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Gold Medal Wine Club
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1-800-266-8888
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Santa Barbara Winery - Santa Barbara County, Centr


French-Canadian born architect Pierre Lafond started Santa Barbara Winery

Santa Barbara County is home to forty+ 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 a part-time vineyard manager and winemaker to 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. He recruited a young up-and-comer from R & J. Cook Winery named Bruce McGuire to be his new winemaker. 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. Since arriving at Santa Barbara Winery almost twenty years ago, Bruce has consistently crafted top quality wines, earning a reputation as one of California’s most talented winemakers.

Santa Barbara Winery currently offers over a dozen different wines ranging from Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, to Syrah and even a Late Harvest 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.

Winery owner, 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.

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 immediately 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 has 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 resources necessary to maintain the winery’s continued success.



Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members,

Our 1996 Reserve Chardonnay is being featured this month, fully two years after it was bottled on July 29, 1997. We purposefully hold on to this wine for bottle aging before release, as it needs a minimum of a year just to begin to integrate flavor and texture. After two years, one gets a vision of how this wine is ‘coming together” as flavors marry and acidity softens. The next four years are easy to evaluate at this stage.
Fermentation takes place in French oak puncheons and barrels, half of which are new. The barrels, individually designed, are from five different coopers utilizing wood from several forests, and varying degrees of toast. These multiple flavor components in synergism with the intense fruit allow flexibility in blending to achieve total mouth experience. This wine is generally less than 20% of our entire Chardonnay production.
Although our Lafond Vineyard was planted in 1972, and I have been making wine from it since 1982, the Santa Rita Hills region is just now getting ‘discovered” by the press and wine merchants. The combination of a very cool climate (translation: complex fruit and firm acidity) with small vineyards (the Santa Ynez Valley is much narrower than the Santa Maria Valley) makes this region unique in both a viticultural and geographic sense.
Please visit us in Santa Barbara, two blocks from the beach on Anacapa Street. Crush 1999 looks like it will start in late September or early October.
Kind Regards, Bruce McGuire, Winemaker, Wine@sbwinery.com

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