Clarissa Nagy is founder and winemaker of Nagy wines. She has been making wine through her own label since the early 2000s in the Santa Maria Valley.
The wine industry seemed to have found Clarissa when she was a student studying food science. She was interning at a sensory marketing company, which was her first exposure to wine at a sensory level. She started her whole journey in wine tasting in college. Her first production training came during harvest 1995 at Edna Valley Vineyards in the cellar and lab.
She got her first job at Firestone Vineyards. Other wineries on the list include: Curtis Winery, Byron Vineyard and Winery, Longoria Wines, Rancho Arroyo Grande Winery, Bonaccorsi Wine Company and Riverbench Vineyard and Winery. When she moved to Santa Maria Valley in 2001 to work at Byron Winery, she fell in love with the characteristics from the area’s unique cool climate, derived from the east-west transverse mountain range. This translated into her passion for working with Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.
Clarissa met her husband while they were working together. They made a barrel of 2002 Viognier as a wedding favor. It seemed a fitting gift for their family and friends. Her quest for another source of Viognier was encouraged by those who had tasted the “wedding wine.” It would turn into a longer quest than she expected.
She also purchased one ton of Pinot Noir in 2004. She wanted to continue making Pinot Noir and work with an amazing vineyard. One thing led to another. In 2005, she began working with three different vineyards. Her brand was born.
Pinot Noir and Syrah were her main focus for the next six years. She went back to making a Viognier in 2010, but frost would prevent her from doing so in 2011. The loss of Viognier opened the door to work with Pinot Blanc as well, and her journey continued to unfold. The most recent chapter of her story was the addition of the Nagy tasting room.
Santa Maria Valley was an ancient riverbed, creating a lot organic matter there, fossilized shells, and how this imparts a minerality to the wines there. In Santa Maria Valley, there is also a lot of sand. With the coastal influence, specifically in Guadalupe, you can see the water churning, which creates the fog and draws it across our Valley where the ocean breezes come through. The bud break happens all within about a week of each other among all the vineyards.
The greatest challenge for Clarissa is that every year, the harvest is different. The Pinot Noir is considered the finickiest grape, but one she loves to work with. Every year, different patterns emerge, but patterns that she has now been able to recognize. The constant state of flux is what makes it fun and challenging for Clarissa, even with her 22nd vintage.
Clarissa’s goal is that every single year, the new vintage will be better than the past one. It allows her to constantly learn and try new techniques, and use new technology to improve quality in winemaking. Her biggest philosophy is to be able to draw out the taste of the vineyard to the customer. Whether it is a Chinese Five-Spice, silky tannin, or working with different aromas, floral notes or dark fruits, her aim is to translate those into the wine. Her sensory background comes through in each of her bottles.
Clarissa works with the grapes she has grown to love as a winemaker and wine lover. The sophistication in her Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah is memorable. Sharing that joy with others is her priority. Visit, discover and explore the various sensory training and food pairings regularly featured in her tasting room.
cnagy wines are available for purchase in their tasting room in Old Orcutt and through custom orders. Visit the tasting room and find out firsthand how the shape of the glass can enhance your tasting experience.
145 S. Gray Street
Orcutt, CA 93455
The Santa Maria Valley is the ideal home base for California’s Central Coast with 34 tasting rooms, 6 unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. The area was voted a top destination for Wine Snobs by The Travel Channel. Yet, our idea of snobbery consists of swirling ‘til you spill and where coming uncorked is quite encouraged.
Tour the land where grapes grow as far as the eye can see. Where sprawling vineyards, smooth wine and down home fun come together to create something that you can’t quite put your finger on, but that you’re sure you never want to leave behind. You can do it all #SantaMariaStyle.
*** In Santa Maria Valley, there’s so much to do from here. Hit the road and explore it all with our 24 hiking trails, 34 tasting rooms, seven unique AVAs, 13 beaches, and a growing selection of local breweries, all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. There is no need to venture far if you are looking for sand dunes, cycling and authentic Santa Maria Style dining. You’ll find it’s the perfect home base, where you can eat, drink and do more for less.