Los Olivos Winery:
California’s Central Coast is known for its great Rhone-style wines, and Curtis Winery was one of the first wineries in the region dedicated exclusively to Rhone-style wines. Nothing has changed on that front at this Los Olivos winery. Curtis winery maintains to this day its original mantra:
“We Live for Rhones.”
Under the direction of winemakers Chuck Carlson and Ernst Storm, Curtis Winery specializes in Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, Roussanne and other Rhone varietals from its estate vineyard in Los Olivos, which is located in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley. Carlson points out that,
“The growing conditions here are phenomenal for Rhone grapes. It’s just warm enough to achieve full ripeness, but we also have a steady marine influence that enables the fruit to maintain its structure and finesse.”
The Curtis Winery facility has an interesting history. It started life as an agricultural storage faciility, built in the early 1980s. But not long after it was first constructed, Douglas Cramer (the producer of such T.V. shows as the Odd Couple, Mission Impossible and The Brady Bunch, and also one of America’s premier collectors of contemporary art) converted the building into an art gallery housing–in the words of one observer–“some of the finest artists in modern history.”
Carlson, who was working up the road at Zaca Mesa, another Los Olivos winery, relates that,
“I used to drive by the gallery on my way to work and think that it was an ideal location for a winery. The fact that the building was set up in multi-level floors suggested that it would make a great winery facility.”
As fate would have it, Carlson later took a winemaking position at neighboring Firestone Vineyard, owned by the Firestone family. Shortly thereafter, the Firestones acquired the Cramer property and building and enlisted Carlson as their winemaker at the newly established Curtis Winery in 1995. The Los Olivos winery’s name honors the lineage of Polly Curtis, mother of Brooks Firestone. In 2007, the Firestone family sold Firestone Vineyard, and now their local winemaking legacy is focused exclusively on Curtis Winery.
There are two tiers of Curtis wines: Estate Rhone Varietals, composed of small-production varietal wines from the Curtis Estate vineyard; and Heritage Series Blends, consisting of Rhone-style cuvees crafted for everyday enjoyment. The wines are made in a fruit-forward, balanced style, with an emphasis on terroir and working with each year’s growing conditons, or put another way, on capturing the pure natural flavors of both the vineyard and the vintage.
For those interested in visiting the winery, the Curtis Winery tasting room offers a bright and vibrant environment for sampling and purchasing wine, as well as gift and food items from local artisans.
Curtis Winery is also a great place to take a break from wine tasting and enjoy a nice picnic. The Los Olivos winery inhabits a quiet oak-studded nook in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, and the grounds have extensive shaded picnic seating amid colorful landscaping and grapevines.
The tasting room was recently expaned into the winery cellar, where groups and other visitors can enjoy the ambiance of French oak barrels, Vicard 40-hectaliter oak upright tanks and the mural-covered walls.
“It’s a relaxing and picturesque setting, and we really pride ourselves in offering a welcoming environment in our tasting room,” Carlson says. Adding, “If you’ve never been to the Santa Barbara County wine country before, this is a great place to start.”
Curtis Winery can be found at 5249 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos, CA.
Their phone number is (805) 686-8999.