Richard & Thekla Sanford Release Letter After Chapter 11 Filing

July 31, 2012

To Friends & Family of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards,

Our forty-two year pioneering history of winegrowing in the Sta. Rita Hills of California continues to be full of rewards and challenges.  Throughout our different business partnerships, we have embraced the changing landscape of the business of growing, making, and selling wines.  Our greatest joy comes from sharing our excitement in pioneering new properties and the pride we feel in the world-class wines we craft.

As with many of our countrymen, we could not have anticipated the depreciation in the value of land and wine inventories as a result of the global recession of 2008, nor the low-yielding crop years that immediately followed.  This unfavorable combination placed our properties and business in jeopardy and has ultimately forced us to make the decision to enter into chapter 11 re-organization.  Though this was a difficult decision, we feel it will give us time to proceed in a constructive and mindful manner that will stabilize our business and build a stronger foundation for the future. 

We continue to provide excellent wine at great value, maintaining of our commitment to organic farming and sustainable business practices.  Our historic tasting room at Rancho El Jabalí proudly remains open for business and we look forward to welcoming you on your next visit.  We heartfully thank you for your enthusiasm and support of our wines and hope that you consider Alma Rosa your Sta. Rita Hills home.


With grateful appreciation,
Richard & Thekla Sanford

Stellar Cellars:A Look at Five Wine Vaults That Impress

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on July 22, 2012)

In just a couple of years, the St. Mark’s Cellar Classic may well have become the wine auction of record in Santa Barbara County.  In its first two years alone, it raised more than a quarter-million dollars – impressive by any local auction standard – in support of the community-focused and non-denominational programs at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Los Olivos.  The third Cellar Classic takes place this coming Saturday, July 28th, from 4-7pm.  (Go to for tickets and information.)

The event draws crowds for the fine food and wine that’s doled out generously throughout the afternoon, and for the beautiful setting in the church’s picturesque courtyard.  And hobnobbing with stars of Santa Barbara wine – from pioneers to TV bachelors – has its allure, too.  But there’s no denying that the biggest attraction of all is the wine, itself – a lineup of fine, rare and cult wines that raise the eyebrows of even novice aficionados, and that have avid collectors making the drive to the Santa Ynez Valley from all over the state.  This year’s Classic features no less than eight 100-point wines – a 1949 Leroy Musigny, a 1961 Chateau Latour, a magnum of 1982 Lafite Rothschild and a 1999 Screaming Eagle, among them – which will easily go to the highest bidder for thousands and thousands of dollars.

These wines and many others like them – both at the Cellar Classic and at a bevy of other auctions that benefit local non-profit causes throughout the year – are special gifts from generous donors, of course.  Before they go on the auction block, they are part of someone’s personal, private cellar.  Before they raise funds for a purpose, they were one wine lover’s careful investment.

So we were inspired to open a few vault doors and take a peek inside some of the impressive private cellars in Santa Barbara County.  The five featured here vary in size and bottle count, and in the types of wines they house.  They may or may not be insured, or secured with elaborate alarms.  But they all contain at least a few – in some cases many – noteworthy bottles, and they are, ultimately, a testament to one individual’s penchant for something special.

Photo:Nik Blaskovich/SB News-Press
Dr. George Primbs, Santa Barbara
For Dr, George Primbs, the love of collecting wine was inspired by a Bordeaux he tasted in 1959, and on bending the rules just a bit.

“That wine tasted so great, I thought, ‘I should start collecting this stuff,’” recalls the Santa Barbara resident who, in the 1950s, was an Air Force flight surgeon stationed in Northern Africa.  “I could get French wines cheap there, but there was a rule we couldn’t bring it back home.”  So when he left the service in 1960, he got creative: from the same Plaster of Paris he used to fix fractures, he devised five large doorstops, which he filled with his first favorite bottles (and a lot of cotton for padding) and transported home to the States.

During the first 10 years in his Santa Barbara home, he stored his budding collection in the basement.  But when an El Nino storm in 1971 flooded it and jeopardized his stash, he began a 20-year project to build a latticework of light-frame racks above ground instead.  “I was on-call at St. Francis Hospital,” recalls the man who’d go on to become a celebrated ophthalmologist, “and whenever I’d have free time I’d come in here and, little by little, I’d work on these racks.”

Today, two converted garages are crammed with floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall furring strip frames that house a lifetime collection of some 25,000 bottles.  It’s rumored to be one of the largest wine anthologies in the city.  And that’s after he decided to thin out his collection two years ago through an international online auction, when some 20,000 bottles went to a Hong Kong company for the highest bid of $700,000.

Dr. Primbs prefers to stay tight-lipped about specific finds in his cellar, which he upkeeps these days with the help of his lady friend of two years, Barbara Gaughen-Muller.  But he admits, “I love collecting Bordeaux,” and many high-scoring releases dating back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s – French, mainly as well as numerous high-profile Californians – fill his racks.  Most have soared in value over the years.  “I don’t know how much I paid for a lot of this stuff,” he says with a laugh, “but I could have spent, say, $19 on a bottle back in 1961 and it could well be priceless today.”

His main motivator for continuing to collect, though, is “just having the rarities and creating novelty for others.”  In fact, guests to his home are often known to leave with a bottle from the vintage year of their birth.   Dr, Primbs also moves many of his bottles – including various he, himself, helps make under the celebrated local home winemaking label, Los Cinco Locos -- by donating dozens of cases a year to local charity events, including the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute’s annual Taste of the Vine event.  And he readily enjoys his own collection, too.  As his stands snuggly between his racks, he admits, “I come in here and drink about a half bottle every other day.”

Richard Harris, Santa Ynez
The charm of the cellar at the Santa Ynez home of Richard and Pamela Harris is evident even before you walk through the door.  Outside, it’s reminiscent of a quaint Provincial cottage, with empty wine barrels stacked against the wall, surrounded by flowering bushes of rosemary and lavender.  The backdrop is a bucolic landscape of rolling hills.  And adjacent to this small structure – which is attached to the Harris’ four-car garage – is a budding vineyard where one of Santa Barbara’s most celebrated wines is harvested every year.

