Pence Ranch History: Why Plant Grapevines Here?

Written by Blair Pence – 

Pence Ranch & Winery - Santa Barbara wine countryLet’s start at the beginning…..why Santa Barbara county, and why did I buy this particular ranch for vineyard planting?

This is actually my fifth ranch in Santa Barbara County. The previous four properties were strictly for the sheer beauty and pastoral nature of old California. And for raising Cutting Horses, a special type of horse for cattle that is controlled without the use of reins. Cutting horses are most probably my first love, but more about that later…

Pence Ranch & Winery - Santa Barbara wine countryWhat really attracted me to this site for its vineyard potential was the incredible range of slopes, undulations, aspects and orientations to the property. It is situated on a higher plateau than the valley floor and is therefore held together by thick clay and calcareous rock. Because the ranch is also 2 miles long, the diversity of terroir is easily evident.  The south half is almost entirely exposed to the cold, ocean winds that consistently blow in from the Pacific with west, south, north and east facings.  The north half is mountainous, oak-studded and far more wind-protected facing the southeast and east.

Pence Ranch & Winery - Santa Barbara wine countryIt is this variety in temperature, elevation and sun orientation where I knew immediately that I could grow great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (so this makes Burgundian varietals my second love) on the south half. Read more about my love/obsession for Chardonnay & Pinot Noir here. I also realized the ranch’s potential for producing beautiful Syrah (on the north half) akin to what you might see from the Northern Rhône in France.

Looking at Pence Ranch, I fell in love with its land, its contours and its great complexity in topography and soil. And I know we can make delicious Chardonnays, profound Pinot Noirs and aromatically, flavorful Syrahs.

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