The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2012

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Page 94 of 124

Meet the Or J THE LAFOND FAMILY CONTINUES TO OWN AND OPERATE SANTA BARBARA'S FIRST COMMERCIAL WINERY by Meridith May / photos by Jeremy Ball ust off of lower State Street in Santa Barbara, barely a few blocks from where the Pacific Ocean lures tourists and beach volleyball players, lies a burgeoning inner-core neighborhood known as the Funk Zone. Java stops, art galleries, surfboard shops and a proliferation of wine tasting rooms continue to reformulate the one-way streets, replacing the auto body shops, industrial offices and warehouses that once peppered these blocks. But still standing is the area's original location and first com- mercial winery post-Prohibition: Santa Barbara Winery, founded by Pierre Lafond in 1962. "I think we've reached a saturation point with wineries around here," states Bruce McGuire, President and Winemaker and 30-year veteran of Santa Barbara Winery. While McGuire has seen it all, including changes in technology and the improvement of his facility, as well as the expansion of the com- pany's Lafond label, with winery operations in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, he is concerned about a case of over-exposure for many of the smaller tasting rooms that are setting up shop locally. Family Ties The Santa Barbara Winery tasting room is the hospitable side of the operation, backing up to stainless steel tanks for white wine production, a bottling line (for both labels) and barrel storage rooms. With a combined production of 40 to 50 thousand cases for Santa Barbara Winery and its Santa Rita Hills–based sibling, Lafond, business is humming; distribution is nationwide and grow- ing internationally as well. Patriarch Pierre Lafond is a legend in Santa Barbara. An architect by trade, he is a wine, food and retail visionary who, in addition to his two wine labels, owns two restaurants, and with his wife Wendy Foster, four clothing stores, a home furnishing store and a gourmet food market. His son David (General Manager) and daughter Michelle (Marketing Director) are an integral part of the wine side of the business. While the Lafond label was introduced in 1996, five years later, in 2001, the family opened the dedicated Lafond Winery on Santa Rosa Road, with benchland and hillside vineyards along the Santa Rita Hills (regulations require the AVA to be spelled Sta. Rita Hills on wine labels). The property farms 137 acres, which includes the original 70 acres planted in the early 1970s. Creating international buzz is still a work in progress for this exciting but relative small cool-climate, maritime corridor, located about an hour's drive north of Santa Barbara. The 100-mile long stretch of east-west oriented valleys represent a bevy of unique soils and climactic influences that inspire world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs. 94 / the tasting panel / june 2012

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