Santa Barbara County region
Building on a legacy of traditional farming, family and new opportunity
John and Sandra Zahoudanis are building on a legacy of traditional farming, family, and new opportunity with their Demetria Estate Winery, ideally situated in California’s esteemed wine country in Santa Barbara County.
Located above Foxen Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley, the Demetria Estate appears as if it’s been transported directly from the heart of Rhone wine country. Its unparalleled beauty and Mediterranean feel makes it one of the most picturesque locations to produce world class wines in Santa Barbara County. Demetria Estate grew out of the desire of owners John and Sandra Zahoudanis to continue a family legacy connecting his Greek heritage with their family’s future. John had grown up on a modest family farm at the base of Mount Olympus in Greece, where his family tended olive groves, citrus orchards, and a small patch of vines from which they made wine each year.
Although John was just a boy at the time, the tradition of farming and winemaking instilled in him a memory and passion he would never forget. Sadly, the family farm was devastated by the dual tragedies of World War II and the Greek Civil War, causing John’s father to relocate the entire family to the United States in search of greater opportunities and a fresh start. Greater opportunities indeed followed as John found a successful career in commercial real estate after studying economics at New York University. He also married a charming Southern belle from Charleston named Sandra and the couple moved out west to Los Angeles to raise a family. It wasn’t long before the wine country of California had John wanting to get back to his roots. He and Sandra had been enjoying frequent trips to the Napa Valley and the classic winegrowing regions of France, but it wasn’t enough. They wanted a property they could call their own - one that would produce premium wines and fulfill their long held dreams of doing something they truly loved. When they pulled up the drive to look at the Painted Hills Estate (previously owned by winemaker Andrew Murray’s family), it was like destiny had called, – and it was perfect.
The property evoked a unique Mediterranean feel and was ideally situated in the Santa Ynez Valley’s premium winegrowing region. The estate was also reminiscent of John’s childhood home in Greece, so it seemed destined to became the location to carry on the family tradition of farming and winemaking. John and Sandra purchased the Painted Hills Estate in January of 2006, renamed it, and Demetria Estate was established shortly thereafter. Demetria Estate was named after John and Sandra’s daughter, which is a fitting name as it means “goddess of harvest” in the ancient Greek language. Their son, Alexis, has been involved at the winery since day one, and is currently in the process of taking over as his parents retire.
“The winery is completely family owned and operated,” says Alexis, who currently lives on the property and oversees the day-to-day activities of the winery. “We work together to make Old World style wines for our two portfolios, all the while staying true to the region and those styles of wines that thrive here.” The two portfolios Alexis mentions are in reference to the Rhone-style wines that are produced from the Demetria Estate property in the Santa Ynez Valley, and the Burgundian-style wines that are sourced and produced from select vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills.
The winery’s rams logo represents the strength in merging these two great winegrowing regions under one label, and they’re certainly living up to this concept.
From Demetria’s initial 3,300 cases in their first year (2006), the winery has grown slowly to its present 8,200 cases, a number that Alexis hopes to see grow in the coming years. “It would be great to ramp up our production to 10,000 cases, and even beyond,” Alexis says. “But right now, we’re happy with where we are. Our distribution is going up as well - we’re now in eight states and the District of Colombia - but it’s all about managing what we can handle to keep producing the caliber of wines we like.”
The Demetria team certainly has a handle on what they’re doing right, because the wines are on par with the best coming out of the region, and a hoard of 90+ scores has been following them since the first vintage. Alexis Zahoudanis is proud of how far his family’s legacy has come, as it is truly a family dream that has been realized, sought out, and ultimately achieved. Demetria Estate is a gem of a winery, bringing the values of family tradition, dedication, and inspiring spirit to the Central Coast.
Michael Roth’s foray into fine food and wine began at an early age
Following his grandmother’s love of cooking in New Jersey and Finland, Michael amassed a great deal of food and cooking experience at a very young age. Continuing this passion well into high school, he was steps away from a career as a chef until being persuaded to first obtain a college degree. As a budding epicurean and gourmand, Michael immersed himself in the study of fine food. It was here that his passion for wine was nurtured as an apprentice at a top local wine shop. Soon, Michael made the leap into a life of wine with a move to the Napa Valley. From the start, he found great mentors including Reg Oliver at El Molino, Nils Venge at Saddleback Cellars, and Gus Brambila at world renowned Grgich Hills Cellars. Realizing that a formal education was necessary in furthering his wine career, Michael attended California State University Fresno. Upon completion, he returned to Napa Valley where he gained experience at several wineries including Corison, Rutz, Peju, and Stonehedge. Michael brings an incredibly high level of experience and knowledge to the budding region of Santa Barbara County, and has been an incredible asset to Demetria Estate since the winery’s inaugural release.