APPELATION: Santa Barbara County
SOILS: Marina sand
ASPECT: South facing
VINE AGE: planted in 2000
FARMING: Certified Biodynamic


There’s much about Duvarita Vineyard that is unconventional. Probably foremost is the farming, where biodynamic practices are employed. This method—basically a mystic’s mash-up of organic farming, astrology, homeopathy, and Wiccan principles—produces fruit that is often compelling and highly expressive of terroir. We’ve found this true every year with our Presidio syrahs (the vineyard’s former name), which come from grapes doted upon to the exacting standards of certified biodynamics. We’re not sure whether to attribute credit to the unseen “elemental beings” that coax the grapes toward ripeness, or simply the fact that so much more time is spent paying attention in the vineyard when farming this way.

In any case, we have always been fascinated by the wines we’ve made from this vineyard, which—biodynamics aside—is odd in that it’s a decidedly marginal location for syrah vines. Duvarita is way out near Lompoc, even further west than the already windy and chilly Sta. Rita Hills! It was planted in 2000, just as the boundaries of that venerable AVA were being established. At that time, it was considered a gamble whether grapes would ripen any closer to the coast, so neither Duvarita’s nor Puerta Del Mar Vineyard’s locations were included in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.

Granted, it is a struggle to ripen syrah here. The gentle southerly slope provides some reprieve, but the fruiting zone of the trellising has to be low—partly to protect the vines from the relentless wind, and partly to capture some radiant heat and light from the poor sandy soil. We admire the throw-caution-to-the-wind spirit of plantings like Duvarita. We also find these marginal locations provide a more vivid and unique expression of vintage (when compared to warm-climate sites). That said, what’s consistent with this wine is its voluminous intensity, which was not expected from such a cool climate spot. It showcases elegant power and savory depth coupled with high-toned acidity, and has all the bones to age well over a decade.