The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2012

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Page 38 of 132

INTRO-VINOUS Extreme Winegrowing . . . in Mid-Ocean THE HISTORIC FIRST WINES FROM RUSACK'S SANTA CATALINA ISLAND VINEYARDS story and photos by Randy Caparoso Cold-climate winegrow- ing well beyond the coast: Santa Catalina Island Vineyards, on the most famous of Southern California's Channel Islands. T wenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waiting for me, goes the old hit song; glamorizing the romance, romance, romance of Santa Catalina Island, the most storied of Southern California's Channel Islands and strikingly reminiscent of Capri in Italy's Bay of Naples. With its celebrity history—Clark Gable and much of Hollywood played and filmed here, Natalie Wood mysteriously went under its waters and even Marilyn Monroe once lived in Santa Catalina's main town, Avalon—and slew of hotels, yacht clubs, trails, beaches and water sports, there is plenty of romance to be found by visitors to this 75-square-mile island, which glistens like a jewel on sunny days as you approach it on a ferry from Los Angeles or, better yet, in a small plane com- ing from Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. The early 2012 release of the first three wines under the Santa Catalina Island Vineyards label has only added to the luster, especially for connoisseurs of totally unique, discernibly distinct terroirs. The island's 38 / the tasting panel / july 2012 one and only vineyard went into the ground only in 2007, planted by Geoffrey and Alison Rusack, whose solid record of success already included Rusack Vineyards in Santa Barbara's Ballard Canyon (est. 1995), produc- ing Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Syrahs second to none in the state. Alison Rusack's great-grandfather was the legendary chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., who took majority ownership of Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919 (the same year he purchased the Chicago Cubs). In 1975, Ms. Rusack's grandfather, Philip Wrigley, deeded 88% of the island to a conservation group, Catalina Island Conservancy, keeping 11% of the island in the family, including a remote, wind-swept ranch in the rugged interior where the Wrigleys maintained a longtime home and Arabian horse ranch called El Rancho Escondido. In 1999 Alison Rusack took control of Santa Catalina Island Company at the death of her father, William Wrigley III, and immediately

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