We recently had the chance to try a few wines from Lido Bay, a wine collective that hand selects grapes from local vineyards in Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Monteray County, and then turns them into their own carefully curated vintages. Their winemaker and owner, Dave Armstrong, shared his story with us about how Lido Bay came to be, and we chose our favorite wines for pairing.
How did you get into winemaking?
I got into winemaking because I am a little bit crazy. I love wine, and I have since I was old enough to legally drink. Maybe even a little earlier than that! But I have always wanted to make a wine that could represent how I feel when it comes to the wine lifestyle – one that I could be proud of and mostly, have a lot of fun with others. I knew I wanted to do something with wine at some point in my life, and about six years ago the opportunity fell in my lap. I must have attracted it. I am very competitive as well, and I wanted a wine that would lay waste to the other mundane high-volume brands that are out there in the market place. I am on a mission, and right now it’s heading up the Lido Bay fleet.
Where were you before Lido Bay? What do you feel those experiences taught you?
Where haven’t I been? I am a serial entrepreneur and have been into just about anything and everything. It’s very important to me to do what you love and love what you do. I took a corporate job for five years early on in my career – hated it! I realized that there has to be more to life than the 9 to 5 rat race, so I decided to work for myself.
I was in the health and fitness industry for a while. Then I got into coffee, as I loved it, and I built a national high-end, organic coffe
While taking a consulting gig in Los Angeles, I started commuting from San Francisco to Southern California. I would stop regularly in Paso Robles, in the central coast of California, as it was a halfway point on my drive. As I started to spend time there and explore the quaint downtown area, my first impression was that they must produce horrible wine, as it was a fraction of the price of Napa and Sonoma wines, my normal wine country destinations. As I spent more time there, I started meeting the locals and ended up becoming dear friends with some whose families have been harvesting now for over 100 years. After touring and tasting nearly every vineyard I could find, I realized how amazing the Central Coast is. It’s the perfect climate, with hot summer days and the coastal cool down at night. I took the plunge and invested in a winery.e brand that was highly regarded. But after time, I decided to leave the coffee industry, as it was becoming highly competitive, and commodity prices were sky rocketing. I was constantly meeting people from the wine industry who were coming over into the coffee industry, and coffee people morphing over to wine, so that kept my wheels spinning, and thinking about wine. [It] just kept drawing me in.
Where do you source your grapes from, and how do you choose from so many options available in California?
To initially source our grapes, I selected a few vineyards that range from Santa Barbara to Paso Robles and all the way up to Monterey County. I kept the bar very high, but also went with what I personally liked. We contract about 75% of our fruit from around the Central Coast here in California. This gives us consistency in our wines. We also contract juice or wine from a few local wineries such as Lucas & Lewellen in Santa Barbara County, Sea Shell Vineyards and Anglim Winery in Paso Robles and Hahn Estates in Monterey County.
Some of my blends today are a bit unorthodox if a trained sommelier looked at them, but really it is the smell, taste and flavor of the finished goods that matters. We produce over 12 varietals and nearly 20 different wines. We choose varietals that grow in a wide range of micro climates and elevations and soils. Our whites and pinot noirs come mainly from Santa Barbara County near Buellton and Los Alamos where it is cooler and also Monterey County. Our bolder reds come from warmer sites in Paso Robles and the San Antonio Valley in southern Monterey County.
My higher-end white wines are the Seven Seas. The Revelers line is a great economy wine to get started on. The Mercenary wines are my bolder reds and the Bitch Tongue reds are my lighter reds. The Mutiny is a blend of a bit of all of my red varietals and it is the Lido Bay best seller by far. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE loves the Mutiny.
What is the vineyard and terroir like for Mutiny? How does this influence the quality of the grapes?
Being a Grenache-based blend of 8 varietals, we source the fruit from the calcareous soils from the warmer growing areas of Paso Robles and San Antonio Valley in Southern Monterey County. Most of the vineyard sites are over 800 feet in elevation with rich limestone soils for added complexity. In addition to low yields of only 2 to 3 tons per acre, we meticulously watch the crop closely and drop any green fruit towards the end of verasion and shoot thin and leaf pull as necessary, and finally use bird netting to eliminate bird damage and closely monitor irrigation to coax the intense varietal character into our wines. These rugged mountain grown sites force the roots down deep to tap into the limestone subsoil developing intense flavors.
