Santa Barbara County region
Cabernet is one of our favorite red wines
Chesterfield Cellars’ history can be traced back to 1972, when David Chesterfield was a business student at Indiana University in Bloomington. One of his electives was a wine appreciation course where Chesterfield was introduced into the intricacies of wine and winemaking. Chesterfield thoroughly enjoyed the class that provided food for thought as to what he might do at some point during his business life. Years later the thoughts resurfaced while traveling through France’s wine regions and relishing a special dinner with wine guru Alexis Lichine at his chateau in Bordeaux.
More than a decade later, David Chesterfield was involved in the telecommunications industry when he met a lovely lady named Linda Stark. The two were eventually married and discovered a mutual interest in wine. They spent numerous weekends visiting Northern California’s wine regions and developing discerning palates for exceptional wines. The topic of one day owning their own winery was a mutually important subject that had been discussed more than once between the couple.
It took more than two decades for David and Linda Chesterfield to realize their dream of owning a winery. In 2005, the couple enlisted the help of their close friend Andrew Murray (Andrew Murray Vineyards) and the first Chesterfield Cellars wines became a reality with the obtaining of a winery license. “We started on a really small scale,” recalled co-owner Linda Chesterfield. “Our first releases only totaled around 650 cases. That minute number allowed us to control the quality of the wines and led to their ultimate success.”
From the beginning, it was the Chesterfields’ aim to only produce outstanding wine. “We both agreed that a major investment in either land or equipment wasn’t a smart idea,” Linda Chesterfield continued. “We decided to wait until exceptional fruit could be found that would guarantee the wine produced would have a reasonable chance at becoming successful. That meant we wouldn’t necessarily have an annual production. If we couldn’t locate the fruit, we would simply pass on that year. We decided to become a niche winery known for quality rather than an entity that might or might not produce great wines.” “And,” added David Chesterfield, “neither of us wanted to wait the years it would take to find some land and plant our own vines. We looked at some parcels in the region that we knew produced great grapes, but never found anything that fit our needs.”
So now you have successfully located the premium fruit you need? “That’s about it,” conceded David Chesterfield. “We began seeing some amazing wines coming out of the area around Lodi and we visited the area and took a closer look. Lodi had always produced great Zinfandels and their Old Vine Zinfandel wines were about the best around. But these new wines we were seeing were made from a number of varietals, a few of which we had never even heard about. We got together with our new winemaker, Nick Morello of Morello Wines, and we started to track the fruit that was being produced. We were amazed by the quality and quantity of the fruit and the diverse areas where it was grown. We eventually found some wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon and there was enough of it to make a sizeable amount of wine. Besides, Cabernet had become one of our favorite reds. It was sort of our family wine.”
Linda Chesterfield also pointed out the economics of producing enough wine to make a profit. “Unless the numbers work, there’s really no point in going through the motions of making the wine. The grapes must be bought at a certain price and the production must also be carefully controlled. Then there’s the process of selling the wine. If you produce more than your distribution channel can feasibly handle, your profit remains tied up in the inventory.”
It is easy to see why the Chesterfield team has enjoyed the success it has since its inception. The winery’s classic logo, in raised black, red and gold are the product of daughter Kelsey while son Brett has been involved with the family’s tasting room and is now spearheading a yet-to-be announced new venture for the family in the wine and beer industry.
Stories like that of Linda and David Chesterfield are good for the wine industry. Anytime a couple can fulfill their dreams and in the process contribute quality products to the commercial market is a definite plus for everyone involved.
It is a pleasure to introduce Chesterfield Cellars to our Gold Club members in the same manner as we introduced the company’s wines several years earlier through our Platinum Club. Those earlier wines enjoyed great success and won many admirers. We know this present offering is another excellent opportunity to enjoy an elegant wine at a most reasonable price.
A family Affair
The fact that Chesterfield Cellars is a indeed family affair makes it difficult to spotlight a single individual that could be credited with the entity’s success. Since the winery’s inception ten years ago, both David and Linda Chesterfield have contributed equally to the operation in different but complementary ways. David oversees the sourcing and production aspects for Chesterfield Cellars while Linda provides the sales, distribution and accounting side. Both are involved in the day-to-day management and operations. Their son and daughter, Brett and Kelsey, are also involved in many aspects of sourcing and marketing for Chesterfield Cellars.
Both principals are elated at the success of their four-year old tasting facility, Corks and Crowns (www.CorksandCrowns.com), located in Santa Barbara’s eclectic ‘Funk Zone’. The area is near Santa Barbara’s Stearns wharf, bounded by Hwy 101, Cabrillo Blvd., and Garden and State Streets. The Funk Zone (Where History Becomes Hip) hosts a remarkable 25 winery tasting facilities (many are on the so-called Urban Wine Trail), along with artisan shops, art galleries, hip restaurants, microbreweries and even a distillery. The Funk Zone is a definite must-see when exploring Santa Barbara and its inviting community.
