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ATE * Drank * SAW

VC EatsVC Star

BY Lisa McKinnon | February 1, 2018

Photo/Lisa McKinnon – VC Star

Ventura County has more than a dozen wineries. But vineyards? Not so much. Exceptions include Cani Amante, located in the Upper Ojai and named for the loose translation of “dog lovers” in Italian. (The name isn’t an accident: Owner Ed Guerra got a paw-print tattoo on his left wrist, placed a giant metal sculpture of a dog in the vineyard, and donates proceeds from wine-grape sales to Ventura County Animal Services.) Stretching over more than 4 acres of hilly terrain, Cani Amante serves as the estate vineyard for Four Brix Winery in Ventura. The partnership first came to fruition with the 2014 release of a 2013 riesling. (For The Star’s story about that wine, click HERE.)

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The Dogged Pursuit of Wine

Edible Ojai & Ventura


“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance,” according to Benjamin Franklin. You could say the same about dogs. Better yet, add “pets” and it’s quite possible you’ve got yourself the perfect pairing.

With good wines and beloved pets in mind, Four Brix Winery in Ventura and Cani Amante Vineyard in Ojai have partnered to benefit Ventura County’s best friends in need. A portion of the proceeds from each bottle of wine made with grapes from Cani Amante and sold by Four Brix supports the Ventura County Animal Services no-kill animal shelter in Camarillo via its nonprofit arm.

Cani Amante loosely translates to “dog lovers” in Italian. The vineyard’s owners, Debbie and Ed Guerra, have been longtime supporters of rescue programs for animals, especially dogs.

“We specifically use the funds from Four Brix for the Fly Me Home program, where we pay for animals to fly across the country, which takes animals from our shelter and places them into other communities where they’re quickly adopted,” says Tara Diller, director of Ventura County Animal Services.

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A Slice Of The Coastal Life: 10 Things To Do In Ventura, California


A coastal community, Ventura is one of central California’s tourist gems. It has beautiful beaches and islands for adventure seekers, as well as parks and gardens for more relaxed travellers. Even history enthusiasts will be delighted with its old churches and ancient buildings from the pre-colonial period. Another thing to love in Ventura: it is has year-round warm average temperatures with no snowfall, providing everyone with a chance to enjoy the beaches no matter what time of the year.

If you’re planning a trip to Ventura soon, this list will be of great help. Check out a variety of activities that can make your vacation an unforgettable one!

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California Love: Your SoCal Getaway Guide

Wine Enthusiast

Escape the urban confines of Los Angeles or San Diego by overnighting at one of these three great destinations. BY MATT KETTMANN

Four Brix Winery in Ventura, CA.
Four Brix Winery in Ventura, CA.

For the more than 20 million people who live in and around Los Angeles and San Diego, it’s never been easier to slip away for an overnight adventure that combines good eats, great drinks and stylish settings. From the reinvigorated wine country of Temecula and the trend-setting desert landscape of Palm Springs to the hip craft-brew vibes of Ventura and Ojai, here’s your cheat sheet to make your brief SoCal getaway as indulgent as possible.  Continue reading here.

TravelSavvy visits Ventura County West

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Cheers to Ventura County West

Featuring Karen Stewart, Four Brix Winery & David Whittemore, Herzog Wine Cellars

Behind the wine world’s “big three”-France, Italy, and Spain-the next major producer of the world’s vino is sunny California.  Ever since Father Juipero Serra planted vines in mission gardens from San Diego to Sonoma in the late 1700’s, the region’s year-round temperate climate and abundant sunshine, along with the rich and varied soil, has propelled the creation of a whopping 4,200 wineries.  They produce more than 709 billion gallons of red, white, sparkling varieties in 2014.  In Venutra County West, wine lovers will be delighted to learn there are a handful of boutique wineries and wine-tasting rooms operated by locals.  The beautiful weather not only produces amazing grapes, but the area is ripe for enjoying the California sunshine, where you can bike, hike, swim, kayak, and surf.  In short, it’s the best of all possible worlds.

We connected with Karen Stewart from Four Brix and David Whittemore of Herzog Cellars and talked about beaches, picnics, and the simple beauty of a perfect cup of coffee.

