Margerum Wine Company

Santa Barbara County region

Takes a true French approach to winemaking

When Doug Margerum first took interest in wine, he was quite young. A mere 14 to be exact. “My parents took their three kids to France on a family vacation,” he recalled. “My siblings were older and took off as soon as we got to the Rhône Valley. I was five years younger so I had to stay with my folks.

“When we started going to wineries, I found it quite interesting. They allowed me to taste the wines with them and we even went down to some cellars in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. I found it all fascinating. Then we had wine with dinner and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”

Margerum, now 55, also explained that Châteauneuf-du-Pape became his favorite wine. He started collecting bottles of the famous red and brought them out for family dinners and occasions. “After that trip, I think I liked my parents even more,” he laughed. After attending the University of California Santa Barbara and graduating with a degree in economics, Margerum followed his fancy to France where he continued to learn more about the magnificent grape. He also frequented the new wine bars that had sprung up around California.

He became serious about entering the wine industry with the help of veterans Jim Clendenan (Au Bon Climat Winery) and Bob Linquist (Qupé Winery) who showed him the ropes of winemaking. Another noted winemaker, Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery and a pioneer in making Rhône varietals in California also mentored him in his progression as a winemaker. Doug Margerum then opened a wonderful restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara called the Wine Cask. In a short time, the place possessed one of the finest wine lists in the entire country. It remains today as one of the Central Coast’s finest eateries.

By 2002, Doug Margerum decided it was time to introduce his own wines and Margerum Wine Company was born. Only 200 cases were produced in 2001 and hit the market the following year. Great success greeted each successive vintage and release and this year the winery’s production will top 14,000 cases. Medals and ribbons? “We don’t typically enter contests but rely on the quality of our wines to build our reputation,” he replied directly. “When you are able to produce a really top product, you don’t need awards to build a following.”

Margerum believes that some 20% of his production is consumed off-premise (stores) and another 40% in on-premise locations (restaurants). He sells the remaining 40% directly through his two tasting room locations in Santa Barbara and his Margerum Wine Club that offers special, limited edition wines solely to club members. Most pleasing sensation from his involvement in wine? “The fact that I can make more of my own wine for my friends and customers… there’s nothing I love more than sitting around a table with friends and enjoying the food and wines.”

While Doug Margerum is the owner and winemaker for the entity, brother Hugh has a hand in certain functions and wife Marni also participates in winery activities. Doug Margerum is completely satisfied with his winery’s production level and the fact that he sells all the wine he makes. He also consults for a variety of Central Coast wineries on a daily basis.

Margerum Wine Company buys all its grapes from sources developed over the past three decades. “I guess there are about 20 growers involved in our wines,” he calculated. “I have known these individuals for years and they treat me to only the finest fruit they can grow.” Margerum is also keenly interested in the wine/food correlation and its usage. “What wine does with food is incredible,” he pronounced. “Few wines can actually stand alone. The remainder of the wines made should be enjoyed in the company of really good food.”

He is also a proponent that sommeliers are today’s stars in the culinary/wine world. “They (the sommeliers) should have the last say in food decisions that affect the palate. They know exactly what should be paired with what for the best end. They have the best palates and have proven themselves by gaining their sommelier status. I respect them greatly.”

Margerum Wine Company also takes a most French approach to winemaking. Each day, the staff gathers together for lunch and talk in the same manner as many French châteaux and wineries. This gives the staff a greater appreciation of their work and accomplishments. It is also a fitting ending to the story of a 14-year-old’s first visit to France.

Featured Wines

Map of the area

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

When I started Margerum Wine Company in 2001, my goal was to create hand-crafted wines for my family and friends to enjoy around the table, with the foods we love to cook and share. I really began my professional interest in wine when my family purchased the WINE CASK in Santa Barbara – we quickly expanded, adding a simple bistro adjacent to the wine store. In 1994, the WINE CASK became one of 74 restaurants in the world to earn the Wine Spectator Grand Award. From tasting wines around the world, to building my list, I knew the styles and characteristics I wanted to emulate when I started making wine.

Black Oak Syrah hails from a vineyard owned by Dan and Meghan Reeves, located in the Los Alamos Valley. The vineyard is planted to Syrah Clone 99 and Syrah Clone 877. The 2012 Black Oak Syrah is 67% Clone 877 and 33% Clone 99. This wine was matured for 20 months in seasoned and 33% New Ermitage French Oak barriques. We never rack this wine until we bottle. I believe this is the most age-worthy of our single vineyard Syrahs.

The 2012 vintage was a good year for growers, as the yields were high and the quality was very good. We had a nice cool, mild summer, low wind spring with no rain, no frost, and no storms – amazingly. Summer arrived with little fog and perfectly, clear, warm (not hot) days, which allowed for slow grape development. This retained natural grape acidity and resulted in low alcohol wines with rich, concentrated varietal flavors.

This wine was recently rated by Matt Kettmann from Wine Enthusiast, and given 94 Points. You are in for a treat as we don’t distribute this wine and it is only available through this club or the winery.

Wine is Good Living!


Doug Margerum