Central Coast AVA
Some of the finest Pinot Noir on California's Central Coast
Nestled in one of the most picturesque and storied vineyards on the Central Coast, Tantara Winery began as a partnership between two friends and winemakers in 1997. Bill Cates and Jeff Fink, both originally from Virginia, shared a dream of building a world-class winery in California, and made it their mission to see it through. Today, their winery crafts some of the finest Pinot Noir on California’s Central Coast.
Many people talk about moving out west and making wine, but few get past the talking stage - especially when they’re talking from Virginia. Bill Cates grew up in Virginia and worked through a number of professions, including horse training, construction, photography, and theatrical copywriting. He even took up organic farming during the 1970’s and spent time growing American hybrid grapes while making homemade wine.
Jeff Fink’s background is notably diverse as well, dabbling in music, sailing, and architecture. He met Bill in the mid- 1970’s when they both lived in Roanoke, Virginia and discovered they had a shared love of Pinot Noir. After many late evening conversations about the great red Burgundies and countless shared bottles, Bill and Jeff decided to one day create a world-class wine of their own.
In 1984, Jeff Fink moved to California and began frequenting the major wine regions. He got to know many Pinot Noir producers and totally immersed himself in the industry, picking up tips and making small batches of homemade wine in his free time. In 1994, Jeff had the opportunity to work with fruit from the Central Coast’s Laetitia Vineyard and Bien Nacido Vineyard and he was blown away by the quality of fruit. His prior exposure was only Russian River Valley and Mendocino County, and this discovery lured his attention further south.
Jeff became friends with the director of grape sales for Bien Nacido Vineyard and struck up a deal to make something of a crumbling shed he found on the ranch. The architect within him was getting inspired as he envisioned building a winery on this picturesque vineyard. Jeff called up Bill Cates and their journey to make 'the very finest Central Coast Pinot Noir' began. Bill and his wife moved out tot he Santa Ynez Valley, and Tantara Winery was on its way.
Bill and Jeff founded Tantara Winery as partner winemakers in 1997 with the release of 250 cases of Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. While the ‘shed’ was under construction in its renovation to become a world-class Central Coast winery, the partners took a handful of essential equipment and borrowed space from nearby Leatitia Winery to make their dream a reality. The current winery facility at Bien Nacido Vineyard was completed in 2002.
The name Tantara came from a horse Bill had owned while living in Virginia. At one point, Tantara was not expected to live much longer and she was retired to pasture. She ended up defying the odds and lived a long and healthy life. Horses also often symbolize elegance, grace, and power - all of which are qualities embraced in Tantara’s portfolio of extraordinary wines. A horse is depicted on each of the Tantara wine labels to celebrate this story and message.
Since 1997, the winery has grown slowly as new vineyard sites were discovered and added to the mix. Bill and Jeff have made it a priority to source fruit from among the most distinguished vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley, and Santa Lucia Highlands. Over the years, they have had the opportunity to work with fruit from Garys’ Vineyard, Dierberg Vineyard, La Colline Vineyard, and Pisoni Vineyard, just to name a few.
Tantara wines gained critical acclaim nearly from the get-go, and by 2002, they were being added to award-winning restaurant lists in New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Production numbers have remained small, which makes them hard to come by outside these prestigious restaurant locations and the winery tasting room.
In 2011, Jeff Fink departed the company to pursue other interests and Bill assumed the role of senior winemaker. Bill is also joined by winemaker Ariki Hill, a New Zealand native with an undeniable passion for Pinot Noir and great respect for the wine growing region of the Central Coast. Together, Bill and Ariki are continuing Tantara’s high profile reputation with an incredibly focused collection of vineyard-designate wines from top vineyard sites. It’s been a successful journey for Tantara Winery thus far, and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
We at Tantara, a boutique winery located in Santa Barbara County, have been proud to produce critically acclaimed single vineyard Pinot Noirs since 1997, of which, the 2012 Pinot Noir, Tondre Grapefield is a great example.
The Tondre Grapefield (Vineyard) is located in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, where the fog and ocean breezes flow in from the Monterey Bay, creating the cool climate necessary for premium Pinot Noir. This is a complex, deliciously decadent wine with a melange of teasing aromas such as black cherries, plums, slate, roses, and a hint of chocolate. A masculine Pinot Noir, that is both bold and eloquent!
Aria (Rick) Hill - Winemaker
Today, winemaking at Tantara Winery is overseen by Ariki (Rick) Hill. a New Zealand native with an undeniable passion for Pinot Noir and a great respect for the Central Coast wine growing region.
Together, Ariki and Bill are continuing Tantara Winery’s high profile reputation with an increasingly focused portfolio of vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the region’s best vineyards (Jeff Fink departed the company in 2011 to pursue other interests). They both believe that the Central Coast is blessed with ideal growing conditions for these varietals, and it is their goal to transform this fruit into great wines, vintage after vintage.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
Since 1997, we at Tantara pride ourselves in our Pinot Noirs that we produce in small 150-350 case batches from premium vineyards in the Central Coast of California. These wines are primarily available in fine dining establishments.
I have been on board since the 2008 vintage, starting as an assistant to our founder, Bill Cates. In 2011, I was promoted to winemaker and as such, you are enjoying my inaugural vintage.
This wine is also special to us, as it is the last year of these vines, having been planted in 1973, they have since been replaced with new plantings. I believe it is safe to say, they were one of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Santa Barbara County at the time. And their age is what gives this wine its complex character of not only ripe mixed berries, but also tobacco, licorice, wild flowers, and mint!
Ariki "Rick" Hill
Bill Cates - Owner & Senior Winemaker
Bill Cates took over as Tantara's senior winemaker in 2011 when Jeff Fink departed the company to pursue other interests. Bill is now assisted by winemaker Ariki Hill, a New Zealand native with an undeniable passion for Pinot Noir and great respect for the wine growing region of California's Central Coast. Together, Bill and Ariki are continuing Tantara Winery's high profile reputation with an increasingly focused portfolio of vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the best vineyards on the Central Coast. Bill and Ariki both believe that the Central Coast is blessed with ideal growing conditions for these varietals, and it is their goal that this bounty of nature be transformed into great wines, vintage after vintage.
As owner and senior winemaker, Bill Cates keeps a busy schedule, but not so busy as to give up one of his other passions in life - writing. Bill is the author of four books, two stage plays, and several screenplays. His wife Gwen is a local artist who provides the artwork for his books.
Bill's daughter Challen Cates holds a prominent role at the family winery, now serving as the vice president. She splits her time between there and Los Angeles, where she also maintains a career in acting. The Cates are certainly a creative family!