Sunstone Winery– Past, Present, & Future

August 31, 2017

To step onto the Sunstone property is to step back into the Old World.

The gorgeous stone chateau is centered in a beautiful landscape, complete with tranquil space to sip your wine. It’s unlike any other winery in Santa Barbara County and is the result of an Old World sensibility passed down through the Rice family. In our interview, owner and winemaker, Bion Rice, shares the past, present, and future of Sunstone Winery.

Sunstone Winery Santa Ynez Valley California
photo credit: Lerina Winter

According to Bion Rice, who now oversees the winery, his family relocated to Santa Ynez from Santa Barbara seeking better educational opportunities for his two sisters. His mother immediately saw the possibilities for what is now Sunstone. The landscape alone would inspire anyone, but Linda’s focus on “food, family, and friends” allowed her to pursue creating the best possible atmosphere for all. Linda and husband Fred planted Bordeaux varietals assuming they would sell the grapes off to winemakers but quickly became enamoured with making their own. And much like what would happen in a small Provençal village, their local friends were happy to help, pitching in to mentor their efforts and support them every step of the way.

Without any formal training in winemaking to start, Fred and Linda soaked up as much as they could – again, a very Old World approach! They began bottling their wine and by their second vintage, the family found themselves with a few thousand extra cases. Bion did what any loyal farmer’s son would do: he loaded the cases into his truck and began hawking his wares all over Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. His favorites stops were invariably at restaurants, where he’d end up chatting with chefs and tasting through fantastic dishes that opened up the possibilities of pairings for his wines even more. Sunstone’s production and demand increased exponentially and the Rice family soon sold their wines across the country.

Winemaker Bion Rice of Sunstone Winery Santa Ynez California

Ironically, Bion sees the 2008 recession as a blessing in disguise because it forced the family to scale back and focus on what really mattered to them. This re-assessment renewed their passion for Linda’s initial pursuit of “food, family, and friends,” and the quality of their wine improved drastically. However, the Rices have never veered away from organic farming and are proud to operate the longest running organic winery in all of Santa Barbara. While this may have seemed ahead of its time, commitment to organic farming really just ties back to the Old World version of farming and was part of Linda’s overarching vision.

Sunstone staff- Mason Cuvee - Milestone

Today, Bion and his wife oversee operations, including winemaking. Bion plans to keep it in the family and is fostering his sons; in fact, his teenage son Miles helps in the blending process and has final say in which blend ends up in the “Milestone” bottle!

 

Before summer ends, give yourself a minivacation by visiting Sunstone winery. Step back in time and enjoy the chateau made from reclaimed materials and native stone. Grab a glass of their best-selling rosé and savour the warmth of family and friends that the Rice family has helped build.


Experience the Sunstone’s Old World sensibility yourself! Bion will be at Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café on September 29th between 5:30 and 6:30 to pour his wines and chat!


Take advantage of our Featured Wine 20% Discount!

These three Sunstone Wines are 20% off through the month of September.

 

Sunstone’s Sauvignon Blanc is from La Pressa vineyard 2016Sunstone’s Sauvignon Blanc is from La Pressa vineyard 2016

September 20% Off Price Regularly $35

Stainless steel fermented and aged for six months. It’s a tropical style with pineapple, guava, passion fruit characteristics with nice minerality.

 

Sunstone 2014 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County Sunstone 2014 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County 

September 20% Off Price Regularly $45

This Pinot Noir is from the Goodchild Vineyard planted in the ‘70s by Louis Lucas. Classic Santa Maria style with dried, earthy cherry, raspberry coulis with slight herbaceous notes like green tea.

 

 

 

 

Sunstone Milestone 2014 BlendSunstone 2014 ‘Milestone’ Bordeaux Blend, Estate, Santa Ynez Valley

September 20% Off Price Regularly $50

Very Bordelais  in style. Light in Purisima factors with dried herbal notes. 91% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc, 2% Cab Sauv. Aged for 24 months in oak. Named for Miles, the son of Bion. Miles helped blend it and he chose the final results. This wine also marks 20th anniversary of opening the tasting room.

Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat

August 2, 2017

Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat– Pioneer Winemaker of Santa Barbara

According to the Au Bon Climat website, Jim Clendenen grew up in Ohio in a “gastronomically impoverished” culture. It’s safe to say that he has since more than made up for that epicurially lost time during the last 30 years!

