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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Welcome to Gold Medal Wine Club. America's Leading Independent Wine Club since 1992. Celebrating 20+ Years!
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Tantara Winery - Santa Maria Valley, Central Coast

A small, artisanal operation producing vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs

Nestled in one of the most picturesque and storied vineyards on the Central Coast, Tantara Winery began as a partnership between two friends and winemakers in 1997. Bill Cates and Jeff Fink, both originally from Virginia, shared a dream of building a world-class winery in California, and made it their mission to see it through.

Today their winery crafts some of the finest Pinot Noir on California’s Central Coast. Many people talk about moving out west and making wine, but few get past the talking stage - especially when they’re talking from Virginia.

Bill Cates grew up in Virginia and worked through a number of professions, including horse training, construction, photography, and theatrical copywriting. He even took up organic farming during the 1970’s and spent time growing American hybrid grapes and making homemade wine.

Jeff Fink’s background is notably diverse as well, dabbling in music, sailing, and architecture. He met Bill in the mid-1970’s after befriending Bill’s daughter, when they both lived in Roanoke, Virginia. The two struck up a friendship and discovered they had a shared love of Pinot Noir. After many late-evening conversations about great red Burgundies, and countless shared bottles, Bill and Jeff decided to one day create a world-class wine of their own.

In 1984, Jeff Fink moved to California and began frequenting the wine regions of northern California and attending the annual Masters of Food and Wine in Carmel. He befriended many Pinot Noir producers and totally immersed himself in the industry, picking up tips and making small batches of homemade wine in his free time.

In 1994, Jeff had the opportunity to work with fruit from the Central Coast’s Laetitia Vineyard and Bien Nacido Vineyard and he was blown away by the quality of fruit. His prior exposure was only to Russian River Valley and Mendocino County, and this discovery lured his attention further south.Jeff befriended the director of grape sales for Bien Nacido Vineyard and struck up a deal to make something of a crumbling shed he found on the ranch. The architect within him was getting inspired as he envisioned building a world-class winery on this picturesque vineyard. Jeff called up Bill Cates in Virginia and their journey to make ‘the very finest Central Coast Pinot Noir’ began. Bill and his wife moved out to the Santa Ynez Valley, and Tantara Winery was on its way.

Bill and Jeff founded Tantara Winery as partner winemakers in 1997 with the release of 250 cases of Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. While the ‘shed’ was under construction in its renovation to become a world-class Central Coast winery, the partners took a handful of essential equipment and borrowed space from nearby Laetitia Winery to make their dream a reality. The current winery facility at Bien Nacido Vineyard was completed in 2002.

The name Tantara came from a horse Bill had owned years before while living in Virginia. At one point, Tantara was not expected to live much longer and she was retired to pasture. She ended up defying the odds, however, and lived a long and healthy life. Horses also symbolize elegance, grace, and power - all of which are qualities embraced in Tantara’s portfolio of extraordinary wines. A horse is depicted on each of the Tantara wine labels to celebrate this story and message.

Since 1997, the winery has grown slowly as new vineyard sites were discovered and added to the mix. Bill and Jeff have made it a priority to source fruit from among the most distinguished vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley, and Santa Lucia Highlands. Over the years, they’ve had the opportunity to work with fruit from Garys’ Vineyard, Dierberg Vineyard, La Colline Vineyard, and Pisoni Vineyard, just to name a few.

Tantara wines gained critical acclaim nearly from the get-go, and by 2002 they were being added to award-winning restaurant lists in New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Production numbers have remained small though (just about 5,000 cases per year), which makes them hard to come by outside these prestigious restaurant locations and the winery tasting room.
At Tantara Winery, Pinot Noir has always been the focus, but Bill and Jeff have also found success introducing Chardonnay to the portfolio.

Together, these varietals perfectly portray the Burgundian style winery the partners originally strived for.
It’s been a successful journey for Tantara Winery thus far, and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

  1. Tantara
    2009 Pinot Noir
    Bien Nacido Old Vine
    Central Coast


    91 - Robert Parker
    id: 1295
    Pinot Noir

Bill Cates - Owner and Senior Winemaker

Bill Cates took over as Tantara’s senior winemaker in 2011 when Jeff Fink departed the company to pursue other interests. Bill is now assisted by winemaker Ariki Hill, a New Zealand native with an undeniable passion for Pinot Noir and great respect for the wine growing region of California’s Central Coast. Together, Bill and Ariki are continuing Tantara Winery’s high profile reputation with an increasingly focused portfolio of vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the best vineyards on the Central Coast. Bill and Ariki both believe that the Central Coast is blessed with ideal growing conditions for these varietals, and it is their goal that this bounty of nature be transformed into great wines, vintage after vintage

As owner and senior winemaker, Bill Cates keeps a busy schedule, but not so busy as to give up one of his other passions in life - writing. Bill is the author of four books, two stage plays, and several screenplays. His wife Gwen is a local artist who provides the artwork for his books.
Bill’s daughter Challen Cates holds a prominent role at the family winery, now serving as the vice president. She splits her time between there and Los Angeles, where she also maintains a career in acting. The Cates are certainly a creative family!

About The Region

Located in the Santa Maria Valley, the Bien Nacido Vineyard is an iconic American vineyard with a rich history and storied past.

The vineyard traces its roots back to 1837 when it part of a Spanish land grant to Tomas Olivera, whose family used the land to raise horses, cattle, and sheep, grow several grain crops, and farm grapes for the production of wine. Today, grapes are still grown on this land and they are among the most sought after in the Santa Maria Valley.

In 2010, the California State Fair named the Bien Nacido Vineyard the ‘Vineyard of the Year.’

Aside from its historical significance, Bien Nacido also offers an incredible terrior for growing cool climate varietals (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay primarily). The morning fog cover and the cool afternoon breezes from the Pacific Ocean helps promote a slow ripening process with longer fruit hangtime on the vines - in fact, Bien Nacido has one of the longest growing seasons in the state. This results in bright expressive fruit with intense flavors and naturally well-balanced acidity. It’s no wonder this site is recognized as one of the best in California.

Chicken Florentine Casserole


4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup butter
3 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 Tbs. Italian seasoning
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 (13.5 oz.) cans spinach, drained
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
2/3 cup bacon bits
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breast halves on a baking sheet and bake 20-30 minutes, until no longer pink and juices run clear. Remove from heat and set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, mix in the garlic, lemon juice, cream of mushroom soup, Italian seasoning, half-and-half, and Parmesan cheese.

Arrange the spinach over the bottom of a 9x9 inch baking dish. Cover the spinach with the mushrooms. Pour half the mixture from the saucepan over the mushrooms. Arrange chicken breasts in the dish, and cover with the remaining sauce mixture. Sprinkle with bacon bits, and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes in the 400 degree oven, until bubbly and lightly browned.

Savory Crab Stuffed Mushrooms


3 Tbs. butter, melted
24 fresh mushrooms
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. minced green onions
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup diced cooked crabmeat
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup dry white wine


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 9x13 inch baking dish with 3 Tbs. butter. Remove stems from mushrooms. Set aside caps. Finely chop stems.

Melt 2 Tbs. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the chopped stems and green onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in lemon juice, crabmeat, soft bread crumbs, egg, dill weed and 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese. Thoroughly blend the mixture.

Place mushroom caps in the buttered pan, and stir until caps are coated with butter. Arrange caps cavity side up, and stuff cavities generously with the green onion and crabmeat mixture. Top with remaining Monterey Jack cheese. Pour wine into the pan around the mushrooms.

Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve warm.