Riverbench Vineyard & Winery
Santa Maria Valley AVA
World-class winery named 'One of the Top Wineries in the World'
Although the reputable 'Riverbench' name has been known in Santa Maria Valley since the 1970's (known for its excellent vineyard site and expressive, high-demand fruit), the development of Riverbench Winery didn't come about until just recently, and the transformation is unlike any other in California history.
Originally planted in 1973 to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Riverbench Vineyard has been a fruit source for many of the most renowned wineries in Santa Barbara County for over 30 years. The rocky, gravelly soil of the old riverbed proved ideal for the Burgundian grape varietals and Riverbench became a prominent source in the county as the vineyard consistently turned out excellent fruit, year after year.
This alluvial soil also attracted a different crowd - miners - who saw the property as a potentially successful mining site. A group of local families who owned Union Asphalt (the biggest supplier of construction aggregates on the Central Coast at the time) purchased the Riverbench Vineyard site in 2004, and hired a vineyard manager by the name of Jim Stollberg to maintain and manage the thriving vineyard. Union Asphalt continued to sell the highly coveted grapes to wineries in the immediate area.
Wine drinkers themselves, the Union Asphalt owners quickly became enamored with the wine industry and decided to start their own wine label using small quantities of their exceptional fruit - and Riverbench Winery was ultimately born. It wasn't long before they decided the wine business was much more fun than the rock business and actually ended up selling Union Asphalt to concentrate completely on the growing winery. The wine industry was a new venture, but the families had a great business sense from their experience with Union Asphalt, so they hired the best winemaker (Chuck Ortman of Meridian Vineyards and Ortman Family Wines) and industry professionals they could to get the winery going.
The highly anticipated first release from Riverbench Winery came in 2006 with 2,500 cases (an even split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Met with immediate rave reviews, it was clear that the reputation of the vines would carry through to the new namesake winery and its limited production wines.
In 2011, Clarissa Nagy took over the Head Winemaker role at Riverbench, bringing with her years of winemaking experience at top Central Coast wineries. Clarissa is known for her elegant, sophisticated winemaking style, and for her appreciation of fruit from the Santa Maria Valley. She continues to refine Riverbench wines with each vintage, and adds her own unique style to the portfolio.
With accolades including being named 'One of the Top Wineries in the World' by the Professional Wine Buyer's Competition, Riverbench Winery is now one of the top producers on the Central Coast and we are proud to share one of their latest offerings with our Gold Plus! Wine of the Month Club members. Cheers!
Map of the area
About the Vineyard
Riverbench Vineyard is situated on the southeastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley, an appellation known for its diverse microclimates and ideal conditions for growing Burgundian varietals. This distinct wine region is characterized by the valleys along the Pacific coastline, which run east to west instead of the more common north to south. Such a geographic peculiarity channels the cool ocean breezes inward, resulting in a mild and moderate climate where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive.
Riverbench Vineyard was planted in 1973 as one of the Santa Maria Valley’s first vineyards and originally consisted of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (today Pinot Gris and Viognier have also been added). For years, the fruit was sold to some of the most renowned wineries in Santa Barbara County, which helped establish the well-known Riverbench name.
Firmly committed to sustainable winegrowing practices, Riverbench is dedicated to conserving natural resources, protecting the environment, and maintaining long-term viability of the vineyard to continue producing the highest quality grapes possible.
Chuck Ortman - Winemaker
Chuck Ortman is recognized as one of California's most respected winemakers, with a career extending over 40 years and a developed signature "Ortman style” of winemaking.
Ortman began his winemaking career in the cellar at Napa Valley's Heitz Cellars in 1968. He quickly worked his way up in the winemaking ranks, and by the mid-1970’s he was consulting for some of Napa Valley's premium wineries, including Far Niente, Shafer, and Cain. Ortman is also behind the founding of Meridian Vineyards in Paso Robles, California, and the success at Meridian helped establish the Central Coast as one of California’s most dynamic and prestigious wine growing regions.
Ortman is now returning to his earlier days working at Riverbench Winery, as he used to source fruit from the vineyard for Meridian. Over three decades, he has watched the progression of the vineyard, and is proud to carefully handcraft stellar small lots of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the paramount sections of the Riverbench property.