Santa Ynez Valley AVA
Producing Pinot Noirs that are turning heads and gaining fans throughout the wine world
As the Sta. Rita Hills AVA continues to rise in statue and prominence among great Pinot Noir growing areas in California, a number of small wineries have taken great advantage of the area’s relatively sudden rise in popularity. Kessler-Haak Vineyards is a relatively small (around 600 cases per annum) producer that owns a 30-acre vineyard in the AVA almost midway between Buellton and Lompoc on California’s Central Coast.
Dan and Ellen (Haak) Kessler own and operate the business that began operations in 2005. Both were members of the high-tech semi-conductor industry before falling to the adamant stimuli of the amiable wine bug.
Why the interest in Pinot Noir?
“We specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay due to the locality of our vineyard,” informed Dan Kessler. “We chose our location because it was situated in the coolest portion of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and the site was the coolest micro-climate in this portion. What I love about our AVA is its unique climate and small size. Mountains along the west coast of California face north-south and block ocean influence. Our AVA is the only spot along the west coast of North and South America (I think) where the mountains face east-west (as a result of a piece of the continent breaking away from the main portion of the continent and spinning 90 degrees as the continent drifted). This east west orientation allows marine influence and makes our AVA region 10 – 20 degrees cooler than nearby regions to the east and north of us. The cool micro-climate allows us a long growing season that results in wines with fresh berry character and great acidity as well as a bit more sensitivity to yearly weather variation to give each harvest a signature of its own.”
The vineyard is maintained with strict organic farming practices while striving to find the natural harmony and coexistence between the vines, plants, and animals. As a result, the twenty-seven acre estate vineyard consistently produces world-class, distinctive Pinot Noir that in turn is yielding some rather impressive wines.
It is interesting that Dan Kessler considers himself a grower first and a vintner second. He stated, “Life is about the journey. For us, that journey involves wine and its incredible ability as a medium to capture the essence of its origin—the vineyard. On this journey, we strive to express through our fruit the uniqueness and beauty of place through our wines to capture, for a moment, all that was in a year.”
It is a pleasure to present such wonderful sentiment from a top Pinot Noir producer such as Kessler-Haak Vineyards. Enjoy!
Map of the area
Dan Kessler - Winemaker
Dan Kessler was one of the first graduates of UC Davis’ distance learning program class that provided him a winemaker’s certificate in 2006. He has also worked at nearby (Buellton) Lafond Winery as assistant winemaker for Bruce McGuire to further enhance his role as winemaker. Kessler’s approach to winemaking is a minimalistic one and Kessler relies on traditional methods and techniques. He is on record as feeling the single most important decision that influences winemaking is when to harvest the fruit, a direct reference to winegrowing as opposed to winemaking. All estate fruit on the Kessler-Haak Vineyard is picked nocturnally and follows organic farming methods.