What is Lido Bay’s eco footprint like? What are you doing to support biodynamic and sustainable viticulture practices?
With our strong belief in organic and sustainable farming practices, we have implemented many practices in an effort to minimize our carbon footprint such as releasing beneficial insects that prey on the bad bugs and planting beneficial habitats to encourage their populations thus minimizing the need for sprays and harsh chemicals.
How and where did the Pirate theme come to be?
Truthfully, I never set out to create a “pirate” wine. My goal was to create something young and a bit edgy, but still sophisticated. A brand that would have a cult following but still a high-end, serious wine to the true connoisseur. When I started thinking of the brand I wanted to create, I remembered back to when I first got into the world of being a wine consumer. I didn’t know much of anything other than white and red. I didn’t have any knowledge of the different appellations and varietals. I used to go down the aisle and literally buy my wine based on what labels I was attracted to. If it looked cool, high end or interesting based on the label, I would buy it and give it a try. So I wanted to create a wine that would speak to people and not get lost in the shelf space of all the thousands of other boring labels out there in the market place.
As I was thinking about the feel and the lifestyle I wanted the Lido Bay brand to portray, I was sitting on my balcony watching the sunset. I currently live on the water and in a water community. I had the vision for my wine. Lido Bay. I live on Lido Bay in Discovery Bay, California, and I thought it would be the perfect name and theme to create my wine after my own back yard. Once I had the name, then the names of the wines and the different lines and the concept started popping in like crazy: REVELERS, SEVEN SEAS, MERCENARY, MUTINY, and of course the soccer moms’ all time favorite, BITCH TONGUE.
Where can our readers find your wines? What are your plans for growth?
We are currently distributing to stores and restaurants in the following states:
• New York
• North Carolina
• South Carolina
We also have an online ecommerce store and we can ship to any US state where the laws allow consumer wine deliveries. Some states still have laws that forbid shipping wine directly to consumers. Being the mercenaries that we are at Lido Bay, we won’t go as far as losing our license to get the booty to you, but for the most part, customers won’t have too much trouble getting our wines.
We just signed a contract with a national distributor that will take us to at least 36 states, and that is in the works now. We are also currently distributing to China and Korea, and we just shipped some samples to Europe.
We’re having huge traction in California right now. With being such a young brand, we are extremely pleased with the response to Lido Bay and the loyalty of our fans. California is usually the most difficult state to gain traction in, due to the competition of wineries locally. Many wineries will initially start their venture outside of California to build a new brand and will work their way back to California once they have a proven track record. So for California to be one of Lido Bay’s strongest markets, it’s a feather in our cap. In a blind tasting conducted by Chris Sawyer, a renowned sommelier who buys for many 5-star restaurants in Sonoma including Carneros, Chris picked Lido Bay’s Mercenary Cabernet Sauvignon as his favorite cab alongside a Frank Family’s, which is a very well-known expensive wine. Our medals and awards lend tremendous credibility to the serious juice we bottle at Lido Bay.
We are dead set on Lido Bay being a top-of-mind, sophisticated yet affordable wine in today’s wine world. We set high standards that aim to bring in new fans and crew who will find a new home with our wines. I have always envisioned Lido Bay as a lifestyle as well as a wine: the Lido Bay life. We hope to branch out into many other wine-related products and gear that will support our crew of consumers.
Do you have any favorites in the Lido Bay lot?
They are all like my own children, so I hate to have favorites and I love them all, but the Bitch Tongue was really named after me. As I was doing research on the authentic pirate life back in the day, and creating the “Articles of Armstrong” rules of wine etiquette, which were modeled after actual contracts privateers would sign before going to sea, I came across a pirate translator and translated my name (Dave Armstrong) into the pirate name of Jones Bitch Tongue. I thought it was a fitting name for me. I must have been Jones in another life, and they often referred to a “bitch tongue” as a person who would never shut up, and I just can keep talking enough about my love and passion for Lido Bay and where we’re headed!
It’s been a lot of fun, extremely rewarding, and we are really just getting started. We are blessed to be doing what we love and being able to share that with others who resonate with our vision. If you have that pirate spirit, as we do, my advice is simply buy lots of Lido Bay Wine and follow the Articles of Armstrong. And at Lido Bay, we always like to end things with, “First Mates wanted, Revelers summoned, and blindfolds required!”