Santa Barbara County region
Small quantities of fine, artisan wine
A winery that has been called “an opportunistic winery” by its owner bears more than a partial explanation. The winery in question is Rancheria Cellars of Santa Barbara.
“In the course of my working within the wine industry, I have encountered a number of different scenarios and people that I enjoy working with and Rancheria Cellars provides me a chance to do just that,” explained owner Doug Margerum. “Each harvest is different and so are the yields. Sometimes there is a great overproduction of extremely high quality fruit and I felt it would be useful to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Rancheria Cellars first saw the light of day in 2011 when slightly fewer than 1,000 cases of wine were produced. This year, a little more than 1,800 cases will be bottled but the number will continue to vary greatly from vintage to vintage. “We operate much like a negotiant,” Margerum continued. “If I locate a great source of fruit, I like to take advantage of the situation. Quite often, the grapes will be priced less expensively since they are overproduction and I can pass that savings on to the consumer. The consumer gets a bottle of wine that would ordinarily be priced much higher.”
The name Rancheria Cellars tends to fulfill its owner’s vision of the winery. A rancheria is usually a small rancho community where each person involved helps out his neighbor. Each has specific skills and each has different services to offer.
“It has to do with the feeling that working together provides a benefit for all concerned,” Margerum explained. “I help the grower who sells his fruit and provide additional work for our winery people. We are able to produce fine wines and, in the end, the consumer benefits from our efforts.”
Rancheria Cellars label is a powerful ‘R’ that further enhances the brand’s image. It is mostly sold through restaurants and for home consumption.
“Rancheria Cellars is made to be consumed early and its style reflects that fact. Many wines need food and ageing but our Rancheria wines are really fruit forward and totally approachable. These are wines for the table and can be best enjoyed with friends and in social situations,” he stated.
Margerum is joined in Rancheria Cellars by his older brother Hugh Margerum who handles the sales and marketing aspect of the business. The brothers are awaiting the next bountiful harvest in Santa Barbara County so that additional Rancheria Cellars wines would become available.
“We could easily double our size,” Hugh Margerum commented. “That is if the right quality of grapes was available at the right price. My brother is a stickler for great quality and a decent price for the fruit.”
Rancheria Cellars fills a definite niche within the wine community. Outstanding wines at realistic prices aren’t always easy to come by and Rancheria Cellars easily fills the bill. It is a great pleasure to introduce our Gold Members to these marvelous wines. Enjoy!
More about Doug Margerum
Multi-faceted Doug Margerum pointed to an early episode in his life that became the basis of his longtime interest in wine.
"I was fourteen and went with my parents for a vacation trip to France. We started visiting some wineries in the Rhône Valley and even ventured into some cellars in the area that is home to the world-famous wine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was all completely fascinating for me and when we had some of the wines with dinner, I guess you could say I became completely hooked," he offered.
After obtaining his BA in Economics from the University of California Santa Barbara in 1981, Margerum renewed his love affair with wine in France where he began to take the wine industry very seriously.
"I wanted to learn everything I could about wine and France was a great place to start," he added. "The fact that Châteauneuf-du-Pape had become a favorite of mine really helped and I was able to amass a nice collection of bottles and vintages that I was able to share with my family and friends over meals and gatherings. It was all great fun for everyone involved."
Four decades later, Doug Margerum is firmly ensconced in the California wine industry. His wine ventures include the Margerum Wine Company (started in 2001) and Rancheria Cellars, a sister winery that began operations in 2011.
Doug is also the co-owner (for the second time) of the prestigious Wine Cask Restaurant in Santa Barbara. His family bought the original wine shop and gradually added food to the premises. Soon it became a wine and food destination for glittery Santa Barbara. The Wine Cask has also been a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner for many years. Margerum also acts as a consultant to Happy Canyon Vineyard and Cent' Anni Vineyard along with his duties at Margerum Wines and Rancheria Cellars. Interestingly, he also consults for Chêne Bleu, a small company in the Rhône Valley located in the village of Crestet. To be sure, few French wineries have American wine consultants.
But Doug Margerum is happiest in the company of friends and customers who enjoy his excellent wines.
He is true to the phrase 'Wine is Good Living' that adorns his biography. It is a phrase worth remembering and should be put into practice by anyone who truly loves and believes in wine.
About the Region
All of the fruit that is used for making Rancheria Cellars wines originates from California’s huge Santa Barbara Valley, an area that spans more than fifty miles from north to south just above and west of the City of Santa Barbara. The first grapes were planted in 1782 by Father Junipero Serra in what is now the Milpas District of Santa Barbara. During the 1970 and 80’s, the area experienced a massive growth spurt as northern wineries and consumers discovered the quality aspect of Santa Barbara County varietal grapes.
Presently, there are six federally-sanctioned American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) that cover Santa Barbara County’s unique, transverse nature. Areas close to the Pacific Ocean’s Coastline (Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills) offer a cooler, more problematic climate that tends to favor Burgundian varietals. Other inland AVA’s (Happy Canyon and Los Olivos District) are more heat intensive and work well with most Bordeaux varietals. Since the valleys along the Pacific coastline run east-west rather than north-south, the accompanying mountain ranges (Santa Ynez and San Rafael Ranges) are also diagonal and channel the ocean breezes eastward. Soils vary greatly and range from fine sandy loam to clay loam to complex rock and loam deposits.
This combination of diverse climactic conditions and beneficial soil environments offers a plethora of growing possibilities for farmers in the area. At present, more than 50 different varietals are successfully produced in Santa Barbara County.
Rancheria Cellars’ owner Doug Margerum is a true believer in the fruit that emanates from Santa Barbara County. "Why would anyone go anywhere else?" he questioned."We have almost every important varietal present here and the near perfect conditions for producing excellent fruit. I don’t know of any other wine producing area in California that provides the great cornucopia of varietals that is present here in Santa Barbara County. When you add great quality to the mix, it becomes a no-brainer".
Doug Margerum - Owner & Winemaker
While Doug Margerum is among the small number of California winemakers that is self-taught, he can point to worlds of practical experience in the art of winemaking. What’s more, he can point to winemaking stints both in France and California.
Much of his French background was centered on the southeastern Rhône Valley of France and the area specifically known as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is recognized as one of the more important wine producing areas in France.
"Ever since I was a teenager I was fascinated with Châteauneuf’s wonderful wines," he admitted."In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, vintners can blend a large amount of different varietals (currently 18 are allowed in the appellation) together to produce their wines, and the resulting wines tend to vary a good deal. It is the one place in the world where blending is a most delicate and preferred art. I watched and learned on many occasions."
In California, Margerum was tutored by the likes of notables such as Jim Clendenan (Au Bon Climate Winery) and Qupe Winery’s celebrated Bob Linquist. Another fortunate relationship with well-respected Chuck Carlson of Curtis Winery (considered one of the pioneers of early Rhône/California development) proved beneficial to Margerum as he developed his winemaking outlook and skills.