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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Brander Vineyard - Santa Ynez Valley - Santa Barba

Brander celebrates over 30 years of releasing boutique Bordeaux wines.

Brander Vineyard started very inauspiciously as a tiny offshoot of the Brander family vineyard operation in 1979. At the time, only the well respected pioneer Firestone Vineyards (1972) was considered as a creditable player in the California wine industry from the Santa Ynez Valley. Brander Vineyard first release was a miniature 100 cases of sauvignon blanc, a wine that wasn't exactly a household name in California wine circles and a varietal that was primarily unnoticed by the nation's myriad of wine writers and periodicals.

Brander Vineyard first offering was made utilizing some stainless equipment located at a soon to be sold dairy, the resulting wine was finished and received rave reviews from the day it was first exposed to the public. A bit later, the same wine was eventually entered in a major wine competition where it was awarded Santa Barbara County's first gold medal, a fact that has led to the area's eventual emergence as one of California's top wine producing regions. The Brander Vineyard is located on the eastern part of the Santa Ynez Valley, where the warm daytime temperatures and cool evenings provide an excellent comparison to the standard climactic parameters that are found in France's Bordeaux growing region.

Over the years, the Brander Vineyard has grown slowly and matured into a well respected facility that has combined a number of factors to make a winning operation.

"The Brander Vineyard was founded on the premise that we could make really good wines that were modestly priced and offered good value,' owner/winemaker Fred Brander related. 'Throughout the three decades of our existence, I would say that we have managed to remain true to our original goals, even though the business has become really competitive.' Even though a French provincial motif winery and an engrossing 'Pink Chateau' tasting facility has been added to the original 40 acres site at Los Olivos, Brander Vineyard is essentially the same operation as it was when it was first founded.

This year's production will top out at some 16,000 cases, still a modest figure for the understated winery. 'We reached the 8 to 10 thousand case level and stayed there for several years,' Brander added, 'and we ultimately have a goal of around 20,000 cases. But that figure will depend on the development of our red varietals and I have no idea just how long it might take. It all depends on cash flow and investing in more thanks and equipment.' Throughout its history, the Brander Vineyard has received its share of national and international publicity for its portfolio of fine wines. It has ridden to its success on the shoulders of the sauvignon blanc grape, a grape that produces wines that numerous winemakers favor for themselves but until recently an actuality that wasn't shared by the general public.

The winery actually makes four (you saw correctly, four,) different sauvignon blancs, each with a unique style and character. The basic Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc is an expression of the warm, eastern part of the valley from where it originates. The Cuvee Nathalie is made in an Alsatian style with heavy emphasis on the floral characteristics of the fruit and wine. The Cuvee Nicolas tends to be a bolder, full-bodied wine in the classic Graves style of Bordeaux and the au natural is a sauvignon blanc that can be described as pure fruit, with specific crispness, complexity and well managed structure.

The Brander Vineyard sauvignon blancs can be found both nationally and internationally and are the standard to which most California sauvignon blancs are compared. The winery's accomplishments represent the finest in American pioneering spirit and dedication in helping the varietal achieve the recognition due it.

The winery still operates with a comparatively small work force of between eight and ten that includes founder Fred Brander's 17-yar-old son Nicolas after whom the Cuvee Nicolas is named. Brander sees his son as the heir apparent to the winery but isn't ready to hand over the reins at this time.

I still have a great deal to do with my Los Olivos cabernet sauvignon if it is to receive the national and international recognition I would hope for. The competition among cabernets worldwide is very stringent, but I have faith in my wine. Only time will tell, but I am expecting the best.'

With the success Fred Brander has enjoyed with his sauvignon blanc, Gold Medal is betting the Brander Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon will be just as well received.

  1. Brander
    2007 Sauvignon Blanc
    Mesa Verde Vineyard
    Santa Barbara County


    Special Selection
    id: 207
  2. Brander
    2007 Cabernet Sauv/Syrah
    Santa Ynez Valley
    Santa Barbara County


    Special Selection
    id: 206

The King of Sauvignon Blanc in Santa Ynez

Although Fred Brander considers himself a chemist at heart, his tenure UC Davis played the foremost role in his evolution as a winemaker. Brander earned a Masters in Food Science in 1976 and was exposed to the latest in innovative ideas and personnel at the college. His stint as winemaker at the early (1977) Santa Ynez Valley Winery honed his skills for Brander Vineyard.

The first vines were planted in 1975 in the vineyard.

