Mosby Winery & Vineyard
Sta. Rita Hills AVA
Growing Italian varietals in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA with great success
Bill Mosby has had a pair of successful careers: first, as a dentist for more than 40 years and currently as owner of a remarkable Santa Ynez winery that has risen to the hierarchy of small California wineries. At 79 years young, the personable Oregon native admitted that his wine preferences emerged at a really early age. “I would find the remnants in wine bottles when I was a little kid, and they would taste good to me,” he recalled. “When I got to college (Oregon State) I began fermenting wines and have never stopped for the past fifty years.”
After school, Bill Mosby settled in Buellton (just north of Santa Barbara) and began growing grapes and making wines as a hobby. As the first elements of the lower Central Coast wine industry began to form in the late 1960’s, a flood wiped out much of Bill Mosby’s crops and he turned to grapes as a resilient alternative to the crops he had lost. He sent his grapes up North, which were turned into wine under the name of Vega Vineyards. His first release of about 1800 cases came in 1979 and was met with good marks and creditable reviews. A trip to Italy in the mid 1980’s had a profound effect on Bill Mosby, a consequence that caused him to change his entire wine philosophy.
“I went over there and saw some of the things that were happening in the Italian wine industry” he related. “I got so excited I could hardly wait to get back. I immediately started planting Italian varietals that would compliment the food that I had experienced on my trip. The Italians have many great varietals, the supply is almost endless, and so are the potentialities they bring with them.” Mosby also said that the differences in terrior in the area of the lower Central Coast provides an excellent setting for many of these varietals. By now, (the late 1980’s) Vega Vineyards had changed its name to Mosby Winery and Vineyard and the Santa Ynez Valley was set to become one of the darlings of the lower Central Coast California wine movement.
“It had been 15 years since we planted our first vineyards and we were finally getting some real recognition as a high quality grape producing area,” added Mosby. “We had gradually increased our production to where it is now, between 7 and 10 thousand cases. I think this current level is optimal for us as far as quality and control, so I don’t see us growing much larger in the future.” Bill Mosby feels strongly that there are more wine/food taste opportunities in Italian varietals than anywhere else in the wine spectrum. He explained that the subtleties contained in certain varietals correspond almost perfectly to the minute taste nuances found in top flight Italian cooking.
Bill Mosby also has a distinct marketing flair for his winery’s products. On one trip to Italy (he usually goes back at least once or twice each year) he met noted artist Robert Scherer and the pair agreed on an artist series of watercolor label artworks that have since won numerous awards. The Viennese-trained artist used the aesthetic symbolism of his art to portray the distinctions of the wine inside the bottle.
There are also a number of other aspects to the Mosby Winery and Vineyard operation. A first class olive oil is produced and available as well as several eau-du-vies, a natural plum brandy, and even a certified Kosher Slivovitz (plum brandy) that is produced under the care of a Los Angeles rabbi. Bill Mosby seems completely contented with his place in life and his incredible winery operation that is, in his words, “a truly family affair.” His son Gary works full time for Mosby Winery and his wife Jeri handles the operation’s bookkeeping. He proudest of his staff that he also calls “family, a close knit group of people who never leave. We are all close to each other and all work in relative harmony to make the best possible wines and related products.”
Mosby also has an Italian operation in the region of Marche, just off the Adriatic Sea. He produces a wonderful wine called Ossessione that is made from the great Montepulciano grape, arguably Italy’s finest single varietal. The 400 cases are shipped to Buellton and sold through the winery, another small gift from Bill Mosby and his love of Italian varietals.
A letter from Bill Mosby
Dear Platinum Series Members,
Over the years, Mosby Winery and Vineyards has expanded and evolved our focus on Italian varietal grapes. While our specialty is the growing and vinification of fine Cal-Italian wines, we also produce award-winning grappas, wild plum and raspberry distillatos, and a delicious Kosher Slivovitz made from Damson plums. I continue to look for interesting Italian varietals to add to our impressive list of grape types. Careful planning, research and tasting have resulted in vintage after vintage of outstanding wines, including well-known varietals such as Pinot Grigio, Dolcetto and Sangiovese, as well as some of the rarest Italian varietals.
I am actively involved in saving the disappearing grape types of Italy. Teroldego, a varietal originally from Northern Italy, now grows on the Mosby estate and this year I released the first Sagrantino wine ever produced in this country. Both of these wines have been awarded Gold Medals. We also produce a Lagrein from grapes grown on the Central Coast.
After purchasing the Old Rancho de la Vega in the early 1970’s, I started making wine under the Vega Vineyard label. The name was changed to Mosby Winery in the mid 1980s to reflect my growing interest in Cal-Italian wines. Among the early vines planted was Sangiovese. Crafted in the style of a fine Chianti Classico, the 2006 Mosby Sangiovese has a lot going on! We detected amazing scents of cocoa, dried cherries, lavender and lilac; these delightful aromas progressed into layered flavors of crushed dark berries, spice and light oak. The full body of this release is nicely balanced by brisk acidity and smooth tannins, making it an ideal wine for food pairing. Our menu suggestions include beef or game ragu, tomato-based pasta sauces or spicy Tuscan-style chicken. This wine is ready to drink now, but will cellar well for several years.
Mosby Winery and Vineyards