A Global Education

Like many of his generation, time spent in Europe during a semester abroad opened his eyes – and his mind – that food and wine could be more than burgers and California Mountain Burgundy. Such a transformative experience caused him to  dedicate his career to wine instead of law, which is what he was actually there to study.

After a stint at Zaca Mesa, which has become so well-known for cultivating future winemakers that it’s called ‘Zaca U,’ Jim partnered with Adam Tolmach to create Au Bon Climat. His time in France influenced both the name of the winery and Jim’s approach: he sought to craft more subtle, vibrant, and age-worthy Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. In other words, he wanted to create what he wanted to drink.

Francophile Tendencies and Shared Vision

Jim’s Francophile tendencies were shared by winemaking colleagues Bob Lindquist, Adam Tolmach, and Ken Brown.

Santa Barbara Winecountry Winemakers
Adam Tolmach, Bob Lindquist, and Jim Clendenen

They got together on a regular basis to drink the French wines they all loved so much, thereby cementing the future of Santa Barbara winemaking whether they knew it or not. Since then, all have become giants in the wine industry, but it’s still Au Bon Climat that stands out as the best Burgundian-styled using fantastic California fruit.

Jim is quick to point out that it’s the Clendenen Family label that’s actually his “first” label because the grapes are from his own vineyard and he has built it from the ground up. There, he creates wines from more esoteric French grapes like Mondeuse and Aligoté which are seldom seen stateside. Such wines are highly acidic and beg to be paired with richer foods, which is also a direct nod to his time in France as a young man.

Epic Meals

But winemaking isn’t the only way Jim carries out his quest to make up for gastronomical impoverishment of his youth: his lunch time meals for staff and visitors alike are legendary. He personally prepares a feast at the winery every day that he’s there and everyone sits down together at a communal table to enjoy it. You never really know what you’ll get since Jim usually cobbles together a meal

Jim Clendenen- Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe August Featured Winemaker

from what he has available – the veggies come from his garden and the meats are from local farmers. A thoughtful selection of wines are always present on the table. Truly an experience!

We, however, don’t need to wait for an invitation because we’re featuring Au Bon Climat wines through the month of August. We are offering the three featured wines below for 20% off throughout the month. We hope you get to take advantage of this fantastic deal!

Stop on in at Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café to experience Jim’s wines and to have your own gastronomical epiphany! And be sure to stop by on Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café on Friday, August 25th from 5:30 to 6:30 as his wines are poured at the bar by his long time assistant, Katie O’Hara, and paired with food prepared by our Chef.

 

 

Au Bon Climat Wines — 20% OFF THROUGH AUGUST! BUY NOW

Au Bon Climat White Blend, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc BlendAu Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Gris-Pinot Blanc

Regularly $18 August 20% Off Price $14.40

Buy Now

This blend of 60% Pinot Gris from the Sierra Madre Vineyard and 40% Pinot Blanc from the Bien Nacido Vineyard should be your go-to summer wine! Stone fruit and hints of honeysuckle on the nose give way to an apricot palate, with slight hints of toffee and walnuts and bright acidity on the finish. Think fresh shellfish in saffron-based dishes – like paella!

Au Bon Climat 2014 Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard

 

Au Bon Climat 2014 Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard

Regularly $26 August 20% Off price $20.80

Buy Now

Because of Jim’s deep appreciation for tradition, he created the “historical vineyard” series of wines, and this is a great example of why: the Los Alamos Vineyard is very sandy, which forces the vines to struggle for water, thereby creating more aromatics and minerality in the finished wine. A slight tinge of butter on the nose is followed by subtle pear fruit and white floral notes. On the palate, look for prickly, refreshing acidity that still manages to mellow.

Au Bon Climat 2014 Pinot Noir 'La Bauge aux Dessus'

 

 

Au Bon Climat 2013 Pinot Noir, ‘Le Bauge aux Dessus’

Regularly $35 AUGUST 20% OFF price $28

BUY NOW

A blend of grapes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard and Jim’s own Le Bon Climat Vineyard shows why Au Bon Climat has been the leader in Burgundian Pinots for decades: sweet fruit on the nose is balanced by white florals and earth. On the palate, the wine shows classic Burgundian black cherry, earthiness, and herbs. It’s a very focus and direct Pinot that is unmistakably Jim’s.

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