It turns out that this wine-inspired project – to tack on extra square footage to the home they bought in 1996, including this quaint cellar – also included transforming the backyard into a field of grapevines.  Some 619 vines in all, which produce the annual 50-case production of the very sought-after Calzada Ridge viognier

The vineyard was, in truth, a hands-on project for Richard Harris, who took viticulture classes at Alan Hancock College in Santa Maria and planted the vines, himself.  But the decision to build a cellar grew out of need.  Major success in Mr. Harris’s Tinsel Town career had resulted in a vast collection of wine gifts.  But there was a problem: “Now we needed a place to keep them.”

Mr. Harris, is an Academy Award winning film editor.  He won the Oscar in 1997 for “Titanic,” and his career gigs include major films like “Fletch,” the “Terminator” series and “True Lies.”  The latter was also a movie his wife, Pam, worked on as special effects producer; among her previous work was the hit comedy, “Ghostbusters 2.” 

So as this Hollywood connection began generating fancy gifts of wine, especially in the 90s, the Harrises’ collection began.  Many bottles – which are kept in simple racks and loosely organized by region or producer in vertical rows – are actually labeled with a tag around the neck that reads “Gift.”   For example, “We were totally knocked out with a Burgundy – an Echezeaux – that Jim [Cameron] gave us once and that we drank during a Christmas dinner, just the two of us,” Mr. Harris recalls.  “It left a great, great memory.” 

Mr. Harris and his wife are partial to Burgundies, although some fancy Bordeaux wines – a 1996 Latour, for example – also catch the eye.  And so do several older vintages of Central Coast wines, like the ’98 Julia’s Vineyard pinot by Foxen.  Perhaps their most prized possessions, though, are the complete lineup – bottles of every single vintage – of their own Calzada Ridge wine, which saw its first harvest in 1998; their very first – a bottle tagged “Bottle # 001” – is easy to spot.

The cellar’s décor is simple: a small round table for four in the center, a writing desk stacked with winemaking books, a basket filled with hundreds of corks they’ve popped over the years.  A cooling system keeps temperature steadily in the upper 50s.  And the racks, admittedly, seem to be going empty a lot more quickly these days.  Mr. Harris admits, “We’ve definitely become the type of people who drink our collection.”

Photo: Steve Malone/SB News-Press
Richard Torin, Hope Ranch
There are some wonderfully rare wine finds inside Richard Torin’s cellar, which stands to reason.  That’s the business he’s in, after all.  Torin owns Clarets, one of the foremost players in the international fine wine trade, catering to collectors with fancy tastes all over Asia.

“Many people don’t realize it, but Hong Kong has been a sophisticated wine market for the last 20 years,” he says while he sits in his Hope Ranch home, just two days after returning from the fifth work trip of the year to the region.  “In mainland China, on the other hand, it’s more neophytes with new money.”

Torin readily comes in contact with the high-end wines his Asian clients demand.  Lots of French powerhouses like Chateau Petrus and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.  And several California cult wines, like Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle.  The latter “can demand $1600 a bottle in a mediocre vintage,” says Torin, “and $3000 in a good year.”

As fine bottles have crossed his hands, Torin has naturally succumbed to the temptation to buy some for himself.  He was in the English wine trade for many years before moving from his native London to Santa Barbara, and launching Clarets, in 1992.  Storing his wine appropriately has long been a priority.  So when he bought his current home in 1996, constructing a carefully designed cellar – carving it, in fact, into the earth underneath his house – made perfect sense.

On the exterior, his cellar mirrors a chateau-inspired cave, with an arched wooden door that leads out to a pool complex with sweeping views and enveloped by mint and rosemary vines.  Inside, it’s rustically quaint, and warmly lit, with added brightness coming through a floor-to-ceiling window.  Smooth stones line the floor, and contoured rocks line the walls.  “And I put in a sound system,” he says with a smile, as he points to a speaker in the ceiling.  Vintage Sinatra pours out.

About 800 to 1000 bottles, about 95% reds, are kept at a constant 57.4 degrees.  Mr. Torin is especially proud of his 1982 Bordeaux wines.  “It why I started in the business in the first place, a benchmark for our trade,” he says.  “The wines are of a fantastic quality.”

But while Mr. Torin believes, naturally, that wine can be fruitful investment – “An effective tool to see your capital grow,” he says – there is one bottle in his collection he’ll never sell.  “Ten years ago, I was clearing out a private cellar in St. Louis for a client who’d gotten married in 1961,” he recounts.  That year happens to be one of the classic vintages of the 20th century in Bordeaux.  “I ran across a Pomerol with the price tag still on it -- $3.75 – which I thought was so funny, I asked to take a photo with it.”  Funny, because these days that wine commands thousands.  His client, instead, gave it to him as a gift, with the promise he’d never sell it.  Referring to his teenage son, he says proudly, “I’ve earmarked it for the day Alex turns 21.”

Photo: Bill Morson/SB News-Press
Fredric Steck, Santa Ynez
Fred Steck’s wine collecting days began in the mid 1980s when, as a Bay Area-based financial expert with Goldman-Sachs, he was introduced by a co-worker to a man by the name of Gary Marcaletti.

“Gary has got to have the best small specialty wine shop in California,” says Steck of the well-known owner behind the San Francisco Wine Trading Company.  “Maybe in the whole country.”

Over the years, the wine-driven relationship between the two men has been a boon for Steck.  To this day, he depends solely on the Northern California wine expert to tip him off to producers and vintages he should buy.  For the first couple of decades of Steck’s collecting, when he didn’t have a private cellar, Marcaletti stored the budding bundle of bottles at his own shop.  And when it came time to build wine storage at Steck’s Santa Ynez Valley home – he bought the property on New Year’s Eve of 1999, razed the existing house and erected a beautiful three-level home during a multi-year project that ended in 2007 – it was Marcaletti who helped design it.

“He and Alex worked on it,” says Steck, referring to his 32-year old son, a recent MBA grad who once worked for Marcaletti.  “And the sub-contractors I had on the project were fabulous.”

Steck’s cellar is adjacent to the basement, close to 10 feet below the foundation’s soil grade.  It’s elegantly decked out, with designer lighting and cabinetry.  The floor is made of tile milled in Mexico.  And there are several cubby spaces where this collector displays high-end bottles of aged spirits, like tequila and cognac.

