Bien Nacido Vineyard
Located in the agricultural heart of the Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyards supports nearly 900 acres of coveted wine grapes. Vineyard blocks include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc, as well as California’s first cool-climate Syrah.
The vineyard’s varied loamy soils provide quick drainage, while its ocean-influenced climate (rated a Region 1 on the U.C. Davis Winkler Scale) fosters slow ripening of the fruit. Here, grapes thrive in one of the longest growing seasons in the state and are allowed extended hang-time on the vines to encourage the full development of flavor, color, and other vital components.
The history of the vineyard property begins in 1837 when the Spanish governor of Alta California granted 8,900 acres of land to José Tomás Antonia Olivera, former superintendent of the missions La Purisima, Santa Barbara, and Santa Inez. The ranch stretched across the Santa Maria Mesa, northeast to the San Rafael Mountains, and skirted the Sisquoc and Cuyama rivers. It was generously watered by a creek called “tepusquet”, a word that means “fishing for trout” in the language of the indigenous Chumash people.
In 1855, Olivera’s heirs sold the ranch to Olivera’s step-daughter, Martina, and her husband, Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros. The couple built an adobe on the ranch and moved in three years later. Ontiveros and his wife raised horses, cattle, sheep, and grain crops, as well as grapes for making wine. Over the years, portions of the original acreage were sold, but the original adobe still stands amid the vines of Bien Nacido Vineyards and remains as one of the few privately maintained adobes in California.
In 1969, the Miller family, who are fifth-generation California farmers, purchased the ranch and an adjacent parcel that had been part of the original land grant. The family reunited the two parcels as Rancho Tepusquet, which currently comprises more than 2,000 acres.
Tepusquet Ranch offered ideal conditions for growing wine grapes and in 1973, the Millers planted premium varieties, including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The success of their vineyard set the tone for the Santa Maria Valley’s future, and put the region firmly on the world’s viticultural map.