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1-800-266-8888
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Santa Barbara Winery - Central Coast


Santa Barbara Winery a Pioneer in the "New" Wine Country

Santa Barbara County is home to thirty wineries and some of the nation’s most respected and recognized wines. Yet just 34 years ago when French-Canadian born architect Pierre Lafond started Santa Barbara Winery, he found the field wide open. Not since prohibition had winemakers practiced their craft in the lush coastal valleys surrounding Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. In the early sixties, when Pierre first opened his winery, he produced his red and white Zinfandels from grapes purchased near San Luis Obispo. However, he correctly theorized the potential for premium wine made from local Santa Barbara County grapes. In 1970, after an intensive search, he purchased 105 acres in the lower Santa Ynez Valley and planted 72 acres of vines. His pioneer efforts helped to establish Santa Barbara as what is now one of the premier grape-growing and wine-producing areas of the world.

For ten years Pierre relied on the winemaking direction of Stan Hill who managed the vineyard part time and helped keep production on track. However, by 1981, sensing the potential for drawing world-class wines from his vineyard, Lafond decided to hire a full-time winemaker. “We started to get serious,” is how Pierre characterizes his shift in strategy. With input from a consultant he recruited a young up-and-comer named Bruce McGuire to be his new winemaker. McGuire at the time was working for R&J Cook in the Sacramento Delta. Pierre invited him to take over operations and guide the new growth and direction of Santa Barbara Winery. During the next few years, Bruce began to transform the winery into a recognized premium quality wine producer. He brought the latest in wine-industry technology with him. He also bought new equipment including stainless fermentation tanks and crushers, and took a hands-on, active role in the vineyard. He set his own style, his own pace and his own agenda. While their new “Bruce McGuire-wines” were well received by the general public and local critics, the turning point came in 1987 when the winery’s 1986 Reserve Chardonnay won numerous gold medals including the prestigious Governor’s Cup award. Since then, Bruce has continued to craft top quality wines, earning a reputation as one of California’s most talented winemakers.

Pierre Lafond still owns the 72-acre Santa Ynez Valley vineyard as well as the Santa Barbara winery and tasting room, located just two blocks from the beach in downtown Santa Barbara. Here Bruce McGuire and staff produce and bottle 28,000 cases annually, including the two outstanding selections we have chosen for you this month.

We’re confident that you will enjoy the supple flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Ynez Valley Reserve 1989. The Wine Spectator called this deeply colored Cabernet “good in its style, with predominantly herbal flavors accented by stylish oak notes.”

Its complex flavors will age nicely for up to 15 years from the bottling date. Complementing this hearty, pumped-up Cabernet, we also feature their ripe, spicy 1992 Zinfandel. Sipping the 1992 Santa Barbara Winery Zinfandel is sure to be a treat. Santa Barbara Winery is the only grower/producer of Zinfandel in Santa Barbara County. There are nine acres of Zinfandel planted in the winery’s 72 acre Lafond Vineyard. While 1992 was considered a mediocre year for much of California, favorable conditions on the central coast helped McGuire to maintain his highest standards of excellence.

In addition to producing a number of excellent Cabernets and Zinfandels, Santa Barbara Winery currently bottles Regular, Reserve and a “Super” Reserve Chardonnay, Regular and Reserve Pinot Noir, Regular, Reserve and Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. As the wine industry changes, their mix of wines has also undergone subtle modifications. As part of this constant evolution they no longer produce a Dry Chenin Blanc and in the near future will stop production on their Johannesburg Riesling.

As for McGuire’s overall wine making philosophy, “it begins in the vineyard.” He believes the quality and integrity of the wine is inextricably linked to what happens in the field. His wines are known for their vibrant and fruity nature, capturing the essence of the grapes as they taste in the vineyard. White wines go through malolactic fermentation and extended lees contact which develops the wine’s texture and aging potential. Bruce uses the “ancient method” practice of whole cluster fermentation on a portion of the Pinot Noir and Zinfandel which brings out the spicy, intense fruit flavors of the grape, and finish tannins in the wine.

When asked about any new additions and changes in store for the future, Lafond and McGuire indicated they were excited about their new Syrah which will soon take a prominent position in the winery’s line-up of offerings. And both were looking forward to obtaining more vineyard land. They would like to see the winery grow but maintain the accent on quality. In the years to come they foresee reaching a ceiling of about 35,000 cases a year. With so much success already behind them, the road ahead for Santa Barbara Winery indeed looks bright.



Bruce McGuire

When Bruce McGuire came to Santa Barbara Winery in 1981 he showed great promise as a young winemaker and over the last fifteen years his craftsmanship has turned to art.
Like many winemakers, Bruce got his start in winemaking with the help of a relative. When Bruce was in high school his uncle introduced him to the hobby with the gift of a home winemaking kit.

