Even if you’ve never tried any of the wines created by Bien Nacido Estate, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve tasted something that hails from the winery’s vineyard in California’s Santa Maria Valley.
That’s because Bien Nacido – one of the first vineyards ever established the Santa Barbara area – has lent its signature grapes to countless other producers in California and beyond over the past five decades, deeply rooting its influence on the world of wine.
Bien Nacido is “considered the most ubiquitous single vineyard on any labels in the world,” according to master sommelier Will Costello. (Costello has served as Bien Nacido’s estate brand manager since 2017 – a rare partnership between a winery and a master somm.)
The winery is the creation of the Miller family, a five-generation farming family in California who first made their name growing avocados and lemons. In 1973, the Millers moved into growing grapes, and soon found themselves sought after by wine producers both for parcels of land within the vineyard and for clones of its vines.
Over 46 years of growing, Costello says, the vineyard has had over 220 different wineries cite their grapes on wine labels. Distinctive Bien Nacido grape flavour signatures include a savoury black pepper tone to the winery’s Pinot Noir fruit, as well as lavender, sage and pine notes that reflect the area’s coastal desert terroir.
When the family’s fifth generation took over the property in 2006, however, they opted to keep a select portion of the vineyard – just two per cent of the total space – and establish their own winemaking operations.
That gave way to Bien Nacido Estate – and its sister winery, Solomon Hills Estate, located just seven miles (11 kilometres) away.
“We believe that what we keep for ourselves for the estate program represents the best of our appellation, our vineyard and our view on winemaking,” says Costello.
When it came time to choose the cream of the crop, the winery’s founders chose plots of land with grapes that reflected their own personal tastes – a lighter, more low-alcohol approach to wine.
“Bien Nacido’s an interesting vineyard where we have Merlot and Petit Verdot – great varietals that like heat. We also have Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gerwurtztraminer – things that like cool weather as well,” Costello says.
“But also, because we did plant in 1973, we still have these old vines that are nearing 50 years old and wanted to highlight the age of those vines as well.”
The long, cool season – Costello says it’s about 125 days from bud break until harvest – lets the grapes ripen ultra-slowly. He likens the grapes’ maturation to the low-and-slow process of cooking a brisket: “Because it doesn’t get hot every day, you’re relying on the plant to have slow, steady, consistent growth. That generates more flavor profiles and more phenolic ripeness,” he says.
Bien Nacido recently teamed up with WineOnline.ca to offer a mixed pack that showcases their Well Born wines – which are typically sold by the glass to winery visitors – for a Canadian audience.
“We wanted to be able to send some up there to our friends in the north,” Costello says. “The Well Born wines are our take on younger production, so all of the fruit is the same, same all of the winemaking is generally the same – except we age it for about half the time and we typically bottle it earlier.”
The result, Costello says, “is going to showcase all of the vibrancy of the fruit in a ready-to-drink package.”
Here’s a look at what’s in the mixed pack:
Bien Nacido Well Born Cuvee Pinot Noir 2018
The Well Born Cuvee Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes from both Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills. “This is the only time when we would actually mix the two parcels,” Costello says. “For us this showcases the sort of savoury nature of Solomon Hills – this almost green-herb, mint, thyme kind of quality – with the ripeness of Bien Nacido, which tends to be more like strawberry, ripe red cherry, and even sometimes black cherry fruits.”
Bien Nacido Well Born Chardonnay 2018
“Well Born Cuvee Chardonnay really is meant to be a look into classic California flavours. Even though Santa Maria is cool, we do some things in the winery – like lees stirring, for example – to develop a little more richness to the wine without it being an oaky or heavy wine. There isn’t any new oak on the wine, so it really is just about showcasing the ripe California fruit you would expect – pineapple, papaya, mango flavours – but in something that is a little more precise and fresh.”
Bien Nacido Estate Pinot Noir 2016
“This is really a true look at Bien Nacido as a whole vineyard,” Costello says of the Estate Pinot Noir, which is blended from five distinct blocks within the property. “You get the cool climate flavors mixed with the riper parts of the vineyard, all to create a more complex and balanced wine.”
The Bien Nacido mixed pack includes one bottle of the Estate Pinot Noir 2016, three bottles of the Well Born Cuvee Pinot Noir 2018 and three bottles of the Well Born Chardonnay 2018 for $339.00 (delivery included). Quantities are limited – click here to reserve yours.
Want to learn more?
Master sommelier and Bien Nacido brand manager Will Costello will be hosting a virtual tasting and Q&A via Zoom on July 9, answering questions and walking you through the finer points of each wine in the Bien Nacido mixed pack. Space is limited – but you can reserve your spot with a purchase of the mixed pack.
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