Several rack options allow for storage in varying sizes, from single bottles to magnums to box cases.  Most of the 1500 spaces are taken, mainly with classic French, Italian and Spanish wines organized in vertical fashion.  “Old World wines are more tannic, more patient, and you can experience them over time,” Steck says, and then reaches into a case of 1996 Rioja on the floor.  “I haven’t touched these yet, and it’ll be really good in another 10 years.”  The impressive French labels include a 1978 Chateau de Pommard, a 2000 Lafite Rothschild (“A great year,” Steck declares) and a 1988 Domaine de Montille, one of his favorites.

There are some notable California inclusions, too, like multiple vintages – in some cases stretching back to the 70s – of Opus One, ZD, Robert Mondavi , Jordan and Colgin.

As he glances around his cellar, Steck makes an admission.  “If I could do it again, I would not have used cement down here,” he says.  “It’s not efficient for conducting cold.”  The cooling system, which keeps the mercury at a steady 59 degrees, is kept on consistently.  “I would line the walls with brick, instead.”

Regardless, this vault is clearly a source of pride and enjoyment for Steck, who also raises quarter horses on his property and handles private equity in the natural pharmaceuticals industry these days.  “I love being able to pull a bottle at dinner and have people say, ‘Wow,’” he admits, “and seeing wine increase in value.  That’s definitely part of the fun.”

Photo: Bill Morson/SB News-Press
Steve Pepe, Lompoc
When Steve and Catherine Pepe bought land in the now-famed Santa Rita Hills near Lompoc in 1994, they had plenty of work to do.  The barn would have to be razed to make way for what would one day become some of the most sought-after pinot noir and chardonnay in the county—Clos Pepe Vineyards.  And a home would have to be built, and it would have one no-brainer feature: a wine cellar.

Mr. Pepe began his avid compilation of wines after he moved out to California from New Jersey in 1968.  “We were renters then, so our cellars were those under-the-kitchen-counter refrigerators,” he recalls.  But as they purchased homes throughout Southern California in years to come, they invested in more formal cellaring.  And in the new home in Santa Barbara wine country – they moved in full-time in late 2005 – their new cellar was designed with functionality in mind.

“The basic job of our cellar is to store wine and not to look pretty,” says Mr. Pepe, who added a deep, narrow 200-square-foot space to the garage that currently houses wine in double deep case racks, rather than a single-bottle system.  A cooling system keeps the thermometer at a steady 55 degrees.  And there’s a humidity monitor, thought the weather is mild enough so that it’s rarely needed.  “You don’t want the humidity to drop below 60% because that’s when the corks will dry out,” he cautions.

The size of his collection varies on the number of get-togethers they host each season, but the cellar is currently stocked to about two-thirds of its 3000-bottle capacity.  And it’s divided pretty evenly, based on  how the Pepes’ tastes have evolved over the years: 1/3 is vintage port, which they preferred in the 70s and 80s, 1/3 is fine Bordeaux, which they preferred to drink in the 90s, and 1/3 is fine Burgundies, which is their drink of choice today.  He keeps tabs on his assortment by numbering the bins and using a computer program called Cellar Tracker.

Among his favorite finds is a bottle he acquired as part of a mixed case at a tasting in the late 90s with Aubert de Villaine, part owner of Burgundy’s uber-famous Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.  He remembers paying $2,000 for the 12-bottle collection, which included one selection now valued, on its own, at about $10,000.  “Everyone says, ‘Sell it, sell it!’” says Mr. Pepe.  “But I’m not a flipper.  I buy wine to enjoy it and drink it.  That wine is coming into prime now so I’m sure we’ll find a special moment to open it.”

Enjoyment aside, Mr. Pepe has reached into cellar for wines to donate to myriad charities over the years.  Most recently, that includes the Cellar Classic, which he launched with fellow wine collector Brooks Firestone, to benefit St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley church in Los Olivos.  “There was pent up demand locally for an auction of this caliber,” he says.  This year, he donated a case of unique Burgundies to the Classic, and a 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion, a 100-point wine worth thousands.

Golden Milestone: Pierre LaFond Reminisces on Winery's First 50 Years

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on July 19, 2012)

Pierre LaFond
Pierre Lafond is a remarkably quiet man.  As we’re chatting at his downtown Santa Barbara office – adjacent to a warehouse teeming with winemaking equipment – I can tell this man of few words and a calm disposition is most comfortable staying behind the scenes, away from the spotlight.  It certainly works well for him; it’s from behind the scenes, after all, that he’s managed to build and run one of the most successful wine businesses in the country.  But that spotlight – now that Santa Barbara Winery prepares to celebrate 50 years – is becoming a bit tougher to avoid.

Lafond launching Santa Barbara winery in 1962 was a remarkable landmark: it was the first winery in Santa Barbara County since Prohibition (which came to an end in 1933).  No one had even planted wine grapes yet, and the next winery wouldn’t take root for another decade.

“I’m not sure why, but there was a theory back then that using the name of a town for a winery was not a good thing,” he tells me, which I find fascinating, especially considering the lucrative cache the city of Santa Barbara has since developed.  “But for me, it’s certainly been a name worth protecting.”

Brand protection has certainly been part and parcel for Santa Barbara Winery, especially in recent years, when mega-producers have flooded the market with low-cost labels bearing suspiciously similar names.  Think “Santa Barbara Wine Company” and “Santa Barbara Landing.”  Lafond, though, doesn’t seem bothered when he discusses them.  “They’ve backed down,” he says, “or they’ve disappeared pretty quickly.”

Much different, certainly, than a strong 50-year run that started when Lafond, a Canadian native with an architecture degree, and friend Stan Hill, an optometrist, turned an interest in wine into a business.  They took out a winery license and opened a wine shop and tasting room in Santa Barbara’s El Paseo shopping center.  And they used that facility to turn San Luis Obispo County grapes into wine.

It was two years later, in 1964, that Lafond moved the winery to its current downtown location on the corner of Yanonali and Anacapa Streets, just two blocks from the beach.  Then, the zone was “mainly a slum area, with warehouse buildings and a few small service-oriented businesses,” Lafond recalls.  Today, of course, Santa Barbara Winery sits in the heart of the buzzing Funk Zone – “It’s a much more upscale area now,” Lafond says – and anchors at least downtown tasting rooms (and counting).

Santa Barbara County first planted grape vines in 1965; the county’s first wine grape harvest took place a couple of years later.  Lafond would get access to some of that fruit.  But the national wine boom of the late 60s saw bigger players from northern California nabbing local fruit in large quantities, and the budding vintner was forced to become his own source for grapes.  Lafond Vineyard was planted in 1971 in a remote, unknown spot called the Santa Rita Hills.

