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Chanin Wine Company and Lutum Wines – An Outstanding Group of 2014 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs

Chanin Wine Company and Lutum Wines – An Outstanding Group of 2014 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs


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Gavin Chanin began his wine career at Au Bon Climat and then started Chanin Wine Company in 2007. All of the wines are now made at the winery in Lompoc. I have followed Gavin’s wine career since the very beginning (click on the first article below to read about the early history and click on the second article below to read the most recent article).

THE HOLY TRINITY OF WINERIES
September 15 2011

CHANIN WINE COMPANY & LUTUM WINES
March 13 2015

Here is Gavin’s philosophy on making wine:

We are dedicated to crafting wines that reflect the individual vineyard in which they are grown. We focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, two grapes that are especially revealing of subtle differences in geography, geology and climate. Our grapes are grown in areas where cool coastal winds, diverse marine based soils and a long growing season provide an exciting and unique environment for Burgundian varieties.

The vineyards are the focus of all of our wines and each wine is made from grapes grown at one vineyard and not blended. We search out old vines which allow us to make refreshingly balanced wines at lower alcohol levels than most California “blockbuster” or “cult” styled wines. Through low yields, improved farming techniques and gentle winemaking we aim to create a wine that pairs well with food and is delicious young, but is also age-worthy. All of our vineyards are organic or sustainably farmed.
Our winemaking philosophy is rooted in representing each individual vineyard by emphasizing balance, finesse, and complexity. We avoid excessive alcohol, and modern winemaking additives (such as commercial yeasts, bacteria, enzymes) that can overshadow vineyard characteristics. We also do not filter our wines or use intrusive wine processing machines. The goal is to grow grapes that are so healthy none of the above is needed.

Below are notes on the 2014 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Chanin and Lutum. The year 2014 was yet another drought year. The 2014 wines from Chanin and Lutum are a great success and reflect the vintage. As compared with earlier vintages, they are true to form and beautifully balanced with great purity and lots of finesse. The wines are made with the Lutum wines de-stemmed and the Chanin wines made using whole cluster fermentation. In the case of wines made from the same vineyards, the grapes are sourced from different parts of the vineyard for each wine. Having said that, the differences between the wines are very subtle and all are a pleasure to drink with lots of early appeal yet with ability to age into the future. A great idea would be to select a few and do your own tasting /dinner with a group of friends and then buy some to lay away for the future. Over time, the wines will change and develop secondary characteristics and more body. Enjoy some now and more later. That is a win/win!

CHANIN WINE COMPANY

Chardonnay

2014 Chanin Wine Company Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
There were 700 cases of this wine produced. It is a beautifully crafted Chardonnay with a light yellow color and great floral citrus perfume with hints of peach and very subtle hint of spice. With beautiful balance the wine has very pure fruit and the flavors show a complex mélange of citrus and peach with floral spice nuances. Flavorful and showing depth and richness in a very finesseful way, this is a delicious Chardonnay – Outstanding Plus. $40

2014 Chanin Wine Company Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County
This vintage produced 525 cases. The wine is bright and finesseful with a light yellow color and faintly floral citrus perfume. The fruit is very pure with faint peach nuances and a citrus tinge and a very nice underlying crispness. Understated and very stylistic this is a lovely Chardonnay with a lot of charm and finesse – Outstanding. $35

2014 Chanin Wine Company Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
Only 275 cases of this wine were produced. It is a Chardonnay with a lot of character, flavor, and charm. Light yellow in color the wine has a lovely perfume with floral citrus tinges and faint hints of peach. On the palate it has lovely complex fruit with subtle hints of peach and guava accented by citrus and a faintly floral undertone. Structured and flavorful with beautiful balance this is Chardonnay with great style and elegance with a lot of early charm and great promise for the future – Outstanding Plus. $40

Pinot Noir

2014 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
There were 675 cases of this wine produced. It has a very nice color and a lovely perfume that is brimming with fruit accented by floral spice nuances. The fruit carries through on the palate with a faint floral tinge. With intensity and balance as well as a good underlying structure this is a gorgeous Pinot Noir with lots of early charm that should also continue to evolve and develop for many years as well – Outstanding Plus. $50

