Santa Barbara County region
One of our favorite spots in Los Olivos
As with many small wineries, it might be considered something of a cliché to say the owners of upstart Dragonette Cellars all love wine. A thorough examination into the relatively new winery has proved beyond a doubt that those same owners really love wine. In fact, their love of the almighty grape governs their every action.
To set the facts, Dragonette Cellars is the product of brothers John and Steve Dragonette, and their best friend, Brandon Sparks-Grillis. 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 were soon in the business of making wine.
“We all come from different business backgrounds,” confessed Brandon Sparks-Grillis. “John was a lawyer taking a wine hiatus from his career, and Steve was working as a computer engineer. I was a geology major in college, but I had already turned to the wine business and had worked in various capacities for some significant wineries both in California and abroad.”
The plan hatched by the three friends was quite simple: Establish a winery that would use prime Santa Barbara County grapes and hand produce the finest wines possible. The trio figured they had something of a leg up since they had a wealth of experience between them. John had studied wine on his own for the past ten years and had apprenticed at renowned Fiddlehead Cellars. He had also worked for three years for one of the area’s top vineyard management companies, and had developed great relationships with a number of the leading growers in the area. Sparks-Grillis’ experience included the cultish Sine Qua Non Winery of Manfred Krankl and the highly-rated Torbreck Vintners of the Barossa Valley in Australia.
The name Dragonette was selected for the winery because it carried a certain panache of mystery and uniqueness. The family name was originally Italian (Dragonetti) but was changed when the family emigrated from Italy in the 1930’s.
“We all thought that Dragonette was perfect for our new venture,” continued Brandon Sparks-Grillis. “When Steve’s wife Jen came up with the logo that looked and felt medieval, we knew we had something special. Graphic artist Jon Krauss took it from there and our labeling worked out much better than expected.”
The Dragonette Cellars logo is a story in itself. The logo is actually an old alchemist symbol for the ‘elixir of life’ or ‘drinkable gold.’ During medieval times, it was believed that gold contained certain medicinal properties and the alchemists sought a process by which gold could be dissolved into a liquid that could then be ingested to obtain healing properties. For Dragonette Cellars, the symbol was a perfect fit.
“We have been told that many of our customers identify with the story behind Dragonette Cellars, and that is exactly what we had hoped for,” added Sparks-Grillis.
Dragonette Cellars’ first release was a miniscule 300 cases in 2006. Aided by exceptional scores and medals, the tiny winery has expanded and will produce about 5,000 cases this year, with no immediate plans to increase production.
“Since we do all the work ourselves, from vineyard to bottle, we feel that the 5,000 case level is all we can handle,” Sparks-Grillis continued. “With us it is all about hand growing and hand producing our wines. We even have long-term relationships with some of our growers that allow us to go into their vineyards and perform the maintenance work ourselves. That way we are assured of getting exactly what we want from the vines, and I can’t begin to tell you how important that is to making great wines.”
Dragonette Cellars’ trio of owners says they are truly humbled by the public’s response to their wines as the new kid on the block. They produce all wines at their smallish winery in Lompoc, California and have a tasting room in nearby Los Olivos across from the Corner Coffee House.
The arrangement between the three close friends has worked to perfection and more accolades can be expected in the future. “We all grow, crush, taste and decide on each wine,” Sparks-Grillis concluded. “Along the way we have met some really wonderful people who really enjoy our wines. I ask myself, what more can you ask for? Somehow, I never seem to get an answer.”
John Dragonette, Steve Dragonette, & Brandon Sparks-Gillis
Dear Platinum Series 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 Santa 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