Bien Nacido Vineyards
|Bien Nacido Vineyards of Rancho Tepusquet|
|Location||Santa Maria, California, USA|
|Appellation||Santa Maria Valley|
|Key people||Christopher Hammell, Trey Fletcher, Nicholas Miller, Marshall Miller, Stephen Miller|
|Parent company||Thornhill Companies|
|Varietals||Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Barbera, Roussanne, Nebbiolo|
|Other products||Avocados, Meyer Lemons|
Bien Nacido Vineyards is cool-climate vineyard on the central coast of California. Located midway up the Santa Maria Valley, it is known for growing Burgundian and Rhone varieties of wine grapes. Bien Nacido has the distinction of being one of the major viticultural nurseries in the state for certified, varietal budwood. Most of the vines were originally from stock grown by the University of California at Davis. While the average increase block in California is less than 10 acres (40,000 m2), Bien Nacido Vineyards has several hundred acres of certified Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and a number of other varieties. Much of the Chardonnay planted in California in the last twenty years began as Bien Nacido Vineyards cuttings.
Bien Nacido Vineyards produces a small estate wine program run by Trey Fletcher. Additionally there are two independent winemakers who make their wine on the vineyard, Bob Lindquist of Qupe Winery and Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat.
The vineyard traces its roots back to 1837, when Tomas Olivera received the two square league Rancho Tepusquet Mexican land grant from then Governor of Alta California, Juan Bautista Alvarado. The grant covered nearly 9,000 acres (36 km2) ranging upward to the San Rafael Mountains from the Santa Maria Mesa, which bordered the Sisquoc and Cuyama Rivers. The ranch was generously watered by Tepusquet Creek, so called by the Chumash Indians to whom it meant "fishing for trout." Thomas Olivera sold Rancho Tepusquet in 1855 to his step daughter, María Martina Osuna and son-in-law Juan Pacifico Ontiveros. Juan Pacifico Ontiveros started construction on an adobe in 1857 and moved to the ranch the following year. He and his wife raised horses, cattle, sheep, several grain crops, and grapes for the production of wine. During subsequent years, his heirs divided the property until only about 1,400 acres (5.7 km2) remained surrounding the Ontiveros Adobe.
In 1969, the Millers, a branch of the Broome family which has farmed Rancho Guadalasca since 1871, purchased the property. They also purchased an adjacent parcel which had been part of the original land grant, and reunited the two as Rancho Tepusquet, now comprising over 2,000 acres (8.1 km2). While the ranch itself had always been called "Rancho Tepusquet", the Millers selected the name "Bien Nacido Vineyards of Rancho Tepusquet" for the vineyard operation.
In 2010, the California State Fair named Bien Nacido Vineyards the Vineyard of the Year.
Soil and climate
Located on the receiving end of the east-west transverse mountain range, Bien Nacido Vineyards is a maritime-influenced desert. The morning fog cover and the cool afternoon breezes from the Pacific Ocean make this a Region 1 climate on the Winkler Scale. The rainfall averages 12 – 14 inches a year. The terrain is sand, chalk and marine loam that provides good drainage. The whole package results in cool, slow ripening grapes, with longer hangtime on the vines.
Bien Nacido Vineyards consists of over 800 acres (3.2 km2) of planted vines, of which over 300 acres (1.2 km2) are planted to Chardonnay, over 250 acres (1.0 km2) to Pinot Noir, a variety associated with the appellation, and a number of acres each to Pinot Blanc, Syrah, and Merlot. Since 1992, experimental plantings of Pinot Gris, Barbera, Roussanne, Nebbiolo and Viognier, as well as new clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Merlot, have been added.
Bien Nacido has the distinction of being one of the major viticultural nurseries in the state for certified, varietal budwood. Most of the vines were originally from stock grown by the University of California at Davis. While the average increase block in California is less than 10 acres (40,000 m2), Bien Nacido Vineyards has several hundred acres of certified Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and a number of other varieties. Much of the Chardonnay planted in California in the last twenty years began as Bien Nacido Vineyards cuttings. The Syrah cuttings also have gained a reputation to the point that some vineyards will refer to their plants as stemming from the Bien Nacido clone.
Each customer's portion of a block is farmed according to their standards, such as organic or biodynamic farming techniques. The grape production is sold to customers by charging a flat rate for the area or rows, so the winemakers can crop their vines to volume they desire. This is in contrast to the industry standard which is to sell by the ton. The typical industry approach creates an adversarial relationship in which the vineyard is advantaged to hang more fruit on the vine, whereas the artisan winemakers want to crop it down and let the fruit hang longer (which further dehydrates and shrinks the tonnage). Some of Bien Nacido customers have bought the same rows of grapes for over 20 years and will even designate their particular block on the bottle.
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