Santa Barbara County region
Gold Medal - New World International Wine Competition
In the annals of wine lore, no one has ever linked the U.S. Air Force and soccer with an imposing and emerging new Santa Barbara winery.
But such is the case with Bridlewood Winery and its energetic owner Cory Holbrook.
It seems that Holbrook, then a youth in his early twenties, served as a sergeant in Air Force intelligence in Europe during the late 1970’s. Blessed with natural athletic ability and a talent for the game of soccer, he played on an Air Force soccer team that traveled throughout Europe. During that period Cory managed to visit practically all the wine producing countries and was charmed by the European approach to wine, or more precisely the wine life style of those involved in Europe’s wine business. To Cory Holbrook, the emphasis in Europe was enjoyment of the product and lifestyle rather than pure profit.
A resolve was soon formulated in Holbrook’s mind. One day he would find a way to be part of a wine operation where its participants were customarily happy and productive.
When Holbrook returned home, he graduated from college and found an incredible niche in the nationwide floral business. His retail location in Medford, Oregon proved to be immediately successful and generated for him an excellent income for the better part of the next decade. His flower business’s proximity to wine and wineries also provided him with ongoing association with the dreams he had envisioned becoming a part of during his stay in Europe. Cory felt that the experience gleaned from the nationwide floral business could be easily transformed into the wine arena.
In 1992 he began earnestly looking for a location that would fit his needs. Holbrook visited practically all of California’s wine producing regions and many individual wineries. He found Napa too clicky, Sonoma somewhat plausible, but Cory was determined to find a location that mirrored his previous vision of wine producing Europe.
Sometime in 1995, Holbrook became convinced his future lay in the environs of Santa Barbara County. One particular visit to the area and a sampling of Dan Gehrs’ prized Zaca Mesa 1993 Syrah made such an impression that he decided that Santa Barbara was the place his projected winery operation needed to be.
In 1998, Cory and his wife Tracie purchased an old equestrian rehabilitation center in Santa Ynez Valley and literally jumped into the wine business. The property totaled 105 acres and Bridlewood has already planted 40 acres in vineyards with plans for another twenty in the near future.
The existing equestrian buildings have been integrated into the newly finished winery complex to provide a unique blending of parallel interests on the property. A number of Arabian horses still occupy the grounds and Tracie Holbrook has successfully captured a pair of national championships during the past two years.
Cory Holbrook is fiercely proud of Bridlewood’s emergence as a top producer of fashionable varietals, particularly Syrah and Pinot Noir. Additionally, Holbrook was so impressed with Dan Gehrs’ efforts that he was able to convince the pioneering winemaker to act as his consultant when Bridlewood’s first wines were ready for production.
Bridlewood Winery’s award winning Syrahs speak for themselves but he is singularly proud of his Pinot Noirs, and in particular the 1998 that serves as this month’s Platinum selection.
“The fruit was so short for the 1998 crop that we were only able to get about three-quarters a ton to the acre,” he related. “The fruit was unusually dark and incredibly concentrated, not typical Pinot Noir by any stretch of the imagination.”
Holbrook also added that the 1998 Pinot Noir took a lot of work just to make it into the bottle, but the resulting wine is something to behold. He referred to the wine as a “tiger by the tail,” and suggested a great deal of bottle age (probably 5 years) before it truly matured.
“I would drink a bottle now,” he suggested, “and then see if there’s any more left to buy. The wine is so intense it might actually redefine the word.”
Since inception, Bridlewood Winery and Cory Holbrook have enjoyed spectacular success. If wines like this month’s Platinum Series Wine Club Selection are an example of what is ahead, we certainly feel that additional plaudits will be soon forthcoming.