Lafond Winery & Vineyards
Sta. Rita Hills AVA
With the highest quality standards, Lafond and McGuire proved to be a winning combination
Pierre Lafond is a French-Canadian who was born in Montreal and schooled in Calgary. An architect by training, Pierre moved to Santa Barbara in 1957 at the urging of his father who had left Canada for the warmth and opportunities of sunny Southern California. Pierre’s father was semi-retired and also owned a successful retail liquor store. Pierre’s first career in Santa Barbara was working as an architect, but just a year after arriving in the area, his father passed away and Pierre stepped in to take over the family liquor store. As he ran the store he noticed that customers would frequently inquire about sources for locally made wines. Realizing there were essentially none to be found, Lafond decided to start Santa Barbara Winery.
In the beginning his goal was to make good quality, affordable wine to sell exclusively to the locals that patronized his small retail store. He purchased grapes from other vineyards and produced the wines in his winery located at that time, in the historic El Paseo section of downtown Santa Barbara. Two years later he moved his winemaking operation to its current location just a few blocks from the beach.
By 1965 Lafond was producing 1,000 cases a year of white and red Zinfandel which he sold exclusively through his tasting room and wine and food stores. While demand remained high for his products he soon realized that there was an even bigger market for premium wines. Five years later Pierre began searching in earnest for a suitable location for his vineyard. At the time only Brooks Firestone of the Firestone Vineyard had grapes in the ground in the Santa Ynez Valley, but Lafond saw the potential for his own vineyard there. The location he decided on was in the coolest western region of the Valley. Purchasing 105 acres he planted 72 with Cabernet, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Zinfandel.
For ten years Pierre relied on the winemaking direction of Stan Hill who managed the vineyard part time and helped keep production on track. However, by 1981, sensing the potential for drawing world-class wines from his vineyard, Lafond decided to hire a full-time winemaker. “We started to get serious,” is how Pierre characterizes his shift in strategy. With input from a consultant he recruited a young up-and-comer named Bruce McGuire to be his new winemaker. McGuire at the time was working for R&J Cook in the Sacramento Delta. Pierre invited him to take over operations and guide the new growth and direction of Santa Barbara Winery.
During the next few years, Bruce began to transform the winery into a recognized premium quality wine producer. He brought the latest in wine-industry technology with him. He also bought new equipment including stainless fermentation tanks and crushers, and took a hands-on, active role in the vineyard. He set his own style, his own pace and his own agenda. While their new “Bruce McGuire-wines” were well received by the general public and local critics, the turning point came in 1987 when the winery’s 1986 Reserve Chardonnay won numerous gold medals including the prestigious Governor’s Cup award. Since then, Bruce has continued to craft top quality wines, earning a reputation as one of California’s most talented winemakers.
The team of Lafond and McGuire proved to be a winning combination. McGuire has helped steer the winery towards the highest quality standards with improved canopy management and the best equipment, while Lafond has provided the financial resources necessary to maintain the winery’s continued success.
Building on the success of Santa Barbara Winery, the Lafond/McGuire team recently opened a second winery. The Lafond Winery and its 100 acres of vineyards are located in the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley in the Sta. Rita Hills. This new winery focuses on producing only three varietals: Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “During the last twenty years, we have identified specific areas within our vineyards for which these varietals are particularly suited. The distinctions in the soil and climate within the vineyard create subtle yet significant differences,” Pierre states.
All of the wines produced by Lafond Winery are vineyard designated and produced in extremely small quantities. Availability is usually only direct through the winery, but is now available for a very limited time through the Platinum Wine Club Series.