Santa Barbara's Historic Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards Up for Sale

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 11/15/15

Zaca Mesa lineup (photo by Bob Dickey)
One of Santa Barbara County’s most esteemed vineyards is on the market.

Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards is being sold for $32 million.  The historic property along Foxen Canyon Road is comprised of mostly open, undeveloped land.  The site includes about 150 acres of estate grapevines, though it’s expandable to 250 acres.  There’s also a 24,000-square-foot barn-style winery that currently produces 40,000 cases a year, with a capacity of 100,000 cases.

Zaca Mesa was one of Santa Barbara’s earliest vineyards.  It was established in 1972 by a group of oil and land moguls, including real estate magnate John Cushman.  In 1988, Mr. John Cushman, along with his twin brother, Lou Cushman, gained sole ownership of the land, and Zaca Mesa has been family-owned ever since.

The Zaca Mesa tasting room (courtesy Zaca Mesa)
My commercial real estate interests dictate that I can no longer devote the time and energy to the proper oversight of Zaca Mesa,” says Mr. John Cushman, who recently divested his interest in Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate firm founded by his grandfather.  However, his continued global role within the company, which recently merged with real estate services firm DTZ, and his continued active role as board member, director or trustee of companies like Callaway Golf, the Boy Scouts of America and the National Park Foundation, has him traveling more than 8000 miles a week.  “After 40-plus years as the steward of this property and the Zaca Mesa brand, I am ready to pass it on to a new steward who can take it to new levels of success and preserve its unspoiled beauty."
Zaca Mesa spans 750 acres of mostly undeveloped land, with 150 acres planted to Rhone grapes (courtesy Zaca Mesa)
Aside from some 750 acres of land, the new owner of Zaca Mesa will also inherit a legacy that’s well known in the wine industry.  In 1978, under the direction of its first winemaker, Ken Brown, the estate was the first to plant syrah grapes in Santa Barbara County.  In 1990, President Ronald Reagan poured a Zaca Mesa pinot noir at his 80th birthday party.  Zaca’s 1993 Syrah, made by winemaker Daniel Gehrs, took the #6 spot in Wine Spectator Magazine’s Top 100, the first time a Central Coast wine ever appeared on that coveted list; President Bill Clinton would pour that wine for French President Jacques Chirac during a White House visit in 1996. 

"An interesting aside about that," Mr. Gehrs' wife, Robin, wrote me via Facebook as soon as this story broke.  "The award-winning syrah was sold out at the time of the State Dinner so John Cushman provided it from his personal cellar!"

Winemaker Eric Mohseni leading a winery tour (courtesy Zaca Mesa)
The list of winemakers who’ve trained at Zaca Mesa over the years reads like a who’s-who of some of Santa Barbara County’s best, which is why many insiders often refer to the winery as Zaca U.  Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist, Adam Tolmach, Chuck Carlson, Benjamin Silver and Clay Brock have all held winemaker titles here.  Zaca’s current team includes head winemaker Eric Mohseni and assistant winemaker Kristin Bryden. 

Zaca Mesa is home to seven Rhone grape varieties, including 91 acres of syrah and smaller plantings of grenache, mourvedre, cinsault, viognier, roussanne and grenache blanc.  There’s no home onsite, but the three parcels that make up the ranch are all zoned for residential development.  The property is listed with Katie Somple of WineryX Real Estate.



  1. Great article, Gabe but you left out the name of the very first winemaker at Zaca Mesa, which was Ken Brown (then known as Byron Kent Brown). Ken Brown was the winemaker at Zaca Mesa beginning in 1977.

  2. "In 1978, under the direction of its first winemaker, Ken Brown, the estate was the first to plant syrah grapes in Santa Barbara County."