diverse lineup of wines, from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat and even a super Tuscan blend.
Cobb's wine labels are obviously a huge part of draw and reflect a 1940s and 1950s Las Vegas feel to them. He has also recently released a series of pin-up girl labels and though it looks great, designing such a label takes a lot of thought. "The hardest part is when you know something you put a lot of time and effort into isn't going to work. You can't force it. If the design isn't working you have to move on," he says of the involved process of selecting labels. "As much as it hurts to toss two or three days work into the trash, I feel I have an obligation to make sure the final product represents the best of what I'm capable of doing. I take pride in the quality of the wine, it deserves to look as good as it tastes," he adds. For such an ambitious start, Sort This Out is currently only producing about 1,500 cases, which sells quickly. Cobb plans to reach between 3,000 to 5,000 cases as sales progress. The first tasting room was located in Buellton which only opened in July, 2008. But now Cobb is moving to Solvang, where he will share the town with a number of other wineries. You can see all the Sort This Out labels and taste Mike Cobb's wines and experience a blast from the past at his new location.
Sort This Out Cellars new tasting room is located at 1636 Copenhagen Drive in Solvang. They are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. Tasting fees are $5 - $15 and Cobb uses stemless wine glasses, rather fitting for the hip and cool vibe he presents to a thirsty public. Contact Sort This Out at (805) 688-1717 or www.sortthisoutcellars.com.