Bien Nacido Vineyards
Central Coast AVA
What began as a Mexican land grant in 1837 is now one of the hottest wineries on California's Central Coast.
It’s all about history when it comes to Bien Nacido Vineyards. The original Bien Nacido Vineyard has become the iconic Central Coast vineyard over the past forty years due to its superb tradition of producing excellent fruit and the continuing dominance of wines that have been produced from those grapes.
The actual vineyard is large, comprising more than two thousand acres. It is nestled almost midway up the Santa Maria Valley, just off Highway 101, a few miles southeast of the City of Santa Maria. Its location is considered a cool growing climate, ideal for growing Burgundian and Rhône grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Viognier. Its actual name is Bien Nacido Vineyards of Rancho Tepusquet, a testimony to its rich heritage that traces back almost a century and a half.
It all began as a Mexican land grant way back in 1837. The Mexican governor of Alta, California, one Juan Batista Alvarado, deeded the property to Tomas Olivera as part of a 9,000 acre tract from the Santa Maria Mesa ranging upward to the San Rafael Mountains. The land remained in the Olivera Family for many generations until it was reduced in size to a little over 1,400 acres.
In 1969, the enterprising Miller Family bought the Bien Nacido Ranch and subsequently turned it into one of California’s greatest vineyard locations. In the beginning, the family’s intention was to farm the property and sell the grapes to high caliber wineries for their usage. For the next two decades, wineries such as Qupé, Au Bon Climat, Fess Parker, Gary Farrell, Byron, Foxen, Longoria and more than 30 other top wineries racked up scores of Gold Medals and high marks for their vineyard-designated wines.
In 2010, the Millers decided to produce some wines for themselves under the name Bien Nacido Vineyards.
“It seemed like the smart thing to do,” remarked Nicholas Miller, the family’s spokesman. “After all, many wineries had been producing extraordinary wines from our fruit with incredible success. We wanted to see if we could duplicate their experiences.”
Nicholas Miller had already experimented with fruit from particular blocks within the Bien Nacido Vineyard. He had produced Pinot Noirs in both 2005 and 2006 that were mostly given away to family and friends.
Then the 2007 vintage came along!
“From the beginning, we all knew this would be a special vintage, capable of producing some really great wines. The fruit was exceptional, and everyone knows that great wines begin with great fruit.” As the winemaking process was eventually completed, the Miller family realized it was the correct time to launch their new Bien Nacido Vineyards label.
“We had always agreed that we would only make wines under this label that were truly exceptional,” Miller continued. “The 2007 vintage was all that and more. We only made around 150 cases of the wine, and it certainly caught everyone’s attention”. The first releases made their debuts in the autumn of 2010. As predicted, these wines were immediately showered with plaudits and high scores.
The Miller family originally decided on a marketing strategy for the label that was different from their other wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyards became an on-premise brand and was only made available to highest caliber restaurants. These restaurants were delighted with the prospects and immediately lavished high praise on the wines.
There is no telling how many cases of each wine will be produced at Bien Nacido Vineyards. “Our intent is only to produce the finest wines we can, and we never know until we finish the winemaking process just how good the wines will be. Some vintages will be more, some less. It is our quality-only commitment to our family and customers, so we are bound by what is actually produced,” Miller added.
In this day of commercialized wines and wineries, such intent is definitely a breath of fresh air. Since Bien Nacido Vineyards only pours their wines at their tasting room in Los Olivos, CA, a small cadre of top-notch restaurants, and their own wine club, this month’s selection is a boon to our Platinum Wine Club members. This is a rare opportunity to taste the wines of this spectacular terroir.
It is a tribute to the Miller family that they have chosen this expression as a means of offering their finest wines to more consumers. We welcome this exceptional 2016 Estate Syrah to our family of fine wines. Cheers!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
We hope that you are enjoying the arrival of the New Year as much as we are here in Santa Barbara. The 2019 vintage marked our 46th harvest at Bien Nacido Vineyards and we can assuredly say that the drought which plagued California for so long is mostly over. As those wines sleep in the barrel this spring, the 2016 Bien Nacido Estate Syrah is wide awake and ready to be enjoyed.
At Bien Nacido, we first planted Syrah back in 1984 at the urging of several forward looking California "Rhône Ranger" winemakers. At the time, we were unsure if Syrah would ripen in the cool Santa Maria Valley and we had no previous experience growing the grape. We decided to look toward the ancestral home of Syrah, in the Northern Rhône, to see how the French grow Syrah there. That inspiration led us to plant these vines high up on a steep, rocky hillside with a view of the ocean in the distance. Additionally, we inter-planted the Syrah with a dollop of Viognier, which is also a tradition that hails from the vineyards of the Northern Rhône.
This attention to detail carries through to the wine growing. Details include farming these vines using only certified organic materials, very little irrigation, and meticulous canopy management. With this great foundation in the vineyard, we take a very hands-off approach in the cellar to allow the terroir of our site to do all of the talking. The 2016 Syrah fermented beautifully and aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, 10% of which were new, and was bottled unfined, and unfiltered.
The 2016 vintage gave us an impactful Syrah with a load of spicy olive, white pepper, and mocha aromatics. A wine that brings out the carnivore in me at the dinner table. The exotic aromatics and dense palate pairs beautifully with everything from herb-roasted chicken to rack of lamb with roasted beets. This wine has the complexity to age for several more years but is showing beautifully now. The excitement in the glass will be a great pleasure to share over a nice spring meal with friends.
Bien Nacido Estate
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
Thank you for putting our family’s 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyards Pinot Noir on your dinner table. Bien Nacido is the most vineyard designated in the world, but this bottle is our own Estate take on sheparding the grapes through this process.
Bien Nacido Vineyards was planted by my father (Stephen Miller) and uncle (Bob Miller) back in 1973. About half of this bottling of 2009 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir comes from those original plantings of now 40 year-old, own rooted (ungrafted) Pinot Noir. When they planted Bien Nacido, this was the beginning of the modern day Central Coast wine industry and at the time, it was established fact that you could not make great Pinot Noirs in California. Early on, they had to package up the Pinot Noir with Chardonnay. When wineries came to purchase Chardonnay, they made them take the Pinot Noir fruit as well.
These days, there isn’t enough Bien Nacido Pinot Noir to go around, so we only carve off a little bit for our own Estate program. For this year’s release, we only made 350 cases of our 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyards Pinot Noir.
Bien Nacido Vineyards
Winemaker & 5th Generation California Farmer