“I had state ag[riculture] guys come out to check it out and they didn’t know much about the area at all,” says Lafond.

Experimentation goes hand in hand with pioneer planting, of course, and the vineyard was originally farmed to include varietals not necessarily suited to the region’s characteristically cool climate, including zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.  “The next year, though, we planted chardonnay,” Lafond recalls, which has since become known – along with pinot noir, mainly – as idyllically suited to Santa Rita Hills conditions.   

Today, Lafond Vineyard, which expanded with the purchase of adjacent land in 1996, is planted primarily to pinot noir and chardonnay, as well as smaller quantities of syrah, grenache and riesling.  Construction of a second winemaking facility – Lafond Winery – started in 1998, with Lafond serving as architect and his son, David, as general contractor.  It opened to the public three years later and today is used to make all the red wine for both the Lafond and Santa Barbara Winery labels; the downtown Santa Barbara facility is used for the production of white wine, as well as for bottling and processing the entire yearly production of about 50,000 cases.

Now, as Lafond sits in his office and thinks back on what’s surprised him most about a wine industry he helped launch 50 years ago, it’s pinot noir that he mentions most readily.  For one, it’s his wine of choice.  “”Much easier to drink than cabernet sauvignon,” he says.  But he’s also surprised about its surge of popularity in Santa Barbara County, where the push to plant it didn’t begin until the late 70s.  “There was a theory at one point that you really couldn’t make it here, because it was tough to grow,” he says.  “But possibly it was because we didn’t have the right techniques.  The way we make it now has become a lot more sophisticated.

“You also have to have the right personality to make it,” Lafond continues.  “You have to be patient and let nature do its thing.  Like Bruce, who doesn’t always get the recognition he deserve, because it’s the more flamboyant personalities that usually get the press.”

Winemaker Bruce McGuire
He’s referring, of course, to his winemaker, Bruce McGuire, a similarly reserved individual, whom he credits for pushing him to plant pinot noir in earnest when he was hired in 1981.  Today, McGuire confirms that high end pinot noir, along with high-end chardonnay, are at the core of the winery’s program moving forward.  “We still have several other varieties – lagrein, primitivo – which we’ll continue to make in small quantities for local distribution though the tasting room,” McGuire says.  “But pinot and chard will definitely be the future focus for national distribution.”

Three years ago, Lafond leased Burning Creek Ranch – 37 acres adjacent to Lafond Vineyard that comprise three distinct soil types and which were planted exclusively to eight different pinot noir clones; those grapes will see their first pick later this year.  And the 2012 harvest will also be the first vintage that 18 redeveloped acres of Lafond Vineyard will yield multiple clones of chardonnay.  “We’re aiming for clonal bottling of those,” says McGuire.  “They key is that each will be distinctive.”

With McGuire’s eye on the wine, Lafond’s role remains developing his business empire, which today also includes a home design shop, clothing stores and restaurants in both Montecito and Santa Barbara.  At 81, Lafond spends his days overseeing wine distribution and tasting room sales.  And he manages no less than 11 web sites – individual sites for each of his businesses and personal web pages for internet entities like the Santa Barbara Wine Trail (not to be confused with the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail), the Santa Rita Hills Wine Trail and the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Trail.

“They’re all just portals,” he says, modestly.  “I’m just trying to lead people back to the winery.”  Which proves that some things haven’t changed in 50 years, after all.

Gabe Saglie is a big fan of Santa Barbara Winery’s pinot and chardonnay but may be partial to its recently-released Rosé of Syrah on a warm summer afternoon.

Blog: Three Upcoming Wine Events Not to Miss

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Here are three other upcoming Santa Barbara wine events that also raise the bar high, and should earn your serious consideration:

St. Mark’s 3rd Annual Cellar Classic
Saturday, July 28th, 4-7pm
Full disclosure: the organizers of this event did flatter me by naming me honorary chair of this year’s event.  Humbling, clearly.  But I would be touting this event anyway, as it is easily one of the most astonishing wine auctions in the country for, if for nothing else, the sheer caliber of wines up for bidding.  Community members reach deep into their personal collection of fine and rare wines and donate them to support St. Mark’s-in-the Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos and the astounding nondenominational asset it’s become.  Groups meet here for free – from the valley’s Jewish community to 12-step recovery groups to theater ensembles – and everything from concerts to pre-school education is offered to all residents regardless of faith.  The event itself offers delicious food, great wine and live entertainment on the beautiful church grounds.  But what’s truly awesome is witnessing the thrill of the auction, which this year will feature dozens of landmark bottles, like the 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion and the 1947 Cheval Blanc, both 100-point wines.   I attended last year’s event, which took in a record-setting $130,000 ($118,000 net after expenses) and it was truly an affair to behold and remember.  Tickets are $100, though donors (fine wines to auction are still being sought) enjoy the event for free.  Contact Steve Pepe (of Clos Pepe Vineyards fame) at or 805-735-7867.

13th Santa Barbara Bouillabaisse Festival
Sunday, August 26th, 1-4pm
Full disclosure: I will be a judge at this year’s event, tasked with tasting through several local chefs’ version of this Provencal fish stew.  Tough gig.  But I’d be strongly suggesting you to attend this event anyway; consider the fact I insisted on taking my wife here the day after our wedding – our first full day as a married couple – right before embarking on our honeymoon!  This is clearly one of the most anticipated food lovers’ events in our area, especially since it makes its triumphant return next month after a six-year hiatus.   A bevy of bouillabaisse to taste and dozens of Santa Barbara’s best rosé wines to savor.  The refreshing, soft-hued wine is considered the epitomic match for this traditional dish from the south of France, which features a variety of fresh fish in a broth of vegetables, herbs, olive oil and saffron, not to mention each chef’s proprietary extras.  The setting is the beautiful Brander Vineyard in Los Olivos, which anchored by its landmark pink chateau winery and surrounded by grapevines.  And the cause is a draw in and of itself: Hospice of Santa Barbara, which has long offered care for those facing a life-threatening illness or grieving a loved one’s passing.  Tickets are $90; they can be purchased at or by calling 805-563-8820.

