Byron Vineyards & Winery is in Santa Maria, on California’s Central Coast. It was founded in 1984 by Byron Ken Brown, who had worked at Zaca Mesa for five years before that. The estate became known for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris made from both estate owned vineyards and sourced grapes. In 1990 Robert Mondavi Corp. purchased the nearly 600-acre estate, with Byron Ken Brown staying on a winemaker. Today Jonathan Nagy is winemaker.
Santa Barbara County is not an AVA, but a region just south of San Luis Obispo that includes the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley appellations. Wine has been produced in the area since the 18th century when Spanish missionaries planted vineyards. It wasn’t until the 1990s, however, that producers focused on growing premier grapes for fine wines. During the 1990s more than 10,000 acres of vineyards were planted, and today there are nearly 20,000 acres of vineyards. The region received a big bump in recognition and prestige when the popular film “Sideways” was shot there in 2004. Because the region is affected by maritime weather, it is relatively cool climate makes it ideal for Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and an increasingly adventuresome number of varietals are also grown successfully in Santa Barbara County.
This red wine is relatively light and can pair with a wide variety of foods. The grape prefers cooler climates and the wine is most often associated with Burgundy, Champagne and the U.S. west coast. Regional differences make it nearly as fickle as it is flexible.