Carr Vineyards & Winery
Santa Barbara County region
Specializing in ultra premium, limited production wines
Most winemakers have their hands full focusing solely on their own winery operation, but for Ryan Carr, making wine is just a fraction of his day-to-day. The young, busy, and successful owner of Carr Vineyards and Winery spends most of his time running a vineyard management company that maintains over 100 acres of vineyard land in Santa Barbara County. From vineyard operations, to production, sales, and distribution of his own wines, Ryan Carr really does it all.
Carr found his way into the wine business in an interestingly backwards way. Once on the road to becoming a graphic designer, Carr studied the arts at the University of Arizona. He also found an interest in plant science and hoped to one day grow citrus trees so he could live close enough to the ocean to surf.
Carr’s plans began to change, however, while he was away at college. His father had recently moved to Santa Barbara (in 1994) and fell in love with Central Coast wine. He started sending his son bottles from local producers and even purchased some land in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon to start his own vineyard. Carr was thrilled with the opportunity to help his dad and moved to Santa Barbara after graduating in 1998. It wasn’t citrus, but it was near the ocean and the lifestyle seemed too good to pass up.
Planting a vineyard, as it turns out, as much more expensive than they anticipated, yet Carr didn’t lose interest. After moving to the property and looking after its general care, Carr went to work for a local vineyard management company in the Santa Ynez Valley. During this time he played a major role in establishing vineyards for what are now well known wineries like Rideau and Roblar. He was hooked.
In 1999, Carr had the opportunity to pick a selection of high quality Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from one of the vineyards he was managing. He made a whopping ten cases in his garage and gave it away to friends and family. The wine was such a hit that it instilled in him the idea of making wines from grapes he grew himself - without the financial demands of owning land and developing a premier vineyard.
Carr expanded on the idea by forming his own vineyard development company with winemaker Andy Kahn (of Kahn Winery) - calling it Kahn Farming.
Through this arrangement, Carr also became the assistant winemaker at Kahn Winery, where he furthered his experience and also gained access to winery facilities to continue making his own wines. It was a win-win scenario.
Two years later in 2003, Kahn chose to focus on his own winemaking and sold the vineyard development company to Carr. The business was renamed Carr Vineyards, and Ryan Carr was now the sole owner. Today, Carr manages over 100 acres of vineyards at various properties in Santa Barbara County. From Paredon, sitting some 1,100 feet above Montecito and Carpenteria, to Kessler-Haak and Turner Vineyards in the famed Santa Rita Hills, Carr has the luxury of working with a multitude of different microclimates and selects the best grapes from each site for his own wines.
Although the focus at Carr Vineyards & Winery is on cool climate Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills, Carr also makes small amounts of Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, with his overall production reaching about 3,000 cases annually.
Visiting Carr Vineyards & Winery is truly a unique and memorable experience, one that should top the list of activities to do when you find yourself in downtown Santa Barbara. Located in the city’s ‘Urban Wine Trail,’ Carr Winery’s exterior actually resembles that of an old airplane hanger, but what you find inside is unexpected and quite beautiful. The dim lighting of the tasting bar provides an atmosphere reminiscent of a neighborhood tavern, and in many ways it is, as it plays host regularly to live bands and parties. A backgammon table and a shuffleboard table are also at the ready. The winery’s barrels, tanks, and equipment line the walls, making the winemaking process an integral part of the room.
Ryan Carr has come a long way in the short time he has been in the wine industry, but if his path is any indication of his capabilities we know that Carr Vineyards & Winery has a bright future ahead. Over the past thirteen years, Carr has honed his winemaking and grape growing skills and is now producing some of the finest wines from Santa Barbara County. Cheers to this incredible up and coming producer with a work ethic that is truly hard to match.
About the Vineyard
Carr Vineyards currently manages over 100 acres across Santa Barbara County, and because the vineyards are operated under Ryan Carr’s supervision, the grapes are grown to his exact specifications. He makes sure that only the finest grapes enter the winery for his limited production, cool-climate wines as he truly believes that great wines are born in the vineyard.
Of all the vineyards Ryan Carr manages, he admits to having a soft spot for the Santa Rita Hills’ Turner Vineyard as it consistently provides fruit for his winery’s most sought after Pinot Noir. Turner Vineyard is a 21-acre site with a cool climate, south-facing slopes, and sandy soils - making it an ideal terroir for the renowned Pinot Noir. The vineyard is known for producing beautiful grapes with vibrant color and depth. Established in 2000, the vineyard was planted and cultivated by Ryan Carr and he takes great care in continuing management of it today.
Ryan Carr - Owner & Winemaker
The aspect of winemaking Ryan Carr most enjoys is spending time in his vineyards. He believes that 90% of winemaking is done in the vineyards, so nurturing the grapes from bud to fruition is a rewarding process. With a number of microclimates, different soils, and various vineyard locations to work with, it really presents a challenge and Carr enjoys making the most of it.
Ryan Carr may be best known for his Pinot Noirs, but his Cabernet Franc and Syrah continue to be among his most popular sellers. He takes a hands-on approach to winemaking and focuses on developing a number of vineyard designate wines that demonstrate the various characteristics of their site and their varietal.
Along with Carr’s wife Jessica and his companion Roxy (the Rottweiler dog that on many days is seen wandering the winery and greeting guests), Ryan Carr manages to stay true to his followers and consistently turn out amazing wines.