Santa Barbara County Celebration of Harvest
Saturday, October 13th, 1-4pm
This remains the wine event of record every autumn, when the energy in our local vineyards is in crescendo.  Winemakers take a break from the oft-grueling task of harvesting the season’s wine grapes to mingle with consumers and to share some of their most special wines.  This is a chance to engage your favorite vintner in casual conversation, whether it’s the longtime heavy hitter like Ken Brown or Rick Longoria or the newer kid on the block, like Tessa Marie Parker (Tessa Marie Wines) Dieter Cronje (Pres’quile).  I’ve attended this event solo or with my wife, Renee; but this fete does lend itself to friends traveling en masse to share in the exhilarating (though responsible) buzz of the quintessential outdoor fine wine event.  Again, venue is key here, with the verdant rolling hills of the historic Rancho Sisquoc property in the Santa Maria Valley playing host to more than 100 producers, dozens of chefs and hours of live music.  And the chance to extend the fun (the popular Vintners Visa allows you to visit several wineries over four days) creates even more memories.  Tickets are $65 ($90 with Vintners Visa) and can be bought through or by calling toll-free 888-330-6744.

Gabe Saglie considers attending wine events to be vital research.  He’s also senior editor for  Email him at

Ooh La La: Los Olivos to Host Culinary Fete on Bastille Day

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on July 13, 2012)

Los Olivos will tip its beret to the French this Saturday, as it hosts its first ever Bastille Day soirée.

The event, which will take place from noon to 3pm in the charming gardens of Coghlan Vineyard & Jewelers at 2366 Alamo Pintado Avenue, is the newest production by the Los Olivos Business Organizations, or LOBO.  “We wanted to create something totally new and different, and that highlighted great food and wine, which is what this town is all about,” says Kelley Lucia, assistant director at LOBO, which already puts on the town’s annual Day in the Country, Quikdraw and Old Fashioned Christmas events.  For Bastille Day, participant wineries and food purveyors are donating their time and wares to benefit the non-profit group.

The afternoon fete will pair eight wineries with eight chefs and caterers to create a unique culinary experience.  “It’s a small, intimate, more upscale event where people will have time to truly enjoy the food and wine pairings that have been very specifically put together,” says Larry Schaffer, winemaker and owner of Tercero Wines, whose Los Olivos tasting room is open four days a week.  He’ll be pairing his wines with the yet-to-be-announced French food creations of Succulent Café and Trading Co. chef Brian Champlin.

For Mr. Schaffer, the Bastille Day angle creates a relevant culinary connection to Los Olivos, and even to the way he crafts wine, including his grenache.  “I certainly don’t try to mimic wines from other regions, but my love for grenache has certainly been driven by my own love for the wines of France, especially from Chateauneuf du Pape,” he says.  “When I make a wine that aromatically, and flavor-wise, reminds me of those wines, I’m very happy.”

Winemaker Alan Phillips agrees with the French inspiration on Santa Barbara winemaking, though he’s quick to assert that “there are a lot of individualities on both sides.”  Many of those hinge on the weather, since France has “a continental climate, much more like Oregon, while we have a coastal climate and don’t get rain during the growing season,” he says.  “That makes for totally different conditions.”

But the French connection is inescapable in Mr. Phillips’ wines.  His label, Fontes-Phillips, is renowned for the Panky, a classic rosé made from grenache, cinsault and syrah grapes.  “We style it exactly as the French rosés are made – same varietals as a blend, cold fermentation, whole clusters, no barrels,” he says.  “The same traditional techniques used in the south of France.”  And his 2008 La Encantada Pinot Noir, he says, is driven almost entirely by its fruit source; La Encantada, planted by Richard Sanford in 2000, is one of the western-most vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills.  Similarly, “with pinot in France, derivation of fruit is the most important thing.”

At the Bastille Day event, Mr. Phillips' La Encantada pinot will be paired with a duck cassoulet created by Chef Kurt Alldredge of the popular catering company, The Chef’s Touch.  “The secret to this provincial French dish is our house made duck confit,” says Mr. Alldredge, “along with two different types of French sausages, some pork belly, beans, tomatoes and a lot of other really good foods.”

Other pairings featured Saturday afternoon include a stone fruit-bacon-arugula panzanella salad by Chef Jeff Nichols of Sides Hardware & Shoes – a Brothers Restaurant, the newest eatery in Los Olivos; served on ciabatta croutons and drizzled with white balsamic vinegar, it’ll be paired with Consilience Winery’s Cuvée Mambo White blend (of viognier, grenache blanc and rousanne) and Tre Anelli Winery’s grenache, both wines made by Brett Escalera.  Coquelicot winemaker Louis van Tonder will barbecue lamb on a spit and pair it with his Mon Amour blend of five Bordeaux grapes.  And Coghlan Vineyards will match its 2009 Fusion – an award-winning cabernet-merlot meritage also made by Alan Phillips – with dark chocolate truffles infused with the very same wine and doled out by Jennifer Freed of Stafford’s Famous Chocolates.

Tickets for the first annual Bastille Day event by LOBO are $50 and can be purchased in person at Coghlan Vineyards & Jewelers or by calling 805-717-0046.

Long Finish: Famed Local Home Winemaking Team Bids Adieu to Members

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on July 8, 2012)

At a quaint gathering at Montecito’s Casa Dorinda Saturday afternoon, eight men gathered for an official changing of the guard.  Five of them have been calling themselves Los Cinco Locos – or the Five Crazy Guys – for almost 15 years, and producing stellar wine.  The other three are, respectfully, waiting in the wings and ready to take over and carry this quirky yet accomplished label forward.
The Original Cinco Locos
The original fab five – Dr. George Primbs, Howard Scar, John Van Atta, Dick Shakowitz and Lou Weider – have managed to create one of the most respected home winemaking operations in the country.  Their adventure began in the mid 1990s, when Mr. Weider and Mr. Shakowitz, both of Montecito, met overseas on a tour through Europe. The former was an investor in a 500-acre vineyard in Paso Robles called Rancho Tierra Rejada and his new acquaintance became instantly excited about turning that investment into an enjoyable leisure pursuit.  He wanted to turn those grapes – which until then had been exclusively sold to wineries throughout the state – into their own wine. Upon their return, the two convinced a trio of friends to join in their new winemaking enterprise.
As luck would have it, Mr. Scar was in the midst of renovating a small horse stable at his Montecito home, and coaxing him to transform it into a winemaking facility, instead, was easy. Dr, Primbs, a successful ophthalmologist and eye surgeon, was brought in for his extensive wine knowledge.  And Mr. Van Atta, whose PhD in biophysics had led to a decorated career developing food products for major companies like Quaker Oats, was embraced by the group for his knack for chemistry.

