Santa Barbara County region
The Cambria 1998 Julia’s Vineyard is without a doubt the best Pinot Noir we’ve discovered this year.
“I love the unique climate of Santa Barbara County’s Santa Maria Bench,” says Cambria Winemaker, Fred Holloway. As a strong proponent of the minimalist approach to winemaking, Fred and a lot of others will tell you that location is everything. “We now understand the flavor nuances and complexities that the right growing area can impart to a finished wine. We let the grapes do most of the talking,” he quips.
Indeed, the vineyards of Cambria Winery are in an enviable location. Seventeen miles east of the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Maria Bench lies appropriately within the Santa Maria Valley. It is one of the few growing areas in California that enjoys an east-west orientation, creating a funneling effect of cool sea breezes that sweeps into the vineyards, moderating the temperatures. The mornings are foggy, giving way to sunny afternoons and ending with cool, breezy evenings. The result is a mean year-round temperature of 64 degrees and one of the longest and coolest growing seasons in the state.
Cambria Winery traces its roots back to the original Tepusquet (tep-eh-skay) Vineyard that was planted in the early 1970s. One of the first commercial vineyards in Santa Barbara County, Tepusquet quickly earned a reputation for producing intensely flavored Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the unique climate and soils of the area. The region was named by the native Indians for the natural copper deposits found nearby. Originally called “tepuztli,” the name was later translated by accident into “tepuzque” which means copper coin. Nineteenth century English and Welsh settlers re-named the area “Cambria,” the Roman word for Wales.
Part of an 1838 Mexican land grant, Rancho Tepusquet raised cattle and row crops throughout the 1800s. Pioneer grape farmers first planted vines in the area in the early 1970s, and Tepusquet Vineyards subsequently was among the first to establish the Santa Barbara area’s reputation for growing world-class grapes.
In the 1970s and even into the 1980s, the Santa Barbara grape-growing area was still largely undiscovered, except for a handful of savvy wineries up north. Wineries such as Ridge, Acacia, ZD, Beringer and Kendall-Jackson were quietly buying up the first-class grapes of Tepusquet Vineyard and blending them with their own wines.
Knowing a good thing when he sees it, Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, purchased the Tepusquet Vineyard in 1987 to ensure a steady supply of superlative fruit. They renamed the property, Cambria and added a first-class, state-of-the-art winery just a few years later. Part of the vineyard was sectioned off and renamed too. Katherine’s Vineyard, which is home to Cambria’s renowned Chardonnay, was named in honor of Jess and Barbara’s oldest daughter. Pinot Noir from Julia’s Vineyard is named for their younger daughter and is the oldest commercial Pinot Noir planting in Santa Barbara County.
Although the Cambria vineyards consist primarily of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Syrah is another important varietal for the winery. It currently occupies 19 acres within the original Tepusquet Vineyard with another 120 acres planned for the near future. Viognier and Sangiovese are also produced, but in very small quantities. Stylistically, all the wines reflect the bold, intense fruit character, silky texture and rich complexity for which Cambria has built its reputation.
Winemaker Fred Holloway and his team are an integral part maintaining that reputation. But Winemaker Fred Holloway quickly gives the credit to the vineyards. “My job is to take the intense flavors produced in the vineyards and simply allow the nuances and personality of the vineyard to shine through,” he says modestly.
Fred recently joined Cambria after serving as winemaker at Cambria’s sister winery, La Crema (also owned by Jess Jackson). He started his wine career in 1982 after graduating from UC Fresno with a degree in Enology. His first job was with Ballard Canyon Winery not far from the original Tepusquet Vineyard. He stayed there for ten years until moving on to Corbett Canyon Winery, and then to La Crema in 1996. When the head winemaking position became available at Cambria, Fred eagerly seized the opportunity to return to his roots in Santa Barbara County. “After fourteen years of winemaking experience on the Central Coast and having purchased grapes from the Tepusquet Vineyard, I have great affinity and respect for the fruit grown here. I feel like I’ve come home.”
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members:
I am particularly proud of our 1998 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, and pleased to be able to share it with the monthly Platinum Wine Club members.
1998 was marked by cool El Niño weather conditions. An unusually cool and wet spring delayed bud break until early March, which was then followed by a cooler than usual growing season. However, a late harvest insured that the grapes enjoyed a long hang time, which enhanced the fruit’s complexity. The grapes were hand picked then cold-soaked for five days to extract as much flavor and color from the grape skins as possible. Eleven months of barrel aging introduced notes of sweet vanilla and smoky oak to the wine. The final result is a Pinot Noir that is among the best produced here at Cambria.
This is a special wine that I hope you enjoy.
Fred Holloway, Winemaker