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Koehler Winery

Santa Barbara County region


Situated on the celebrated Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in the Santa Ynez Valley, Koehler Winery offers premium wines of distinction and integrity that represent this diverse Central Coast region.

For almost 25 years, the Koehler family has dedicated its collective heart and soul to Koehler Winery and its thoughtful portfolio of Santa Ynez Valley wines. Peter Koehler acquired the 40-acre estate in 1997 as a gift for his wife, and ever since, the Koehlers have been dedicated to producing premium, value-driven wines that represent the unique terroir of this Central Coast region. Today, the boutique winery is one of the gems of the Santa Ynez Valley, offering Rhône and Bordeaux-style wines from the surrounding estate vineyard and premium neighboring properties.

Prior to joining the wine business, Peter Koehler, who is originally from Dusseldorf, Germany, was a successful Chicago businessman in the lighting industry. His wife, Kory, was from South Dakota and had expressed interest in the winery business, and together, they set their sights on acquiring vineyard land in California. After purchasing the Santa Ynez Valley vineyard property in 1997, the pair continued the former owner’s practice of selling all of their grapes to nearby wineries - an operation they continued for several years.

Everything changed once Felipe Hernandez entered the picture. Felipe was involved in vineyard management around the Santa Ynez Valley and had been in control of the Koehler vineyards’ sales operation. He explained to Peter Koehler that the addition of a small winery to the property could provide much greater profits than simply growing grapes and Peter agreed. Construction on the new winery began in 1999 and the first release of Koehler wines came the following year.

Today, the Koehler estate vines are nearly 50 years old and they have been painstakingly nurtured by a very close-knit vineyard team, many of whom have been working with the Koehler family for decades. The enduring relationships they have developed over the years certainly help to cultivate the warm, welcoming, family atmosphere on the property and amongst the team.

The current winemaker for Koehler Winery is Trace Brueske, who collaborates closely with the vineyard team to ensure the quality of the fruit improves from year to year. The vines are diligently cared for and the award-winning wines that result from this fruit truly speaks to the quality the Koehler family strives for.

We are proud to present one of the great Santa Ynez Valley family wineries to our wine club members. Please enjoy!

Map of the area

Olivier Rousset - Winemaker

Picture of Olivier Rousset - Winemaker

It might seem a bit out of the ordinary to have a French winemaker for a Central Coast winery, but Paris-born Olivier Rousset, 34, is undoubtedly more than well qualified for the position. Rousset comes from a line of renowned French chefs, a fact that first caused his interest in wine at the tender age of eight. Also, his family owns Château La Roche Beaulieu (Côtes de Castillon, an exterior Bordeaux appellation) where Rousset gained a great deal of his winemaking expertise.

In California, Rousset has worked for a number of noteworthy wineries, most of which are in the Kendall-Jackson family of wines. Based mostly in Sonoma County, these include La Crema Winery, Verite Winery and Anakota Winery, as well as the luminary and highly regarded Archipel Winery. Archipel was originally intended strictly for winemaker’s consumption, but was later changed to allow a small amount of distribution to the wine drinking public.

Rousset’s incredible scores with these wines (numerous 90-plus marks) brought him to Koehler Winery in 2009. His classic French background and already proven excellence in handling California’s extensive collection of varietals makes Olivier a perfect choice to handle Koehler Winery’s continued march to excellence.

Felipe Hernandez - Vineyard Manager

Picture of Felipe Hernandez - Vineyard Manager

If ever a single person could be called the heart and soul of a winery, it is not difficult to make a case for Koehler Winery’s world-class vineyard manager and co-owner, Felipe Hernandez.

Hernandez, 55, came to the United States when he was just 19 by jumping a fence after he left his native Jalisco State. It was the early 1970’s and a friend told him of extensive plantings around the Foxen Valley area by the Santa Ynez Grape Growers Association, the group responsible for the area’s first real plantings of the modern grape era. Felipe found a job and toiled numerous hours in the vineyards planting the first vines that would eventually become the lower Central Coast Region. After work, he also plied at off jobs, earning the respect of everyone who met the talented young man. His first real job involved vineyard care for La Zaca, forerunner of today’s famed Zaca Mesa Winery and Vineyards. Several years later, when the well-respected Oak Savanna Vineyard was established, Felipe Hernandez was named its vineyard manger. He still lives on the property, and continues to work the vines in the same manner as he has for many years.

Today, Felipe Hernandez is known around the area as Don Felipe, a much-deserved title of respect given to him by his peers and employees. His role as co-owner of Koehler Winery is also a tribute to his unique and effective approach to the business. ‘When I approached Mr. Koehler about the prospect of building a winery, I wasn’t sure he would agree,” Hernandez informed. ‘After all, it involved quite a bit of money. He told me that he respected my ideas and the fact that I really knew about the business. He even gave me a piece of the business for which I will always be eternally grateful.”

Hernandez concedes that his job is to bring the fruit correctly to the winery so that the best wines can be made. Correctly, Hernandez says, means optimum growing time and acid levels in an environment that isn’t always that cooperative. ‘I have been at it for a good many years,” he added. ‘I have come to know the weather’s little tricks and how to handle them whenever a problem arises. Everyone knows the quality of fruit determines the quality of the wines, and I just want our fruit to be the best it can be.”

Solid reasoning to be sure, and even more solid results. Hernandez has seen Koehler Winery’s wine entities capture numerous awards and ratings during the past decade and expects even greater results in the future. ‘I designed a grafting program more than eight years ago and we are really seeing the results in the increased quality of our grapes. Mr. Koehler was a fan of some of the Italian and Rhône varietals so that’s what we grafted. He was exactly right and now we have some really marvelous fruit for our winemaker to work with,” he finalized. Felipe Hernandez has also helped raise a family of five children who have all excelled, both in school and the workplace. None of the first four children were interested in Felipe’s vineyard work, but he is holding out hope for his final son, Felipe Jr., who is now 14, and is just entering high school.

‘I still have great hope that he will follow me into the vineyards,” Hernandez sighed. ‘He has already worked with me around the winery. I wanted him to see just how much hard work went into making something good happen, and it seems to have gotten through to him. I am going to keep my fingers crossed during the next few years. With God’s will, it will all work out well in the end.”