After the purchase of several barrels – all French – and some basic equipment, Los Cinco Locos began making wine.
Their label launched with the 1998 vintage and featured cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot sourced from Rancho Tierra Rejada.  Soon, they’d start sourcing pinot noir from top vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills and the Santa Maria Valley.  Their total production would quickly grow to about 250 cases a year.
Because Los Cinco Locos are home winemakers, they’ve never been able to sell their wine retail, or for profit.  Instead, the five split their production, keep a few cases for their personal enjoyment, and then donate the rest to causes that are important to each.  And therein lays the success, if not the fame, of this special little label.

Over the years, Los Cinco Locos wines have been featured at major auctions and wine events throughout the state.  Their first was a fundraiser for the Music Academy of the West, where Doug Margerum, then-owner of the Wine Cask, won a case of wine that soon after sold for $115 a bottle at his landmark Santa Barbara wine shop.  Dr. Primbs donates a case every year to the Taste of the Vine – an event to benefit the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute – where it usually goes to the highest bidder for about $1400.  Mr. Scar once donated a case to an auction benefitting Scripps Health in San Diego, and it went home with a donor who paid $10,000 for it.

The winemaking five estimate that the wines they’ve donated over the years have helped raise more than $300,000 dollars for causes close to their hearts.  That – along with dozens of medals (gold, mostly) from high-profile home winemaking competitions – made this trip well worth it for them, they say.  In the large home winemaking community, it’s made their Los Cinco Locos label an esteemed endeavor, and a household name.

But now, as these five friends sit under shady trees at Casa Dorinda and around a table teeming with open bottles of Los Cinco Locos wines dating back to 2005, a new reality is setting in.  Three of them – for reasons both health-related and personal – have decided to end their winemaking ways.  They’re in their 70s and 80s, and younger men will be taking their place.

Two of the originals – Mr. Scar, 81, and Dr. Primbs, 82 – are staying on and initiating three men who’ve actually been helping them with winemaking operations for several years.  It turns out that much of the Los Cinco Locos lore over the years has revolved around the parties that have always ensued around the crushing of the grapes, filling of the barrels and bottling of the wines.  “I have an email list of 200 people who always want to know when we’re doing the crushing,” says Mr. Scar with a laugh.  “And we’ve always had five to 30 people come out to help.”  Those get-togethers, though wrought by the need for often-rigorous manual labor synonymous with making wine, became legendary for the food and wine, and for the parties, they’d foster. 

New Members of Cinco Locos
“It’s a lot of fun, but I soon realized they were using me,” says Jayce Yoder, 51, a plumbing contractor who’s been joining the fab five for harvest work since 2002, and who can now officially call himself one of Los Cinco Locos.

John Holmes, 51, has been taking part in the harvest frolic since 2007.  “At first, I just wanted to learn about fermentation because I wanted to distill whiskey,” says Holmes, an insurance broker, and a new Cinco Loco.  “Actually, I never really liked wine, until I met these guys and started drinking better wine.”

Chip Eckert, 52, has been helping Los Cinco Locos with harvest for only two years, but he’s been buying their wine at charity auctions for many years.  “It’s great wine,” says the fourth-generation Goletan.  His excitement about joining the team hinges in large part on the label’s focus on charity.  “That’s what it’s all about: giving back, promoting good causes and having fun learning about making wine.”  And he’s quick to add, with a smile, “Oh, and tasting really good wine.”

Currently, Los Cinco Locos have four wines in the eight barrels at Mr. Scar’s stable-turned winery: a cabernet sauvignon, a merlot and a syrah from Mr. Weider’s former vineyard (it’s now under new ownership and called Shimmin Canyon Vineyard) and a pinot noir from the popular Kick On Ranch Vineyard in Los Alamos.  They’ll be put in bottle – during another one of those fabulous work parties – this fall, to make room for the 2012 vintage grapes.  In the future, the new team may expand their portfolio to dabble more heavily in zinfandel and red blends, and will continue to seek out new sources for fruit.

But what matters most for the future of the label may be the enthusiasm the new members bring with them.  “When the original five of us started, we just did it for fun, and then it became something special,” says Mr. Scar.  “These guys are coming in with that passion already there, and that’s great to see.”

Fresh Faces: 10 Santa Barbara Winemakers Under 35

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on July 8, 2012)

Youth has always been synonymous with Santa Barbara wine country.  It is, after all, one of the newest wine grape growing regions in the state, with experimental plantings beginning in the late 1960s and significant winemaking in effect for the last 35 years ago.  Comparable ventures in places like Napa and Sonoma have been underway for at least three times as long.

Pioneers still make headlines here, with recognizable names like Sanford, Longoria, Brown, Brander and Lindquist.  Their wines still draw accolades.  And their tasting rooms still draw crowds.

But there’s a fresh energy budding in Santa Barbara’s vineyards.  A new wave of talent is taking root.  They are younger winemakers – some women, mostly men – who are tipping their hats to their predecessors but who are also staking a territory all their own.  They are focusing on innovation – new techniques, new growing regions, new grape varieties – while embracing a tradition some 35 years in the making.  Here’s a look at 10 of them – all age of 35 and under – whose wines, and whose vision for the future of Santa Barbara winemaking, are quickly creating a buzz.

Drake Whitcraft
Drake Whitcraft, 30
Name recognition has helped Drake Whitcraft gets his start; his father, Chris Whitcraft, after all, remains one of the most treasured names in local winemaking, with some of his first stellar chardonnays dating back to the late 70s.  But the Whitcraft label’s recent triumphs – the younger Whitcraft has been producing the entire portfolio since 2008 – have to do with a knack all his own.  At 30 now, Whitcraft admits that entering the winemaking scene happened “a lot sooner” than he expected; he plunged into the family business when a series of health crises forced his dad to pull way back.  But he’d always known he’d be making wine – he started helping in the winery at age 11 – and what he brings to the table is a fresh new focus for a longstanding brand.  A wider variety of reds are in Whitcraft’s future – syrah, grenache, nebbiolo – and leaner production numbers.

