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Wednesday Wanderings
The Best Vineyard You Probably Take For Granted

By Charles Olken

Perhaps because the most expensive wines come from vineyards like Hyde, Hudson, To Kalon, Rochioli, the wine world forgets about the Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.

We have not, but we probably have taken it for granted because it appears on label after label after label. In fact, some thirty to forty wineries produce wines from Bien Nacido and, at last count, the vineyardists believe that there are ninety or more individual vineyard-designated wines from this Santa Maria Valley property.

Started back in 1973 by the Miller family, then Central Valley agriculturalists, Bien Nacido developed first on the flatter portions of the property. The mesa, with its upward tilted land became home to vineyard blocks that have been in use for vineyard designates while the adjoining flat river bottom land has produced grapes for wines that are appellation designates.

With so many wineries using its grapes, the vineyard was expanded into increasing higher locations that are both harder to farm and produce lower yields. Many of them are dedicated to individual wineries and have been since their first planting. In fact, while we may have taken Bien Nacido for granted, the wineries have placed long term bets on Bien Nacido. Yields are small, farming is hard and prices of vineyard-designates are often high.

In our tastings today, we have seen an array of wines from lower alcohol editions produced by some of the newest and youngest members of the winemaking fraternity to highly ripened wines produced from low-yielding vines that are intentionally stressed to increase their intensity.

This kind of range would not be possible if the site were not so good, if the viticultural practices were not impeccable and if the grapes did not ripen with such generous acidities and low pHs. The combination brings wineries clamoring for Bien Nacido grapes and producing a long list of wines with the Bien Nacido name prominently displayed on the label. Perhaps it is time for the wine world to stop taking the vineyard for granted.


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by TomHill
Posted on:8/8/2012 12:15:47 PM

Yup, Charlie....kinda easy to take BienNacido for granted. But it is a very special site. Their vnyd map is worth spending some time over...if you've not yet done so.

The X-Block Syrah, down in the far SE corner, down on the flats, is one of the oldest Syrah plantings surviving in SantaBarbaraCnty. Those grapes go only (most yrs) to BobLindquist and RandallGrahm. Bob thinks they are better than the Syrah he takes from the Hillside block, though, with age, he thinks the Hillside will eventually yield better grapes.  I just wish Randal would do something more spectacular w/ those grapes from X-Block.



Two years ago...
by Mike Dunne
Posted on:8/8/2012 10:45:12 PM

...Bien Nacido Vineyard was the California State Fair's Vineyard of the Year. Over the past four decades, the Miller family cultivated a rare partnership with numerous vintners to help account for the vineyard's standing. In short, the Millers agreed to farm individual blocks of grapes precisely in accord with the wishes of winemakers who would be taking grapes off those parcels. "We farm vineyards within vineyards," Stephen Miller said at the time. "There's not a single protocol across the ranch. We make every effort to make each block unique." As much as topography and climate, this kind of collaboration accounts for the affection so many winemakers have for Bien Nacido.

Always Good Stuff
by Sherman
Posted on:8/11/2012 1:22:49 PM

I've tasted a lot of wines over the years from Bien Nacido and, regardless of the producer, I've never had one of them that I didn't enjoy.


If I see that name on a bottle, I'm well-assured that I will have a very good wine. 

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