After finishing his degree in Entomology at the University of New Hampshire, Bruce decided that viticulture and winemaking were what he wanted to pursue. To learn more about the retail side of the industry, he worked for a year at a wine store in Boston and then headed west to California to tune his winemaking prowess.

While Bruce was honing his skills at UC Davis, he started working at Souverain and ended up devoting more time to practical experience than the classroom. After moving on to an apprenticeship at Field Stone Winery, Bruce decided to pursue winemaking full time, by-passing the route of additional academia. ‘At Davis I was sitting in microbiology classes going over things I had already learned at New Hampshire” Bruce explained. ‘I was learning a lot more at Field Stone, so I decided to commit to them full-time.” Bruce’s strategy paid off and soon he had gained enough experience to land a position as winemaker for R&J Cook in the Sacramento Delta. While there, Bruce learned everything from how to handle Petite Syrah and Cabernet to forklift mechanics.

In 1981, Pierre Lafond started looking for a full-time winemaker and learned from a winemaking consultant of a promising young winemaker named Bruce McGuire. Pierre took the recommendation and offered Bruce the job. After a long hot summer spent in the Sacramento Delta, Bruce was ready for a change and came down to meet with Pierre. Bruce recalls, ‘It was one of those beautiful, classic fall days in Santa Barbara. The ocean was glistening and I could see the Channel Islands clearly off the coast. I was hooked.”

Bruce brought a very hands-on management style to Santa Barbara Winery that was much needed and appreciated. When he arrived, the equipment and vineyard management techniques were in need of an overhaul. It didn’t take Bruce long to roll-up his sleeves and jump into his new role. Today Bruce still takes a very active part in all things related to the winery. Often he can be found on the forklift, tinkering with the bottling equipment, or out in the field consulting with the winery’s viticulturist, Jeff Newton.
This year marks Bruce’s 15th year at Santa Barbara Winery and a lot has changed since he first arrived. The vineyard has reached a nice maturity and the winery has been transformed into one of California’s finest producers of premium varietals.

From talking to Bruce it is clear that he loves the Santa Barbara lifestyle- he even keeps his sailboard propped against one of the winery’s fermenting tanks. That relaxed lifestyle can almost be tasted in his wines which are taking as big a share of the awards as any in the country.

As Santa Barbara County wines become more recognized worldwide, Santa Barbara Winery and Bruce McGuire will continue to focus on growth, quality and personal commitment to upholding the standards set by their outstanding legacy of fine wines.

PIERRE LAFOND

Pierre Lafond is a French-Canadian who was born in Montreal and schooled in Calgary. An architect by training, Pierre moved to Santa Barbara in 1957 at the urging of his father who had left Canada for the warmth and opportunities of sunny Southern California. Pierre’s father was semi-retired and also owned a successful retail liquor store. Pierre’s first career in Santa Barbara was working as an architect, but just a year after arriving in the area, his father passed away and Pierre stepped in to take over the family liquor store. As he ran the store he noticed that customers would frequently inquire about sources for locally made wines. Realizing there were essentially none to be found, Lafond decided to start Santa Barbara Winery.

In the beginning his goal was to make good quality, affordable wine to sell exclusively to the locals that patronized his small retail store. He purchased grapes from other vineyards and produced the wines in his winery located at that time, in the historic El Paseo section of downtown Santa Barbara. Two years later he moved his winemaking operation to its current location just a few blocks from the beach.

By 1965 Lafond was producing 1,000 cases a year of white and red Zinfandel which he sold exclusively through his tasting room and wine and food stores. While demand remained high for his products he soon realized that there was an even bigger market for premium wines. Five years later Pierre began searching in earnest for a suitable location for his vineyard. At the time only Brooks Firestone of the Firestone Vineyard had grapes in the ground in the Santa Ynez Valley, but Lafond saw the potential for his own vineyard there. The location he decided on was in the coolest western region of the Valley. Purchasing 105 acres he quickly planted 72 with Cabernet, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Zinfandel. By 1975 the vineyard boasted its first crop and after six years of limited production and experimentation Lafond brought on Bruce McGuire as winemaker and president. The team of Lafond and McGuire proved to be a winning combination. McGuire has helped steer the winery towards the highest quality standards with improved canopy management and the best equipment, while Lafond has provided the financial resources necessary to maintain the winery’s continued success.

Pierre sees winemaking as an art from start to finish, including the packaging. That is why he chooses local Santa Barbara artists to create his vivid labels which reflect the delicious flavors of the wines and the beauty of the area.

In addition to his love of wine, Pierre shares a host of business interests with his wife Wendy Foster. The two are partners in four gourmet food and wine shops and a number of fine clothing boutiques. This dynamic duo are very proud to call Santa Barbara their home and we are proud to share the wines of their Santa Barbara Winery with Gold Medal Wine Club members.

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