Sta. Rita Hills AVA
LaBarge Winery is certified organic in the company’s attempt to showcase the site of their grapes’ origin.
Pierre LaBarge IV has something to thank his family for that is a bit out of the ordinary.
“I was brought up in a totally French family that was thoroughly wine-oriented. At an early age, my parents allowed us children to taste the wines they were having with our meals. I began to enjoy the taste of wines and was amazed at how well they complimented the food. My family was fortunate enough to always drink nice wines.”
The 40 year-old native of St. Louis continued. “My father actually subscribed to the top wine periodicals of the time and I was able to pirate them away after he was finished. By the time I was 15, I had developed a fairly comprehensive view of wines.”
Jump forward to 2003 and Pierre LaBarge IV has finished college and is trying to find where he fits into the world of commerce. He knows he wants an outside job and finds himself in California. He sends out resumes to a number of wineries and is contacted by Fallbrook Winery in San Diego County. He was hired and spent the next two years learning about the wine industry.
“I have attempted to learn something from every place I have worked and be able to put everything together in my own wines,” he reflected. “Some places taught me a little, others a great deal.”
In the meantime, Pierre returned to school and received a masters degree in Soil Science and Viticulture from well-regarded Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo. The stint at Cal Poly introduced him to the Central Coast that was in the process of exploding into the fine wine arena.
“I tasted my first great Pinot Noir that was made by Melville Winery, located in the Sta. Rita Hills. The wine amazed me and so did the place where the grapes originated, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. I started looking around for the right piece of land, but continued working with other wineries,” he said.
Those winery stops included Shadow Canyon Cellars & Winery and a most eventful year-long stay at the storied Sine Qua Non in Oak View, California. “I was hired as a fermentation overseer for the year and stayed with all the wines until the fermentation process was completed,” explained Pierre LaBarge IV.
“Sine Qua Non is unlike any winery in the world. They rarely make the same wine twice and their attention to detail is absolutely amazing. Their wines (and prices) command respect at the highest levels and my employment there taught me a number of lessons.”
LaBarge continued his assessment of properties in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and was rewarded for his efforts when a small 40-acre tract came on the market in 2009. A year later, some 12 acres were planted in an area he terms a ‘sweet spot’ for his terroir driven wines. LaBarge Winery was born and its first release of just 200 cases occurred in 2012.
Much success has occurred for the winery in the following decade and today LaBarge Winery is one of the top producers in Santa Barbara County at an extremely high level. LaBarge feels this is a real milestone due to the winery’s location on the western side of the SRH AVA.
“When wineries started planting around here, no one conceived the western side of the mountains would prove to be so successful. The fact is the location stops a good deal of the warming effect driven up by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Certain grapes, Pinot Noir for instance, benefit from such circumstances and produce world-class fruit. It is one of the main reasons for our winery’s early success.”
LaBarge Winery produces around 2,000 cases annually, all estate-designated. That number is unlikely to change in the near future. “Any expansion would require acquisition of another property and that’s not feasible for us at this time,” LaBarge added. LaBarge Winery is Certified Organic in the company’s attempt to showcase the site of their grapes’ origin.
Pierre LaBarge put it this way. “I really enjoy my own interaction with our vines and property. I know each block of vines and I know the corners of each tank and barrel. I’m sort of a control freak and have learned that attention to detail separates our wines from competitors. We’ve managed to do nicely so far and I don’t intend to deviate from what is working.”
We are absolutely delighted to introduce our Platinum Wine Club members to this distinguished Grenache from LaBarge Winery. Try it, it’s delicious.
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
I founded LaBarge Winery in 2009 and did everything from the ground up. We are a true domaine where every part of the growing and winemaking process is done in-house. We own and manage our own vineyards which are certified organic by the CCOF, make the wine at our own winery on-site, and craft every lot by hand with the utmost care with our own indigenous yeast cultures. All of this is done with one goal in mind - to provide a unique and profound wine that respects its terroir.
Grenache is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, but the most misunderstood. It is the backbone of the great Châteauneuf du Pape wines of the Southern Rhône in France. Many growers in the Sta. Rita Hills proclaimed that I was an idiot for planting Grenache in the area. However, I knew that from my time at Sine Qua Non that Grenache in a cool climate could yield exceptional results if farmed correctly. There is no mistaking that Grenache needs quite a bit of heat to ripen adequately and we found a little bowl on a south-facing slope to plant it and capture all of the sunlight and heat possible to ripen it perfectly.
The old vigneron joke is that you plant Grenache for your grandchildren. This means that Grenache goes through a long period of childish behavior where it grows vigorously and overproduces fruit. Therefore, we precisely manipulate the vine during the growing season through inhibiting vigor, decreasing crop load, and measured water stress. I believe that we can make the vine believe it is an old soul and produce the Old Vine quality fruit that Grenache wines demand. This is no easy task though, as we spend upwards of three times more man-hours in working the Grenache during the growing season. All of this work results in striking aromatics of high-toned red fruits, kirsch, fresh Provencal herbs, and white pepper leading into a silky yet firm and powerful mouthfeel.
The 2018 vintage was marked by a long, moderate growing season that produced wines of intense aromatics, flavor and balance. Harvest in the Grenache started on October 5th and ended after just 7 days with perfect chemistry from each block. I believe that this is the best Grenache ever produced at the estate. This wine is very versatile in the kitchen and pairs best with a range of classic meat dishes whether roasted or braised.
Pierre LaBarge IV
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
I founded LaBarge Winery in 2009 and did everything from the ground up. We are a true domaine where every part of the growing and winemaking is done in-house. We own and manage our own vineyards, which are certified organic by the CCOF, and make the wine at our own winery on-site, and craft every lot by hand with the utmost care with our own indigenous yeast cultures. All of this is done with one goal in mind - to provide a unique and profound wine that respects its terroir.
Our 2017 Pinot Noir is the product of a vintage that had moderate temperatures during the growing season and was marked by a historic heat spike during Labor Day weekend. Harvest of this Pinot Noir commenced on September 9th and finished by September 19th - the shortest picking span in our history. Heat spikes can allow the sugars to rise quickly and have the acidity drop. By picking all of the fruit in such a short window and in a timely manner, we were able to retain great balance in the fruit and subsequent wines. The result is a wine of class, depth and elegance. This is a classic style of Pinot Noir that will greatly satisfy the palate of those that love both California and Burgundy styles of this noble grape. This wine has really blossomed and opened up during the last few months and provides an incredible amount of pleasure for immediate consumption. However, it may be held for a number of years for those who enjoy wines with a bit more age.
I hope that you will enjoy drinking this wine as much as I had making it.
Pierre LaBarge IV