But the famous Whitcraft spotlight on pinot noir is not going anywhere, thanks in part to more high-end fruit sources coming online.  “When my dad was around, there were three or four good vineyards, and now there are so many more,” Whitcraft says.  “Pinot is the most terroir-driven wine there is and they all taste totally different here.”

He credits his father with instilling an uncompromising focus on hands-off winemaking, and winemakers like Rick Longoria and Foxen’s Bill Wathen for showing him the “right kind of camaraderie” among winemakers.

The Whitcraft tasting room is located at 36 S. Calle Cesar Chavez in downtown Santa Barbara.

Tessa Marie Parker
Tessa Marie Parker, 25
Name recognition won’t hurt Tessa Marie Parker, either.  Her grandfather, Fess Parker, gained fame on myriad fronts – from film to wine – and her father, Eli Parker, has long garnered accolades for his Epiphany label.  So Ms. Parker admits her foray into making wine was “a natural evolution.”

But her label, Tessa Marie Wines, is gaining singular attention for wines that are very personal to the winemaker.  “I’m a true California girl so I like my Cal-Italian wines, and sangiovese is my love” she says.  Ms. Parker bottles a sangiovese and a blend dubbed Coquette that features a sangiovese-syrah blend.  She’s also one of the very few local winemakers producing a vermentino.  “My pride and joy,” she calls it. 

The young vintner worked her first harvest at age 17, launched her label in 2005 and opened her Los Olivos tasting room – at 2901 Grand Ave. – two years ago. 

She’s aware women are outnumbered in the local winemaking scene, but undaunted.  “It’s a man’s world, but we’ve got a softer touch and bring something different to the table to spice things up.”  Her attention, instead, is on the future.

“This area allows young people to get a start,” she says.  “I even see it in some of the high schools, where students can tend their own grapevines.  You can catch the bug and learn to do things a little bit differently than everyone else.”

Gavin Chanin
Gavin Chanin, 26
Gavin Chanin was at the right place, at the right time, when he took a summer job between high school and UCLA.  He got a volunteer gig at Au Bon Climat and Qupe, and learned the ropes from winemaking legends Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist.   “When I was doing the drive up from L.A., I didn’t have it in mind to be a winemaker, it was just a fun summer job,” he recalls.  “But two weeks in, I realized I was in a special place and I fell in love with the work.”

Chanin has quickly become one of the more buzzed-about winemakers in the county.  Just last year, for example, Forbes put him on their “30 Under 30” list of names in the U.S. culinary industry to watch.  “The goal was never to get a bunch of press,” he insists.  “It just happened as a result of hard work in the vineyards and the cellar.”

The work has a clear focus: pinot noir and chardonnay only, “and wines with balance and elegance,” he says.  In fact, “pinot is the ultimate grape through which to manifest a vineyard,” he declares, and believes there are many prime sites for growing it even in Santa Barbara County that are yet undiscovered.

Chanin Wines launched in 2007, when its namesake vintner was just 21 and had just returned from wine immersion trips to South Africa, New Zealand and Europe.  The wines – Chanin produces 1000 cases annually – are made in a new facility built on Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria. Chanin also launched a partnership with well-known investor Bill Price; their label is yet unnamed, but “the impetus are the vineyards we source,” he insists, “not the brand.”

Trey Fletcher
Trey Fletcher, 31
Trey Fletcher has only lived in Santa Barbara County for a year, but he marvels at the “tremendous amount of camaraderie” that exists among local winemakers.  “There is competition, but not without mutual respect,” he says.  “And we’re all freaks,” he adds with a laugh, “completely obsessed.”

Fletcher’s burgeoning career has taken him to the vineyards of Argentina, Switzerland and New Zealand.  Last year, he left the cellars at Littorai in Sonoma – a premier producer of pinot noir and chardonnay in the world – to make wine under the personal labels for Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills.  The names have long been coveted grape sources for winemakers locally and across the country.  Now, the Miller family of Santa Barbara, which owns both vineyards, earmarks acreage on each for their own private labels.

Fletcher considers the chance to work with such famous fruit, “humbling and exciting.”  The combined annual production is 1000 cases: chardonnay and pinot from each property, as well as syrah and grenache from Bien Nacido.  The 2011 vintage is in barrel now; the 2010 chardonnays and 2009 pinots and syrah will be debuted this fall.

Fletcher strives for “wines that are true to the vineyards” and a style that is “terroir-focused.”  And he believes in a minimalist winemaking approach.  “It’s having the guts to fly into the black hole, for sure,” he says, “but it’s not really a gamble if you have good farming practices.”

Ernst Storm
Ernst Storm, 33
Storm studied winemaking and worked two vineyards in his native South Africa before moving to California in 2003.  “I wanted to explore wine in the Northern Hemisphere,” he recalls.  He made wine in Northern California before the Firestone family hired him in 2005.

Storm admits he’s drawn the cooler grape growing climates; his native country and Santa Barbara share similarities in that respect.  “But the soils here are different,” says Storm, “and there are many microclimates within the one large area.”  In fact, Storm predicts the next few years will see several appellations break out from within the Santa Ynez Valley and even the Santa Rita Hills.

When the Firestones sold the Firestone wine label in 2008, Storm took over winemaking duties at the Firestones’ Curtis label, under the tutelage of Chuck Carlsson.  He works simultaneously on his own eponymous label – Storm Wines – which dates back to 2006 and allows Storm to “really go extreme with my philosophy, making wines that are unmanipulated, with lower alcohols, that have personality of vintage and site, and that are food-friendly and balanced.”  His annual production, with a focus on pinot noir and an increasingly sought-after sauvignon blanc, is 500 cases.

Storm admits he, and other younger winemakers, are “pushing the envelope” of winemaking.  And “it’s nice to see,” he says, “that a lot of the region’s pioneers are embracing us.”

Graham Tatomer
Graham Tatomer, 33
When he was 16, a summer job at Santa Barbara Winery was just a way to make money for Graham Tatomer.  “It was my first paycheck!” he recalls.  But a post-graduation full-time job under then-assistant winemaker Greg Brewer got him hooked.

Today, Tatomer oversees production of all of Brewer’s celebrated labels: Melville, Brewer-Clifton and Diatom.  But his spare time is dedicated to his own namesake label – Tatomer – which is quickly winning praise for a focus very much unique to Santa Barbara: dry riesling.

