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The Regions – Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley

The Regions – Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley

I remember when I first heard that a Sommelier, a good Sommelier, I mean a really good one, could decipher not only varietal and region, but even vineyard source and vintage in a blind tasting. It blew my mind. It still blows my mind. The fact that any person can know that much about wine or about anything for that matter, is impressive to say the least.

As time went on and I was exposed to more wine (and better wine), I began to comprehend how someone could accomplish such as task. While I am many long pours away from picking out a vineyard designate 1997 Burgundy from a group of Pinots from around the World, I have learned to start picking our distinct differences in California wines. The more I drink the more I am trained to recognize characteristics common to varietals and regions from all over the state.

… Continue Reading

Alma Rosa – The Valley of Giants

Alma Rosa – The Valley of Giants

How do you measure a man? How do you judge his life’s work? Is it by wealth, by notoriety, the opinions of others? For the banker, is it by the quantity of his assets, or the doctor by the lives he saved? What about the winemaker, is it his vineyard, his winery, his wine?

How do you measure a man?

It is a personal question that is shaped by our social and moral upbringing. Throughout the ages, man has admired men for their bravery, their acts of love, their knowledge, and their art. Each culture sets its own unwritten code of admirable values and accomplishments. Some are genuine accomplishments, while others are pure vanity, like striving after the wind.

They say, show me a man’s friends and I will show you the man, but what of a man’s heroes, his inspirations? I have asked that of winemakers throughout California, “who has inspired you?” There has been inspiration in wine’s rich history, in those who came before. Others find it in their mentors both past and present. Some, in a husband or wife. However, many have told me they find inspiration in a soft-spoken pioneer of grape growing from the Santa Rita Hills, Richard Sanford. … Continue Reading

Sea Smoke Cellars – This Is Sea Smoke

August 26, 2010 Archieves 13 Comments
Sea Smoke Cellars – This Is Sea Smoke

I have seen two of Bob Davids’ homes. One is a gorgeous tropical pavilion in the foothills of Mount Batur, Bali. The other, is a 20′ tow behind trailer perched high on a hillside overlooking his Sta. Rita Hills vineyard. The first I saw on page 68 of August’s Architectural Digest and the latter I saw in person a few weeks ago.

To understand the home in Indonesia, you need to know that Mr. Davids did well for himself as CEO of one of the world’s largest toy companies. To understand the second, the trailer, which seems an odd choice for a man with the ability to live where he pleases, you need to understand the vineyard he planted and what he has accomplished on its wind blown slopes. It is an unlikely home for both Davids and the Pinot Noir grapes he loves.

… Continue Reading

Alta Maria Vineyards – Antithesis of Common Sense

August 12, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 3 Comments
Alta Maria Vineyards – Antithesis of Common Sense

James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins have impressive resumes.

James Ontiveros is a 9th generation Californian. His great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, the son of a Spanish soldier and a one time Corporal at San Gabriel Mission. His family originally settled in what is now Orange County on Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana (modern day Anaheim), which Juan Pacifico Ontiveros’ father was granted by the Mexican Government in 1833. A connection to wine came early to the Ontiveros family, when Ontiveros sold 1,165 acres of the land to the Los Angeles Vineyard Society in September 1857 for the cultivation of wine grapes. It was the first commercial vineyard in California.

In 1855, Ontiveros purchased the 8,900-acre Rancho Tepusquet from his father-in-law Tomás Olivera, who acquired it in a land grant in 1837. In 1957, he relocated to the Ranch in what is now the Santa Maria Valley, constructed an adobe, and lived there until his death in 1877. During his time there he raised cattle and horses and even planted wine grapes. Rancho Tepusquet, which today includes famed vineyards such as Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills made up the north side of the Santa Maria Valley. The south side was Rancho Tinaquaic, some 9,000- acres that were granted to Benjamin Foxen, another son-in-law of Tomás Olivera and Ontiveros’ brother-in-law. Ontiveros and Foxen were the first two Anglos to settle the region (Foxen, is the namesake of Foxen winery, which was co-founded by his great-great-great great-grandson Dick Doré). … Continue Reading

“The Birth of an American Viticultural Area” By: Wes Hagen

“The Birth of an American Viticultural Area” By: Wes Hagen

Let’s take a slightly different view of the wine world this week.  I’d like to leave the nuts and bolts of vineyard management for a few moments and discuss the descriptive system of wine appellations in the United States, a Federal program overseen by the TTB, or Tax and Trade Bureau.  But before you start to think that this is going to be a boring blog full of bellicose bureaucracy, let me guarantee that I will be injecting the subject with enough interesting anecdote and incisive commentary to keep it interesting and entertaining (although pouring a tall glass of pinot noir makes any of my blogs more palatable).

First, a quick vineyard update.  The weather has taken another cool, foggy and windy turn as low pressure trofs continue to move over the Central Coast, keeping us in the high 60’s.  While most folks don’t think about June in California as sweater weather, it really has been.  There have been some warm days, as well, but the nights have been in the high 40’s and the vines are growing slowly, methodically, and finishing their fruit set and marching toward bunch closure in a very patient and easy manner.  Cool weather means we’ll turn off the irrigation for a few weeks until we see a warm up and an increase in evapotranspiration, which is a measurement of how much water is both being used by a plant and how much is evaporating out of the soil. … Continue Reading

{Archives}

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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