Last Vintage: Winemaker Greg Brewer to Leave Melville

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
photos by Bob Dickey
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 10/28/15

Greg Brewer
One of Santa Barbara County’s premier wineries is parting ways with its star winemaker.

“There’s evolution at Melville and there’s evolution in my own life,” says Greg Brewer, 45, who this week inked a deal to leave Lompoc-based Melville Vineyards & Winery by December.

Mr. Brewer is one of the most celebrated winemakers in California, having garnered industry accolades and a loyal consumer following ever since he launched his wine career at Santa Barbara Winery in 1991.  After a stint at Sunstone Winery, and after launching the cult-status Brewer-Clifton brand with fellow winemaker Steve Clifton, he met businessman and vintner Ron Melville in 1997.

“We got to work right away,” recalls Mr. Brewer.  “I designed the winery, oversaw construction, and 1999 was our first harvest.”

A popular stop for wine country visitors, the Melville estate is located along E. Highway 246, in the celebrated Sta. Rita Hills appellation.  The property spans more than 80 acres and grows premium-quality pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah.  The fruit is used primarily for the Melville label, though some of it is also contracted to other wine producers.

Melville Vineyards & Winery
“Greg has been an integral team member and we wish him all the best,” says Chad Melville, 45, who’s also been part of his father’s viticultural project from the beginning.  He’s found success with his own boutique label, Samsara, which specializes in pinot noir, syrah and grenache.  With Mr. Brewer’s departure from Melville Winery, Chad Melville will assume head winemaker duties and oversee an annual production of about 25,000 cases.

“We’ll see what happens,” says Mr. Brewer about his immediate future, though this father of three will continue his work with the Brewer-Clifton wines and will remain in Santa Barbara County.  “I’ll never leave Sta. Rita Hills.  I’ve dedicated 25 years of my life to this eight-mile stretch of land, and I love the purity of molding one’s style to one place like that.”