Tatomer’s passion for Alsatian wines comes from several vineyard stints in Austria.  Between 2003 and 2008, he traveled back and forth several times between Santa Barbara County (where he’d land periodic stints with winemaking phenom Adam Tolmach) and the Danube-adjacent Wachau valley.  By 2008, the decision to settle locally rather than oversees was driven by the discovery of Kick On Ranch, a cool climate vineyard near Vandenberg Air Force Base.  The 2010 release of his ’08 vintage riesling garnered immediate media acclaim.

This year, Tatomer is working on six Austrian-inspired wines – four rieslings and two gruner veltliners.  Niche varietals that aren’t always an easy sell; in fact, Tatomer lightheartedly dubs them “the last of the true, noble, high echelon varieties that no one is taking seriously in America.”  But his prediction is that Santa Barbara County will grow them in more and more “appropriate places” in the years to come.

Ryan Carr
Ryan Carr, 35
Today, Ryan Carr manages 15 vineyards – more than 100 acres of premium grapes throughout Santa Barbara County.  He got into the business when he was 22.  And back then, “I didn’t expect it to turn into winemaking for me,” he admits.

But Carr has quickly become one of the most buzzed-about winemakers in the area, with a portfolio that includes award-wining pinot noir, cabernet franc and syrah.  He runs two tasting rooms, one in downtown Santa Barbara and a newly-opened storefront in downtown Santa Ynez.

His first commercial vintage was in 2000 and what drew him to making wine, not just growing grapes, was “Santa Barbara, itself,” he says, “and the uniqueness of the area.  We have so many great microclimates that we can grow many varietals well, and I get to work with so many different locations, it makes it fun.”

Carr acknowledges the inspiration of older counterparts, like Chris Whitcraft, Craig Jaffurs and Daniel Gehrs.  And while he admits winemaking has become much more competitive, Santa Barbara still offers nascent winemakers “an opportunity to get involved.”

In fact, he sees the area’s future hinging less on availability of talent and more on climate change.  “The last three years, the weather has been a constant challenge,” he says, “and if things warm up, we may have to rethink the varietals we plant.”

Justin Willett
Justin Willett, 31
Justin Willett’s foray into wine involved “buying some pretty inexpensive bottles with my roommates in I.V.,” recalls the UCSB grad.  But stints as a bartender in Santa Barbara and, mainly, high-end restaurants in L.A. introduced him to wines that would eventually serve as inspiration.  And today, Willett is quickly gaining high acclaim for his own red and white creations.

The self-declared “local boy” made his first wines in 2005 – just 190 cases – while he was assistant winemaker at Arcadian, under Joe Davis.  Today, Willett makes wine for several clients – all in his own Lompoc facility – to the tune of some 2000 cases a year.  His own label is dubbed Tyler (that’s his middle name).

Pinot noir and chardonnay have been his claim to fame thus far.  For Tyler, his sources grapes from top-tier local wineries, like Clos Pepe and Dierberg.  He’s also launching the estate program for the renowned La Encantada Vineyard (planted in 2000 by Richard Sanford) this year.  And joint ventures with several renowned sommeliers from San Francisco to New York City have him branching out to other varieties, like chenin blanc and cabernet franc.

There’s no mistaking Willett’s philosophy: “It’s about properly conveying places through wine, and moving away from too much oak or ripeness or extraction,” he says.  And he says he’s in the perfect place to do just that. 

“Santa Barbara has the most potential than any region in California,” he declares.  “There’s an aromatic profile here, and a freshness and a minerality that simply does not exist anywhere else.”

Dave Potter
Dave Potter, 33
It’s impossible to overlook the quirky labels on Dave Potter’s wine labels.  “I take the craft seriously, but I also have fun with presentation,” says the man behind Municipal Winemakers, whose Funk Zone tasting room (as 22 Anacapa St.) has easily become one of the hippest spots to buy and sip wine in downtown Santa Barbara.  The facility is open until 11pm some nights.

Potter’s produces his own label, which he launched in 2007, while maintaining duties as assistant winemaker at Fess Parker Winery.  It’s inspired by Potter’s adventures in France and Australia, where he earned his enology degree.  “My style has a French-Aussie vibe,” he says.

He makes celebrated blends, works with “odd ball, big Rhones” like cinsault and counoise and loves making riesling (he makes two).  He sees riesling as a grape to watch, but admits its future locally may hinge on economics.  “It’s very site specific, and the Santa Rita Hills is a great place for it,” he says.  “But if you can get $20 for a bottle of riesling or $35 for pinot, what would you plant?”

He touts the area’s grape diversity but admits variety can also make branding a clear identity a challenge.  “As a producer, though, it’s a lot of fun,” he admits.  And he likes working alongside older counterparts.  “The founding fathers of the area are still making wine,” he says.  “You can’t find that in any other region as recognized as Santa Barbara.”

Potter’s yearly production is about 1200 cases, all sold direct through the tasting room.

Chase, Brooke and Mike Carhartt
Chase Carhartt, 23
What Chase Carhartt lacks in experience, he makes up with unbridled enthusiasm.

Carhartt was just seven years old when his parents, Brooke and Mike, planted their Santa Ynez Valley vineyard.  Early on in the family business, “I did things like punch downs and helped where I could,” he recalls.  “But all the pieces didn’t come together until I took it seriously in school.”  Carhartt graduated just last month from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a bachelor’s in agriculture with a sub-concentration in enology; he also completed a harvest internship in South Africa.

So now, the future is wide open for Carhartt, who plans on collaborating with his mother, the Carhartt label’s winemaker, and known for stellar estate sauvignon blanc, syrah and merlot.  He likes that his family sells all their wine direct to consumer through their Los Olivos tasting room, at 2990 Grand Ave.  “It’s taking wine sales back to its roots,” he says.  And he’s already spending several days of the week there, engaging visitors and selling wine.

Carhartt’s biggest asset right now may be his fresh approach.  “The wine industry has to humble itself and focus on promoting comfortability,” he asserts.  And he touts the region’s wide range of growing conditions.  “What’s cool is that we don’t have to outsource,” he says.

But there’s no escaping the call of his young age.  With a laugh, he admits, “I want to work but I still do want to travel and find other ways to express my youth!’  He’ll be working harvest in France this fall.