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Rockin Red Blog



Although there are only a handful of wineries in Ventura County, California they are producing some seriously high quality wines. One such winery is Four Brix Winery, a collaboration of six longtime friends and passionate wine lovers. Karen Stewart, whose husband Gary Stewart is the wine maker, opened the Brix House tasting room for me one Tuesday afternoon to share the Four Brix wine portfolio with me. I will tell you upfront the wines were excellent! As you know the term “brix” measures how much sugar is contained in grapes. To play on this wine making word Four Brix winery is named after their four flagship wines representing different wine growing regions: Rhondezvous for France, Tempress for Spain, Zeductive for California and Scosso for Italy. Each of the European wine regions holds a special place in the hearts of the owners through their travel adventures. As you will notice from the pictures their labels are as unique and expressive as their wines. So let’s get to tasting….

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Cani Amante Vineyard


Cani, (Italian-pronounced Con e) Amante grew out of a love of the land, family, and of course wine. The owners, Debbie and Ed Guerra, took one look at the 38 acre parcel in 2005 and fell in love. The views were stunning looking up from the flat 4-5 acres which would naturally become the vineyard. One side, the striking Topa Topa Mountains, the other, the hills of Nordoff Peak on the edge of Los Padres National Forest; another, Ventura in the far distance with a sliver of Lake Casitas, and the crowning jewel, a knoll on the property which captures the infamous Ojai Pink Moment every waning afternoon. The Pratt Trail runs along the entire length of the vineyard so a walk down from Nordoff Peak drops you right into the middle of this majesty of nature. In the Spring you may even hear a seasonal spring racing below you as you walk alongside the rows of vines.

Records showed this property had never been farmed and the land proved this true. So began the clearing process. With the love of wine in mind, no fear of big projects, and a confirmation from soil testing that this land was waiting for grapes, the rock removal began. The task at hand began in early 2009; clearing 5 feet of rock above and beneath the ground. Debbie’s father, eager to buy the backhoe and tractor he wished he had as a kid growing up on a farm, made a seemingly impossible task only somewhat impossible. Then Debbie’s Uncle Stan, who grew up on that same farm, didn’t let the 80 years behind him slow him down. He volunteered his tractor skills. Ed and Stan went to work pulling boulder after boulder out of the earth, some the size of a small car. By late summer, it was Debbie’s turn on the backhoe. From 8am-5pm every day, Uncle Stan was ready. She couldn’t wait to get on the tractor and what seemed like an insurmountable task now was a pleasure to share each day with her uncle and father. The feeling of pride as they all looked over the acres of flat, beautifully groomed dirt after a year of hard work is a moment they’ll never forget. Ed and Debbie will always be grateful that their land was prepared with such love; the perfect bed for planting.


After speaking with numerous people throughout the valley, one name always came up as the man to manage the vineyard. Martin Ramirez, owner of Vineyards of Ojai, was the premier vintner’s choice for farming wine grapes in the Ojai Valley.


After meeting Martin, they knew he was a perfect fit and in April 2010 the first vines were planted. Cani Amante grows Riesling for a dry white, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot for a Bordeaux type blend and then the majority of the vineyard is a few select Italian red varietals; Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbara. The first day of planting was a mix of Martin’s highly skilled crew, friends and family that came to help, the owners, and of course their dog Sara. After 12 years together, Sara could now add “vineyard dog” to her long list of accomplishments. She was right alongside the entire process, sometimes riding with Dad on the tractor, sometimes helping Uncle Stan eat his lunch, and during planting, right there sniffing the vines to make sure they were up to her owner’s high standards.


Sara is now watching over Cani Amante and was the inspiration behind the name; “dog lovers,” a loose translation from Italian. Her 16 years of love and devotion made an indelible mark on their lives. Joy and love are two emotions that dogs bring to our lives and are such a guiding force for living life. Cani Amante hopes to be able to help other dogs live as blissful a life as Sara and to share such joy with families throughout Ventura County by donating some of the profits from sales of Cani Amante Vineyard wines towards various dog advocacies in the area.


This is one of the many reasons Cani chose to partner with Four Brix Winery. Not only did they share the owner’s love of animals, but their skill and enthusiasm for the young vineyard made the decision easy. We shared the same vision. The years ahead will be filled with “extreme harvests” (Gary’s term, one of the owners of Four Brix, for having to backhoe the grape bins out of the vineyard), farm to table wine-member parties in the vineyard, jeep tours, and dog fundraising events.

