What is in this article?:
- Bien Nacido Vineyard farms 900 acres of premium wine grapes in California's Santa Maria Valley.
- Canopy management is crucial to generate more grape value.
- Private label programs are highly successful.
Chris Hammell manages about 900 acres of premium wine grapes at Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria in Southern California. Harvest should kick off in early September and wrap up in late October.
Anchored in the fertile farm ground in Southern California’s Santa Maria Valley is Bien Nacido Vineyards , a 3,000-acre ranch including 800-acres of premium wine grapes grown in this cool-weather paradise amid sprawling, picturesque hillsides.
Since 1969, the Miller family has owned and operated Bien Nacido Vineyards, located southeast of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County. Today, Stephen Miller and sons Marshall and Nicholas lead the operation.
“People say 800 acres of wine grapes is a huge amount,” says vineyard manager Chris Hammell. “While the number is high, we have many small blocks which are custom farmed down to the row.”
The cool climate and lighter soils are well suited for grape production. The elevation of the vineyards ranges from 200-900 feet.
In addition to wine grapes, Bien Nacido also grows avocados, blueberries under hoops, lemons, and about 100 head of livestock, mostly sheep and goats. About 800 acres are leased out.
Bien Nacido also owns and manages Solomon Hills Vineyards to the southwest near Orcutt which has about 100 acres of grapes. This brings the Miller’s total wine grape acreage in the county to about 900 acres.
One-third of the acreage is planted in Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc with an equal planting in Chardonnay. The remaining third is mostly Syrah, with a sprinkling of Grenache, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Nebbiolo, and other varieties.
Bien Nacido is the first California vineyard to grow Syrah in a cool climate.