Cork and Crowns has become the place to wine-taste by offering not only Chesterfield Cellars wines but a wide range of ultra and luxury premium wines from small-production wineries throughout the state. Nowhere else in the area can you taste individual flights of wine ranging in value from $20-$150 per bottle—all medal-winners or rated 90+ points. They even have flights of craft beers available (crowns, are the craft beer bottle tops). Together with comfy, relaxed décor and a cozy-feeling fireplace in the corner, it’s no wonder the tasting room draws a crowd!
The Chesterfields also happen to be the proprietors of Gold Medal Wine Club which they started back in 1992. For almost 25 years, Gold Medal Wine Club has introduced hundreds of small, family-owned wineries to members across the country. Launched at a time even before wineries had their own wine clubs, David and Linda recognized the beginnings of a direct-to-consumer thirst for high-quality, small-production wines not readily available in local markets. These mall, family-owned wineries who were essentially farmers concentrating on growing grapes and making wine, now had a marketing partner with whom to introduce their artisan wines directly to consumers across the country. It has been the proverbial win-win ever since.
That demand continues even stronger today as the number of small wineries in California has exploded. Every small winery has an intriguing story to tell. What are the backgrounds of the owners? How did they get into the wine business? What is their vision? These questions and more are answered in the club’s various newsletter publications put together by the professional marketing team at GMWC.
Each and every wine featured in the wine club is poured at their Corks and Crowns tasting room. Club members enjoy the benefits such as free flight tastings for themselves and up to four guests in attendance as well as reduced prices for special events. The Chesterfields personally invite all members of Gold Medal Wine Club for a free tasting should you find yourself in beautiful Santa Barbara!
Winemaker Nick Morello
Nick is certainly a man with many varied interests. He had already pursued careers in the oil business and as a professional golfer prior (he played several years on the Nike Tour) to becoming interested in wine. He is also another of the cadre of California winemakers produced by the University of California Davis’s esteemed viticulture/enology department.
Experience wise, Morello entered the wine workplace in 2003 with Leona Valley Winery, located in Northern Los Angeles County. After six years, he left to devote his time to his own brand, Morello Wines, a company that has enjoyed a great deal of success in Santa Barbara County producing small lot wines. He also presently consults for Brave & Maiden Estate in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley.
Nick Morello’s passions are Rhône varietals such as Syrah and Viognier, but he is equally at home with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. “The important thing is making a truly balanced wine,” he recently commented. “That’s where the real talent comes in winemaking. Many people can make wines, but only a few can make a real wine that accurately reflects the terroir of the land on which the grapes were grown.”
Morello is also an advocate of bio-dynamic farming and an expert on the many varied AVA’s of Santa Barbara County. He had developed long-term relationships with top growers that assure his wineries an ample supply of quality fruit from which to select. Nick Morello also heaps praise on Robert Mondavi Winemaker Genevieve Janssens as his principal influence in the wine industry. He strongly embraces her philosophy that creativity in wines comes from within utilizing traditional winemaking.
About the Region
The Lodi Wine Country has emerged as one of California’s most popular wine destinations, finally attracting the attention it deserves. The Lodi AVA was so designated in 1986 and encompasses a large growing area south of Sacramento and northeast of Stockton, California. It is multi-faceted land bounded by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains Range. At present, more than 100,000 acres are planted to grapevines making the Lodi AVA the largest grape producing region in the United States. More than 80 bonded wineries exist within the AVA’s boundaries and the number is increasing every year. In fact, many wine enthusiasts are surprised to learn that Lodi vineyards produce more wine than Napa and Sonoma combined.
While an actual part of the great Central Valley, Lodi’s unique position opposite the wind gap leading inland from the Golden Gate Bridge affords a temperature range that is narrower than in other parts of the Central Valley. This allows for excellent climactic conditions and grape vines that enjoy great duration. There are numerous ‘old vine’ plantings that are more than 100 years old and still productive. Lodi is widely known as the Zinfandel Capital of the World with vines dating back to 1888. But few people outside of the wine industry realize that Lodi is also North America’s leading producer of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
However, the real story is the diversity of plantings. Right now, more than 50 types of varietals thrive in the Lodi AVA’s distinctive terroir, from the Burgundian Chardonnay to the more complex Alvarelhao red wine of Portugal. Wines made from these exotic varietals are readily available for the wine novice and wine connoisseur alike who are interested in exploring unfamiliar varietals.
There is a saying around Lodi that there is a varietal grown for everyone’s taste---the only challenge is finding your favorite.