The Guerra’s look forward to sharing these events with family, friends, and other wine enthusiasts that appreciate the land, the love of family and friends, and hopefully dogs; because dogs are always welcomed and encouraged to run to their heart’s content at Cani Amante Vineyards.

Many thanks,
Debbie & Ed Guerra- owners, Cani Amante Vineyard

Wine Tasting in Ventura. Who Knew?

Excerpt from Keeping the Faith Blog

I was invited to the opening of a new winery. Not one to turn down an opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine, I happily agreed to go. I planned to drive to Santa Barbara, go to the opening, and spend the night. I had the weekend planned out and was excited. I booked a hotel room and was looking forward to a mini break in wine country.

A few days before the opening I received an email reminding me about the event and saying they looked forward to seeing me in Ventura. What? Ventura? I thought perhaps they wanted to meet me in Ventura and drive together, which would not work because I was using the opening as an excuse to have a little vacation.

That is when I looked closely at the invitation and realized the winery was actually in Ventura. I had no idea there were wineries in Ventura. I was unclear about anything in Ventura actually, and had to rethink my whole plan. Ventura is less than an hour away so my weekend in Santa Barbara became a day trip to Ventura with a stop at the local outlet mall.

I did a little research online and there is a thriving wine business in Ventura. It may not be as famous as Napa, or as sexy as Santa Barbara, but it is an amazing group of people making great wine and chasing their dreams. I was looking forward to the wine, but after a little reading on the business of winemaking, I was excited to meet the people.

It was an interesting afternoon. Not only did I try wine, but spent time with the owners of the wineries. I was treated to an afternoon of learning about wine and fantastic stories about the journey from grape to glass. I can appreciate the subtle nuances between different types of wine, but never really thought about the bigger picture until now.

I started by meeting with the owners of the Four Brix Winery. The word “brix” is the term used to measure how much sugar is in grapes. The owners picked the their four “sweet spots” for wine which are California, Italy, France, and Spain, then called their company “Four Brix”. They have a great story and I was listening like a kid at storytime.

This group of friends from Ventura went on wine tours through Europe and began making wine in their garages just for themselves. During their trips abroad they became more involved in the world of wine and decided to make a go of it and start their own winery.  I tried a few of their wines and my favorite was one called “Scosso”.

I would eat Scosso popsicles it was so good. It is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. It tastes fruity and soft and would pair perfectly with an Italian meal. When I knew the story of the wine, and that it took over three years to get from vineyard to glass and more than 20 people were part of the process, it tasted better.

To sit with the wine makers amongst the barrels of wine is very cool. The barrels themselves are beautiful works of art. They’re held together by metal brackets and have no nails, which I never knew. The work it took just to carve them is amazing and to learn how they vary by region and tree is fascinating. I was hanging on every word.

After an amazing time with the owners of Four Brix, I walked next door to their newest venture, Blendz.  The best way to compare these two wineries is to say Four Brix is a handsome and sophisticated gentleman, while Blendz is a sexy, bad boy, rock star. They have partnered to start a new label and nothing about the Blendz winery is ordinary.

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Ilana Angel writes two blogs for KEEPING THE FAITH is about her worldview as a single Jewish mother, and KEEPING IT REAL is all about reality television…. Read more

Vines, canines at center of Ventura County winemaking effort

OJAI, Calif. – Ed Guerra’s vineyard in Upper Ojai isn’t going to the dogs. It’s already there.

Flashing a paw-print tattoo on his left wrist, Guerra pointed out the highlights while leading a tour of the 4 1/2-acre site he owns with wife Debbie Guerra.

It started with a visit to the larger-than-life metal sculpture of a dog. Purchased in memory of Sara, the couple’s beloved rescue Finnish Spitz, the sculpture stands at the border between their yard and the vineyard. Its nose points to the 4,200 vines arranged in neat rows on the steep, sun-baked hillside below.

Later, while driving a 4-wheel-drive truck past a protective berm of boulders to get a closer look at the vines, Guerra mentioned that some of the proceeds from sales of the grapes will go to the humane society.

“We love animals. Dogs in particular,” he said.

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Article written by Lisa McKinnon, Ventura County Star