Dragonette Cellars

Santa Barbara County region


This alchemistic-themed winery is making world-class wines for its fervent band of followers

As it completed its thirteenth year of existence, cultish Dragonette Cellars of Lompoc (between Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, just south of Vandenberg Air Force Base), has become a prime producer of top shelf varietals such as this 2014 Dragonette Pinot Noir.

“We are constantly chasing quality,” offered Brandon Sparks-Gillis one of Dragonette’s three co-owners. “The past decade has seen us embrace the sustaining farming concept and many of our grapes come from organic or bio-dynamic-farmed vineyards. It has most certainly improved the quality of our wines.”

To set the facts, Dragonette Cellars is the product of brothers John and Steve Dragonette, along with their best friend, Sparks-Gillis. It seems that John and Brandon found themselves working for famous Los Angeles wine retailer Wally’s and formed a bond that would eventually lead to the establishment of Dragonette Cellars. John’s younger brother Steve came aboard and the entity was soon in the business of making wine. Today, all three devote all of their time to their successful winery.

Interestingly, the name Dragonette was selected for the winery because it carried a certain panache of mystery and uniqueness. The two brothers’ family name was originally Italian (Dragonetti) but was changed when the family emigrated from Italy in the 1930’s.

Some six years ago Dragonette Cellars moved its operation into a new winery facility in Buellton that has allowed the winery to pursue its own destiny. It continues to source fruit from selected vineyards on a long term, per acre basis. “This is a bit more expensive for us,” confessed Sparks-Gillis, “but it also allows us to have a say in how the vines are tended, allows us to drop fruit whenever we wish and also gives us the right to determine when the grapes are picked. In the case of Pinot Noir, that decision is all important.”

Sparks-Gillis considers the 2014 Dragonette Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills a perfect case study. Utilizing grapes from six different vineyards the wine exudes marvelous complexity and richness. “In the (Sta. Rita Hills) AVA, the temperature drops a degree for each mile. That fact greatly affects Pinot Noir and how it develops. By using six different sources it is much like putting a puzzle together with little pieces. In the end the resultant wine is able to display multiple characteristics, exactly what we intended when we started the winemaking process.”

Incredible stuff from a winery that was started in a garage and since has garnered multiple awards, high scores and imposing accolades since its inception.

Featured Wines

Map of the area

About the Winemakers

All three co-owners share in the winemaking duties and all are self-taught in the winemaker’s art. “Each of us apprenticed at a different winery,” explained Brandon Sparks-Gillis. “We learned from some really top winemakers and figured out that what we wanted to do with our wines couldn’t be learned in the classroom.”

Dragonette Cellars’ three co-owners get together after harvest and make all the important decisions for each of their wines. When blending tome comes around, the three again meet to make the final decisions on the wines. “We each have different opinions but in the end, it all seems to come together,” finalized Sparks-Gillis. Judging by the winery’s success rate, it seems that most winemaking decisions are assuredly appropriate.

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Greetings from the Santa Ynez Valley! We are proud to present you with our 2012 MJM, Santa Barbara County. MJM is our signature, Syrah-based blend, combining our favorite few barrels of Syrah (some co-fermented with small amounts of Viognier) with small amounts of Grenache. The name MJM is an homage to Mitchi, Jen, and Michelle, our wives and co-conspirators in the fabulous journey that began in 2005 when we launched this winery.

This wine is crafted from four superlative vineyards, all of which we farm on per acre contracts, to allow us to farm for low yields and maximum quality. John Sebastiano (Santa Ynez Valley at the edge of the Sta. Rita Hills) provides 50% of the fruit for this wine and is our coolest Syrah site, which results in remarkable aromatics of spice and dark fruits, in a wild, medium bodied frame with plenty of earth. Stolpman Vineyard (Ballard Canyon) represents 30% of the blend. It is expertly farmed organically and with little irrigation, producing low yields of spectacularly dark, intense red fruits and meaty notes. Thompson (Los Alamos Valley) is 10% of the blend. Our blocks are at the top of the vineyard’s steep, south-facing, shale slopes, where cool ocean influences give intense blue fruits with solid structure. Harrison Clarke (Ballard Canyon) contributes 10% of the blend. This vineyard yields tiny bunches of grapes whose wines combine blackberry fruit and minerals.

We harvest each vineyard block separately and ensure only the best fruit makes it to the winery. We ferment and age each lot separately in various oak barrels, and once the wines have developed their personalities, we taste and select the most intense and age worthy-lots for the MJM.

Enjoy the wine and have a great Fall season. If you make it to beautiful Santa Barbara wine country, please come by and taste with us!

All the best from the Dragonette Cellars family,

Brandon Sparks-Gillis, John Dragonette & Steve Dragonette

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Greetings from Los Olivos! We are currently wrapping up the 2014 Harvest season, which holds great promise. In fact, it is the third harvest in a row which has featured idyllic growing conditions. The big story this year is the drought conditions which caused early bud break in the spring and have resulted in the earliest harvest in our history. Our hands are purple from pressing grapes today, and though tired, we are extremely happy.

We are proud to present you with our 2012 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills. The Sta. Rita Hills AVA (American Viticulture Area) is located very near the Pacific Ocean which provides a cooling influence with near constant wind and fog. The appellation is one of the coolest climate locations in all of California and this allows the thinned skinned Pinot Noir to enjoy a long, slow ripening season which results in grapes (and wines) of tremendous flavor intensity and balanced acidity.

This wine is crafted from five remarkable vineyards that span the Sta. Rita Hills, each featuring unique soils and climates that are ideal for this fickle grape. Some of these vineyards are among the pioneers of the appellation (Fiddlestix and La Encantada among them), while others (John Sebastiano, Radian, and Bentrock) are newer plantings that are pushing the boundaries on steep, windswept hillsides. We farm each vineyard site to best capture these different site characteristics and harvest, ferment, and age them separately in our cellars. Once the wines have developed their personalities in barrel, we taste them and carefully blend to create a wine that represents the beauty of the hills. We feel that the different vineyards add wonderful complexity to the final wine.

Enjoy the wine, and have a great Fall season. If you make it to beautiful Santa Barbara wine country, please come by and taste with us! Our Tasting Room is located in “downtown” Los Olivos, and is open daily from 11-5. We also offer winery tours and tastings by appointment. We hope to see you soon!

All the best from the Dragonette Cellars family,

Brandon Sparks-Gillis, John Dragonette & Steve Dragonette