Biz Buzz: Autry opens tasting room

Artisan winemaker Stephen Autry has opened a tasting room in his winery, Stephen Autry Cellars, at 835 Capitolio Way, Suite 3, in San Luis Obispo.

The space, which is shared by the winery, is tiny, about 1,240 square feet.

“It’s like making wine in a phone booth,” Autry said.

But wine connoisseurs will have the opportunity to wriggle between barrels and talk directly to the winemaker, Autry said.

Autry, a former aerospace engineering technician, started making wine about 10 years ago with the goal, he said, “of making the very best wine I can possibly make and earn a half-way decent living at it.”

The wine’s logo is a bass clef because Autry, who is distantly related to the singing cowboy Gene Autry, is also a professional musician.

He produces about 800 cases of wine ranging from sauvignon blanc to merlot, and may increase production up to 2,000 cases a year, but intends to keep it small to make sure he maintains the high quality he wants. Bottles sell from $18 to $44 each.

His tasting room will be the second on Capitolio. Don Peters’ Cerro Caliente Cellars is at 825 Capitolio; on that site is also an automotive shop.

— Melanie Cleveland

Embassy manager, staff are honored

Hilton Worldwide, on behalf of one of its brands, Embassy Suites, has honored Tim Billing of Arroyo Grande with the Hervey Feldman Award, which goes annually to the person chosen nationally as general manager of the year for the full chain of 205 Embassy Suites hotels. Billing has worked at the San Luis Obispo Embassy Suites since 2004.

The Hervey Feldman Award is named in honor of the brand’s first president, and nominees are evaluated on characteristics including: leadership, accountability, business sense, creativity, and community involvement.

In a separate award, San Luis Obispo Embassy Suites was recently honored by Windsor capital group, which owns the hotel, for having the top hotel team of the year for 2009 among Windsor’s 25 hotels nationally. Evaluation criteria involved performance and employee scores, according to Windsor spokesman Craig Stechman.

— Julia Hickey