Santa Barbara County region
One of Santa Barbara County’s up-and-coming artisan producers
The route taken by owner Eric Carucci to establish his Central Coast winery is most certainly unique among the roles of successful California wineries.
Carucci, now 33, is a San Diego native who is justly proud of his Italian heritage.
“When I was growing up, wine was always around for our family meals and anytime we celebrated something special,” he confessed. “It was part of our household and was always fascinating to me.”
After attending and graduating from Cal State San Marcos in 2006 with a business major, Carucci related that he became interested in the wine industry and made it his business to learn about the pleasant beverage he had always enjoyed. His efforts eventually led him to a chance meeting with another San Diego resident who happened to own some vineyards in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek AVA.
“The more I talked to his person, the more he convinced me to become involved with wine, so I decided to take his advice,” Carucci continued. “It was then 2009 and I agreed to buy a half-ton of Merlot grapes and make wine from them in my parents’ garage. The wine came out much better than I expected and I decided to get further involved.”
This brave decision was incredibly challenging for a person with no real formal training or experience with wine or winemaking.
Eric Carucci went on, “I began by reading everything I could about wine and I started asking questions from professional winemakers I happened to meet. I realized that the learning curve was much bigger for someone with no real experience so I asked more and more questions. I guess this actually helped me, as I did everything from my own gut. By doing so, I managed to develop my own style and I’m told it all worked out quite well in the end.”
Carucci Wines’ initial release came in 2010, a whopping 75 cases. That number has grown slowly and is currently between 600 and 800 cases annually, depending on the specific vintage involved. Oh yes, for the record, Eric Carucci’s wines have been wonderfully accepted and his accolades and scores have been on par with many other boutique wineries.
Carucci has taken another proven route in establishing his winery as one of the Central Coast’s premier producers. He has secured exceptional fruit from a number of top growers from vineyards located near the town of Lompoc. These properties are situated on the western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills in an area that is known as the coldest growing area in the state.
“I have an evergreen agreement with all my growers,” Carucci elaborated. “I am able to get grapes from exactly the same blocks and the same rows every year. You might say I am intimately familiar with the fruit I use. I am able to go to the vineyards and oversee any farming necessary. The cool climate makes the expression of terroir that much more evident in my finished wines. I don’t think I could have achieved what I have without this combination of vineyards and climate working together.”
The labeling for Carucci Wines was designed to be both classic and contemporary. The backdrop is the actual western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills, Carucci’s prized growing area. Since the area is unique in that it lies east to west, the mountains block the cool air from the ocean and makes Santa Barbara County a valued growing environment.
Eric Carucci is also quite realistic in talking about his winery’s future. “I believe that the wine industry is fun, but I know just how difficult it can be. Since I am a bootstrap operation and must use my own resources, I have to take one step at a time. Every dollar I spend must be justified and that makes some choices very difficult,” he added. “I really didn’t know what I was getting into in the beginning, but I don’t regret anything I have done.”
A tasting facility is in the future for the small winery operation, possibly as early as next year. At present, Carucci Wines are made at an existing facility located in the Tin City development of nearby Paso Robles.
Eric Carucci and his wife Lindsay have three young daughters and the couple would be delighted if someday they follow their dad into the wine business. “It would be a really cool thing,” Eric Carucci finalized. “But, we would never force our girls into anything. We want them to be individuals in every sense of the word.”
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
I am ecstatic that our 2013 Syrah from Duvarita Vineyard is going to be joining your lives. I have to believe it’s going to close business deals, guarantee second dates and help grow families. As the winemaker at Carucci Wines, my goal above all else is to produce wines that are pleasurable to drink now, but will ultimately be vibrant and full of life long after I am gone. To create a product that will continue to evolve and bring joy to those willing to pull the cork in the future.
I used to walk Duvarita Vineyard well before I was able to buy fruit from the site. Hiking up the steep beach sand slopes past the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines to get to the Syrah. I knew it was a special place from the very beginning. It’s a site that seems to always produce unmistakably Californian wines with Old World sensibilities. The sandy soils, steep slopes, and strong winds off the Pacific all work together to tame our gorgeous California sunshine. If you must open a bottle now, simply open the bottle at lunch, replace the cork, and drink it at dinner. You will find a wine overflowing with youth, abundant fruit, black pepper and a hint of oak. For those of you who can wait 5 to 10 years, I am confident you will be handsomely rewarded. The oak will face into the background and the fruit will change. Savory secondary aromas and flavors will take over. I cannot wait . . . but I will.
Owner & Winemaker