2014 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Duvarita Vineyard Santa Barbara County
There were 850 cases of this wine produced. With a very nice color it has a lovely berry tinged perfume with floral/herbal nuances. Rounded and quite lush and supple the flavors show very nice fruit with hints of fresh herbs and spices. Elegant and flavorful this is a Pinot Noir with great early charm – Outstanding. $50

2014 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir La Rinconada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
There were 425 cases of this wine produced. With a very nice color it has a lovely perfume of cherry and berry fruit accented by floral nuances and a kiss of spice. On the palate the wine is beautifully balanced with an abundance of berry and cherry fruit with a floral accent and a nice underlying crispness. This is a really lovely Pinot Noir with great style and charm – Outstanding. $60

2014 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County
There were 750 cases of this wine produced. It has a very nice color and a lovely perfume with spice tinged berry fruit. Very flavorful the wine has lots of very pure berry fruit again with just a hint of spice. Beautifully balanced with a nice persistence this is a really lovely and elegant Pinot Noir with lots of early appeal – Outstanding. $50

2014 Chanin Wine Company Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
There were 975 cases of this wine produced. It has a very nice color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of berries and cherries. Elegant and rounded the wine the wine is beautifully balanced and exhibits and abundance of very pure floral tinged fruit. Although it is very appealing now, this is a Pinot Noir that should evolve and develop over many years into the future – Outstanding/Outstanding Plus Potential. $60

LUTUM WINES

Chardonnay

2014 Lutum Chardonnay Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County
This Chardonnay has a light yellow color and lovely citrus tinged perfume with faint tropical nuances. On the palate it is full, rounded, and lush with lovely fruit showing a tropical tinge and just a hint of spice. With a nice underlying crispness this is a lovely Chardonnay with lots of early appeal – Outstanding. $50

2014 Lutum Chardonnay Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County
Light yellow in color this Chardonnay has a lovely perfume with floral citrus tinges. It also has lots of very well defined fruit and a nice underlying citrus tinged crispness. This crispness gives the wine definition and structure and the citrus quality carries through on the long finish. This is a really lovely Chardonnay – Outstanding. $50

2014 Lutum Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
Light yellow in color with a lovely floral perfume showing a tinge of spice this is an elegant Chardonnay with lots of early appeal. It has well defined fruit with faint citrus and peach nuances and is beautifully balanced with a nice crispness on the finish – Outstanding. $50

Pinot Noir

2014 Lutum Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
This Pinot Noir has a very nice color with a lovely perfume showing berry fruit with floral spice tinges. On the palate it has lovely berry and cherry fruit with a slight floral quality and is rounded, supple, and elegant. A very flavorful and beautifully balanced, harmonious wine, this can be enjoyed now or kept for many years into the future – Outstanding Plus. $50

2014 Lutum Pinot Noir Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County
This is a lovely very elegant and flavorful Pinot Noir. It has a very nice color a lovely floral spice perfume with hints of berry fruit and a subtle herbal nuance. With lovely floral tinged berry fruit on the palate, the wine has a nicely rendered hint of spice and a nice underlying crispness on the finish – Outstanding. $60

2014 Lutum Pinot Noir La Rinconada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
With a very nice color this Pinot Noir exhibits a lovely floral spice perfume with hints of cherry and a faint exotic nuance. With lots of fruit showing floral spice tinged berry fruit the wine has very good depth, structure, and balance. It is lovely now, but also shows great potential for the future – Outstanding/Outstanding Plus. $50

2014 Lutum Pinot Noir Rita’s Crown Sta. Rita Hills
With a very nice color this Pinot Noir has a lovely berry perfume with a faint exotic tinge and a nice floral spiciness. With lots of supple floral spice tinged fruit, it is rounded and balanced and very expressive. This wine is shows a lot of early appeal and should also age gracefully well into the future – Outstanding. $50

2014 Lutum Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County
This Pinot Noir has a very nice color and deep floral perfume with hints of cherry fruit and spice. It is a large scaled wine and is rich, full, and rounded with loads of floral tinged fruit with nice spiciness. Very appealing now, the evolution of this wine will be interesting to watch – Outstanding. $60

2014 Lutum Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
With a very nice color this wine has lovely spice tinged berry perfume with floral tinges. Balanced and flavorful it is rounded with lots of spice tinged fruit and has a nice crispness on the finish. This is a Pinot Noir that can be enjoyed now or kept well into the future – Outstanding. $60

This article was originally published in The Underground Wineletter on October 22, 2016.


