Santa Maria Valley AVA
The Bien Nacido Vineyard is also considered one of the premier Chardonnay vineyards in the entire world and has produced numerous Gold Medals and more high scores than can be counted.
This incredible winery was founded nearly four decades ago by iconic winemaker Ken Brown, one of the original winemakers that propelled Santa Barbara County into the ranks of top-class wine producing areas. Brown was a champion of the Santa Maria Valley’s rich soils and its potential as a world-class grape producing area. Brown was one of the pioneers in establishing the region on the national and world stage.
Originally called Byron Vineyard and Winery, the initial 1984 crush produced around 7,600 cases, a representative number for a newly-formed entity. The first releases proved an instant success and the winery was, as they say, “off to the races.”
Some six years later, Napa Valley giant Robert Mondavi Winery became impressed with Byron’s record and approach to natural farming and purchased the entity with Ken Brown remaining as winemaker and general manager. This relationship lasted for nearly twenty years until Brown decided to pursue his love of the Pinot Noir varietal and left the company.
Byron Wines has hardly skipped a beat in the ensuing years. Numerous awards and plaudits for its wines have caused the winery to remain among the country’s finest producers. In the case of fine Pinot Noirs and world-class Chardonnays, Byron has remained near the top of each category.
Winemaker Jonathan Nagy became the long-term voice of the company and his wines reached legendary status. Nagy and Byron Vineyard and Winery benefited from the fruit produced by a number of its contracted vineyards, the great Bien Nacido Vineyard for Chardonnays and the Nielson Vineyard for Pinot Noirs. Sadly, Nagy recently left the company as COVID-19 conditions changed the landscape of many wine entities.
“We have had to rethink our marketing strategies during the past year,” informed General Manager Denise Shurfelt, who joined the company two decades ago as winemaker and was promoted to her present position three years ago. “Because of its overall success and long-standing reputation, Byron has become a direct-to-consumer operation and we sell out all of our production. Due to the present economic situation forced by the coronavirus, we are rethinking our marketing plan. Byron has a long-time loyal fan base who expect world-class wines and we certainly don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
Going forward, Shurfelt advised that winemaker Anna Clifford, a UC Davis graduate with an extensive resume in both Napa Valley and Sonoma County will lead Byron Wines from this vintage forward. Clifford lists her stints at highly-respected Atlas Peak Winery and venerable Buena Vista Winery among others during her career.
“We will probably produce somewhere around 500 cases this year to fulfill our needs and then see what happens once the economy rights itself,” Shurfelt continued. “Some of the grape contracts have changed but that shouldn’t affect us. Right now, Byron Wines will continue to feature wines made solely from fruit grown in the Santa Maria Valley, where its history and success began. So many wineries have been forced to revisit their marketing strategies, it will be interesting to see just how everything evolves in the future.”
In many ways, this Byron 2017 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay is a mini treasure itself. The wine was made by Jonathan Nagy and bears his remarkable stamp and character. The Bien Nacido Vineyard is also considered one of the premier Chardonnay vineyards in the entire world and has produced numerous Gold Medals and more high scores than can be counted. Originally established in 1973 by Bob and Steve Miller, the property was part of an 1837 land grant that eventually became grazing land for herds of cattle. Located at the eastern opening of a transverse (east to west) mountain range, the Bien Nacido Vineyard benefits from a steady wash of cool marine air. Soils are diverse, mostly a combination of sandy loam, chalk, gravelly loam and marine loam. Wine & Spirits has named the vineyard among the Top 25 Vineyards in the World and Food & Wine has labeled it one of the Top Ten Best Vineyards in the Country.
It is with great pleasure that we offer our Platinum Club members this very special Chardonnay from Byron Wines. Rarities such as this are not always available to the general public and we take pride in offering this matchless wine for your enjoyment.
Wineries such as Byron are few and far between and their longevity and existence are a testament to their continuing efforts to produce great wines. Enjoy!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members
I’m excited for you to try the 2017 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay. This famed vineyard is located just 3 miles west of Byron winery and is home to some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes in Santa Barbara County. In fact, Matt Kettmann of Wine Enthusiast included Bien Nacido Vineyard in their California Grand Cru Chardonnays article in August of 2016. In the article, Matt includes a bit of history: “Considered the ‘most vineyard-designated vineyard in the world,’ Bien Nacido rose to acclaim on the backs of such winemakers as Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, and Bob Lindquist of Qupé.”
As for the 2017 vintage, it started with an average budbreak in Santa Maria and Sta. Rita Hills as a majority of vineyards began to bud by mid to late February. The spring and summer temperatures were average and we did not have any frost issues. Bloom provided an ideal fruit set producing countless small clusters and berries - the perfect scenario for world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay! In light of the above noted factors, the timing of harvest aligned with the previous three years. Pinot Noir from Santa Maria ripened at the beginning of September while Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills achieved maturity by the end of September. Chardonnay was harvested towards the end of September and the beginning of October across both AVA’s.
Overall, it is another superb vintage for Santa Barbara County. Each vineyard designate expresses beautiful aromatics and flavors unique to its location within Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills. The concentrated Chardonnays are contrasted by a bright acidity providing focus and length. The 2017 vintage is approachable upon release, but will blossom after 3-5 years of bottle age and continue to age gracefully thereafter. Enjoy!