Born of an American mother and Argentine father, Fred Brander lived the early part of his life in Buenos Aires where his family operated an import/export company. As was the case with most Argentine families, wine was a part of the evening meal for him from an early age. When he was twelve, the family moved to Santa Barbara, California, and young Fred discovered a particular penchant for chemistry and even had his own chemistry set before he entered high school. "I really loved finding out how things were made and being able to reproduce some experiments,' he recalled fondly, 'I guess it set the stage for my entire life even if I didn't know it at the time.' Fred enrolled at research oriented Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California and graduated in 1973. He returned to Santa Barbara and began developing a plan for his life that included grapes and possibly wines. Brander talked his family into investing into a forty-acre plot of land located in the Santa Ynez Valley where he proposed to grow grapes. The area was practically unknown as a grape producing region but Brander was undaunted in his belief that the Santa Ynez Valley, and in particular the area known as Los Olivos, was capable of supporting particular types of varietal grapes commonly called Bordeaux varietals. "I was fortunate to have been able to travel extensively in France," Brander explained. "I came in close contact with all the classic growing areas, Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone. Being a semi-native of Santa Barbara, I knew the surrounding area quite well. When I did my research on the terrain, I felt that Los Olivos and its natural warm spots was most suited to the Bordeaux varietals." The first vines were planted in 1975 as the Brander Vineyard, making the spot one of the oldest vineyards in the region. During this period, Brander was also experimenting with making some homemade wines and beers in order to satisfy his natural passion as a chemist. Needless to say, his first wines received a number of promising comments from friends and neighbors who were asked to taste the finished products. When his wines finally reached the general public, Brander took the unexpected step of making lowly Sauvignon Blanc his major grape of prominence. When his wines began collecting gold medals and garnering national and even international notice, many wine insiders finally took notice of the Santa Ynez wine pioneer. Through the Brander Vineyard, Fred Brander has produced award-winning sauvignon blancs for the past 31 consecutive years, a record unparalled in the California wine industry for the varietal. He is primarily responsible for the varietal's rise to popularity, certainly in his own region and arguably in the whole of California.

At 57, Fred Brander's fascination with Bordeaux varietals has not waned in the least. His new project involves the venerable cabernet sauvignon and merlot, the ultra red varietals from Bordeaux. "Even though this area is known more for the Pinot Noir, I'm still convinced certain micro climates are better suited to cabernet and merlot and even cabernet franc. I want the general public to pay more attention to these grapes and wines from Los Olivos and give them a chance to compare to other great growing areas throughout the state."

About The Region

As the closest wine growing region north of Los Angeles, the Santa Ynez Valley is a short excursion for Southern California wine aficionados as well as the setting for the highly-received recent film, Sideways. Growth in recent years borders on the incredible with approximately fifty wineries producing a number of world class wines. The coastal range formed by the Santa Ynez and Santa Rafael Mountains forms several smaller valleys that include the Santa Ynez. The entire region provides a unique growing environment that favors a number of grape varietals including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and others. The sub area for this month's Gold Medal Selection comes from Los Olivos, located on the western slopes of the San Rafael Mountains and a natural barrier for the cooling Pacific Ocean winds that insure longevity and maximum hang time for the grapes.

Salmon with Lemon, Capers and Rosemary


4 6-ounce Salmon Fillets
1/2 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon minced fresh Rosemary leaves
8 Lemon slices (about 1 Lemon)
1/2 Cup white wine
4 Teaspoons Capers
4 pieces of Aluminum Foil


Brush top and bottom of salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place each piece of seasoned salmon on a piece of foil large enough to fold over and seal. Top each piece of salmon with 2 lemon slices, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of wine, and 1 teaspoon of capers. Wrap up salmon tightly in the foil packets. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Place the foil packets on the hot grill and cook for 10 minutes for a 1-inch thick piece of salmon. Serve in the foil packets with a glass of Brander 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy!

Bistro Steak with Shallot Wine Sauce


2 Pounds Sirloin Steak, cut 2 inches thick
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Cup chopped Shallots
1/2 Cup chopped Chives
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Cup dry red wine
Salt and fresh ground Pepper


In a heavy skillet, bring oil and butter to a sizzle. Add the steak and cook over medium heat, 8 minutes on each side for rare, 9-10 minutes on each side for medium. Remove steak from pan and cover to keep warm. Add the shallots and all but 1 Tablespoon of the chives to the pan; stir and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the vinegar and wine; simmer for 2-3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the sirloin crosswise into 1/2 inch slices and place on platter. Pour the sauce over the roast and top with the remaining chives to serve. Enjoy!