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Winemaker Ken Brown: Veteran Still On His Game

It seems that in our eagerness to discover the latest new cult producer of Pinot Noir, we often overlook the veterans whose reputation has been firmly established through years of accomplished winemaking. I am talking about icons such as Ken Brown, a pioneering original in Santa Barbara County who continues to craft some of California&rsquos most captivating wines.

Byron Kent &ldquoKen&rdquo Brown is a third generation California native who was born in Sacramento. Winemaking was not on his radar as he grew up and attended college, opting instead for a career in the burgeoning computer industry at IBM as well as working for his father who was a real estate developer. It was a visit to a Napa Valley winery that drew his attention to wine and he began making wine at home.

In 1974, he enrolled in the California State University at Fresno&rsquos viticulture and enology program. His interest in viticulture was noteworthy since most winemakers of the time spent little time in vineyards. This unique but now widely embraced adjunct to winemaking was to prove invaluable in his later success. Ken always considered himself a winegrower, that is, an equal combination of viticulturist and winemaker.

After graduation, Ken became the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery in Los Olivos in 1977 where he designed and equipped the new winery. The original Zaca Mesa property was bought in 1972 by a group of friends who started planting a vineyard in 1973. It was at Zaca Mesa that Ken planted the first Syrah in Santa Barbara County in 1978.

In 1984, realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County and in particular the Santa Maria Valley to produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken left Zaca Mesa and along with partners, founded Byron Winery in the Santa Maria Valley on the site of the original Nielson Vineyard. This vineyard was Santa Barbara&rsquos first commercial vineyard established in 1974 by pioneer Uriel Nielson. The first Byron Pinot Noir was released in 1984 from purchased grapes (Tepusquet Vineyard 1973 plantings and Sierra Madre 1974 plantings).

The success of Byron prompted the Robert Mondavi Corporation to invest heavily in the Santa Maria Valley eventually acquiring 600 acres of Santa Maria Valley land that included 175 acres of vineyards. Mondavi bought Tepusquet Vineyard in 1988, the adjacent 118-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, and acquired Byron Winery in 1990. Ken Brown&rsquos 20,000-case Byron Winery was producing some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the state, but he lacked the capital to grow the winery. Matt Kramer said, (New California Wine, 2004), &ldquoByron Chardonnay has long been, and remains, one of the benchmark bottlings in Santa Maria Valley.&rdquo Mondavi&rsquos buyout allowed him to stay on as winemaker and the winery&rsquos production was expanded to more than 50,000 cases. While at Byron, Ken worked with many Santa Barbara County vineyards, but mainly sourced Pinot Noir from Nielson Vineyard, Tepusquet Vineyard and Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.

In his time at Byron under Mondavi ownership, Ken directed the construction of a modern, gravity flow winery in 1996, and conducted a number of experimental vineyard programs. He eventually tired of the corporate winery milieu, and left in 2003 to start his own modest eponymous label. Ken Volk purchased the Byron winemaking facility and renamed it Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The Byron label passed through several owners including Constellation Brands, Legacy Estates Group, and Jackson Family Wines who is the current proprietor.

Ken downsized considerably, with he and his spouse Deborah producing a modest 2,000-2,500 cases of carefully handcrafted wine under the Ken Brown Wines label. He occupied a shared warehouse facility in Lompoc beginning in 2005, and then moved to Terravant Wine Center in Buellton in 2008 where Ken consults for a number of other larger labels.

