Santa Barbara County boasts a host of vineyards and appellations these days, but few realize that the local industry was really advanced by a few savvy pioneers who chose to plant vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley. In the 1960’s and 70’s, viticulturalists quickly began to realize that the central coast could potentially be a quality grape growing region. Those who planted first, such as Uriel Nielson, Louis Lucas, and Dale Hampton to name a few, started it all, and they did so in the Santa Maria Valley.
Recognizing the unique geography of the area’s transverse mountain ranges, which funnel in cool ocean air, these men experimented by planting Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.
This year, Riverbench Vineyard celebrates the 40th anniversary of their first vineyard planting in 1973. Today, it is comprised of 344 planted acres of mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The vineyard site, located in an ancient riverbed, is ideal because of its cool breezy climate and alluvial soils which provide excellent drainage. It shares this momentous anniversary with the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard as well as Zaca Mesa Vineyard.
Over four decades, these vineyards have seen the wine business grow and change. Riverbench, as a fruit source for other local winemakers, has been a big part of those changes, and in 2006 released the first wines made under the Riverbench name. The tasting room, a 1926 craftsman ranch home located on the vineyard property, opened in 2007 overlooking these historic vines.
In 2013, Riverbench celebrates its glorious history as well as new beginnings, with the announcement of a second tasting room location in Santa Barbara, California, opening in April, and the removal of 82 acres of some of the older and less productive vines. This year will certainly be one of many exciting changes for Riverbench Vineyard and Winery.
Historical Source: Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara’s Wine Industry by Victor W. Geraci. For more information about Riverbench Vineyard and Winery, please visit www.riverbench.com.
Riverbench Vineyard of Santa Maria Valley Celebrates 40th Anniversary