Vineyard

Tractor spraying biodynamic preparation in the Cabernet block.

Tractor spraying biodynamic preparation in the Cabernet block.

The Brander Vineyard, situated on 52 acres of land just east Los Olivos, was purchased by the Brander family in 1974. The site was chosen by Fred Brander due to its propitious combination of factors: a gently south-facing aspect, excellent soil, and a climate ideally suited to growing the grape varieties found in the Bordeaux region of France.

The first vines on the property were planted in 1975, with ten acres of Sauvignon Blanc, six acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, five acres of Merlot, and two and a half acres of Semillon. While the list of varieties grown here has remained Bordeaux-centric, we now have additional small plantings of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Gris, and Syrah in our quest to make complimentary and interesting blends with our estate white and red Bordeaux varietals.

There is an adage in the wine industry that great wine starts in the vineyard, and we firmly believe in this philosophy. Our skilled and experienced vineyard team works with every single vine in the vineyard through the course of each growing cycle: from pruning the vines in late winter, to shoot thinning and shoot positioning in the spring, to dropping excess fruit and engaging in canopy management in the summer, and, finally, to harvesting the grapes at the absolute peak of ripeness and balance in the fall, we treat the vines with utmost respect.

This outlook extends to our employment of organic and biodynamic practices throughout our property. We employ only organic compounds in the vineyard, including fertilizers and pest deterrents. Additionally, we have utilized biodynamic principles for a number of years. Biodynamics is an approach to farming that respects the individual and natural aspects of the land, and employs only naturally-occurring plant and animal life in creating a self-sustaining environment.  Our sustainable practices also include having a significant population of California native shrubs and trees that are drought tolerant and encourage the presence of beneficial insects (ladybugs, for example). We feel that working on harmony with nature in this way results in a healthier, more balanced vineyard which produces grapes of the highest caliber.

The Santa Ynez Valley is a unique area- it one of the very few transverse (that is, east-west oriented) valleys in North America, framed as it is by the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south and the San Rafael Mountains to the north. This geological quirk is important for the local wine industry, because the Santa Ynez River, which runs east-west and empties into the Pacific Ocean near Lompoc, also funnels cool fog to the interior from the Pacific each night. This fog plays a critical role in allowing the area to produce high quality wine from a wide array of grapes: the closer to the ocean a vineyard sits, the more heavily influenced it is by the marine layer, and therefore the cooler it is. This allows for cool-climate grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to be grown to the west of the Brander Vineyard, in the Sta. Rita Hills, and for warm-climate grapes to be grown in Happy Canyon, to the east of us.

The Brander Vineyard itself is situated in a kind viticultural Goldilocks zone, with a climate that is nearly perfect for growing and producing the graceful, classically-styled, Bordeaux-influenced wines we are so well known for. Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, varieties for which Fred Brander served as a pioneer in planting, flourish in this area, with its remarkable similarities to Bordeaux.

The French word “terroir” loosely translates as “sense of place”, and the many factors that contribute to our specific terroir- soil types, daily temperature swings, the directional aspect of the land itself, and the amount of fog and precipitation we receive, among other components- are sufficiently unique that as of mid-2013, our application for a dedicated American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation has received initial approval, and we are optimistic that by late-2014, the Los Olivos District AVA will be a reality, in recognition of the singular characteristics of  this extraordinary place.