Ken&rsquos accomplishments are varied and he has left his mark on many current wineries in Santa Barbara County. A partial listing of his achievements include the following:

&bull Ken was one of the first vintners to realize the potential of Santa Barbara County to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
&bull Ken was the first to introduce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Syrah to Santa Barbara County.
&bull Ken was one of the first Santa Maria Valley vineyard owners to experiment with various vineyard spacing densities.
&bull Ken mentored a number of respected winemakers including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery, Lane Tanner of the former Lane Tanner Winery, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, Clay Brock of Wild Horse Winery, and Mike Sinor of Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks.
&bull Ken was the founding winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery.
&bull Ken has crafted wines from some of Santa Barbara County&rsquos most prestigious vineyards including Bien Nacido, Clos Pepe, Cargassachi, Garey, La Encantada, Nielson, Radian, Rancho La Vina, Rio Vista, Rita&rsquos Crown, Sanford & Benedict, and Sierra Madre. Ken knows the lay of Santa Barbara County vineyard land.

Varietals offered by Ken Brown Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Since Ken has many long time associations with growers, he has access to desirable select blocks within vineyards. He buys fruit by acreage contracts so his name is attached to certain rows of vines. His sensibly priced wines are offered through retail channels and the website at www.kenbrownwines.com. Wine tasting is available Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 or by appointment at the Terravant Wine Center tasting room located at 70 Industrial Way in Buellton (805-688-4482).

Despite Ken&rsquos status as a winemaker emeritus, he regularly attends events to pour his wines and patiently points out vineyard source details that he considers highly relevant to understanding his wines. He is modest, unpretentious, informative and beyond reproach as a professional. There is no need to seek out the latest Pinot Noir rave offering overpriced and over hyped wines, for we are blessed to have an easily accessible veteran who is still on his game.

Acknowledgements go to the following reference sources used in this article: North American Pinot Noir (John Haeger, 2004), Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara&rsquos Wine Industry, (Victor W. Geraci, 2004), and www.winefactor.com.

14.2% alc., 656 cases, pH 3.71, TA 0.56, $35. Magnums available. Sourced from Rio Vista Vineyard, Garey Vineyard, Nielson Vineyard, Sierra Madre Vineyard and Buena Terra Vineyard. 53% from Santa Maria Valley and 47% from Sta. Rita Hills. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, ripe berries and echoes of oak. Very tasty black cherry core with hints of red hard candy and spice and an earthy undertone. A very approachable mid weight offering with mild tannins and a silky mouth feel. Almost weightless. You won&rsquot find a better AVA blend in the marketplace. Score: 91

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.53, 231 cases, $42. A new vineyard designate from Ken. Sourced from a replanted block (2000) under the direction of Ken Brown in collaboration with the Mondavi family who owned the property at the time. High-density spacing of Dijon clone 115. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromatics of dark cherries and spice with a hint of seasoned oak. Satisfying charge of earth-kissed black cherry fruit on the mid palate with a hint of dried herbs in the background. The tannins are suede-like and dry, the balance is spot on and the finish is replete with black cherry goodness. Nothing is out of place. An excellent cellar candidate. Score: 92

14.2% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.63, 138 cases, $38. Sourced from replanted vines using cuttings from the original old vines including Wente clone. Ken has worked with this vineyard for more than 30 years. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 75% malolactic fermentation, aged sur lie 10 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was enchanted with the nose that offered aromas of tropical fruits, pear, buttered brioche and slate. Delicious compliment of lemon, baked pear and apple flavors with the slightest hint of complimentary French oak. The wine really brings you to attention on entry and holds on for a satisfying, acid-driven finish. Very soft in the mouth and appealing now, but has the balance for a long life in the cellar. Score: 94

14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard, one of the newest in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (planted in 2007). One of the highest planted vineyards at 600 to 950 feet in the AVA. Soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell deposits. Dijon clone 76. Whole cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 11 months in 17% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Attractive aromas of white peach, lemon curd and iron are replicated on the palate. The French oak is beautifully integrated offering the slightest hint of vanilla and toast. The wine is smoothly textured in the mouth and slightly viscous, with vibrant underlying acidity and some persistence of juicy green apple on the finish. Very classy. Score: 92


Watch the video: The Best White Wines For Beginners Series: #1 Chardonnay (July 2022).


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