Wine County Life… Let Us Share it with You

October 21, 2016

Sharing wine country, is what brings us pleasure– in fact, maybe that is wine country living.

The sun sets, it slowly sinks over the hills. The silhouettes of Valley Oaks stand solidly like statues basking in the last light of day.  The heat of the day in wine country is replaced with a coolness inviting itself into open windows and resting on the vines to refresh them before the heat of the next day. Wine country life is romanticized for good reasons– plants love to grow here, grape vines thrive, beauty abounds.  Even in California where seasons are limited to a brief Winter and an extended Summer, the seasons are experienced through the grasses of the rolling hills and the splashes of wildflowers in Spring.  The vineyards are the barometers of the seasons. 

Something about wine country makes people think that their life will be one of calm and ease like the oaks that serenely dot the landscape, a place where nothing goes wrong.  Not to crush the romantic vision, but all of us in wine country can tell you, we still deal with the cable company, our computers crash just like yours, our cars need repaired, we get the same seasonal viruses, and we have a never ending list of things to do, however we do get to occasionally soak in the sunsets and enjoy wine from our neighbor’s vineyards, or if you’re lucky enough, your own.

Having founded the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe in 1995, our lives were already immersed in wine and food, and the joy of sharing these palatable experiences.  However, our story of discovering the true meaning of wine country living came in 2011 when we decided to convert the mother-in-law unit on our property into a vacation rental, our first Bernat Retreat.

IMG_3320The idea of having strangers on our property was a little scary at first.  However, there is nothing scary about hearing these kind sentiments on a regular basis, “We don’t know who had this wonderful idea, but kudos to you! We’ve traveled all over the world at a variety of places from camping out to very posh resorts– this was one of the best!” Or this one from June 2012, “Escaping the city and enjoying this wine country paradise was much needed for us both.”


Selfishly though, the thing we love most, is watching our guests soak up wine country life, enjoy the sunsets we are too busy to enjoy because we lead a busy life, like the people vacationing on our vineyard.  Sharing wine country, is what brings us pleasure– in fact, maybe that is wine country living.
Bottles of wine are not designed to be consumed alone — although I’m sure they sadly often are — they are meant to be shared.  Beautiful sunsets are much more breathtaking when they are shared with loved ones, and even more breathtaking with a glass of wine in hand. With the beautifully manicured vineyards comes much toil and hard work, a labor of love as they say.  So those of us living in this wine country invite you to live the wine country life while you are here, tuck your troubles away, soak it in and live it! (We’ll go to the city and soak up a few museums when we need to get away.)

We love what Wes Hagen of J. Wilkes Wines had to say when we asked what Wine Country Living meant to him:
“As a winemaker I will never make a million dollars, but I eat and drink like I do–and that’s good enough for me!  Yachts and race cars are a bore anyways.  Clean air, sunshine, fog and wind–you can taste these in our wines if you pay attention. Every moment on this planet is a miracle–and wine country surrounds us with the majesty that reminds us how lucky we are to be alive and drinking fine wine.”
 -Wes Hagen
Consulting Winemaker, Brand Ambassador, Raconteur: J. Wilkes Wines


Planning a visit to Santa Barbara Wine Country?

We would love to share wine country living at our Bernat Winery Retreats with you!

Over-looking our vineyard and walking distance from our restaurant,
Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe.
Find out more by visiting our website here.

Fabian Bravo- the Devoted Winemaker of Brander

October 10, 2016

“It is fairly easy to get interested in wine, it’s alcohol, it’s fun to drink, you are usually surrounded by great times and friends. However, there is a lot of work behind it. Long hours, early mornings, and late nights.” Fabian Bravo, winemaker for Brander winery has been devoted to the craft of winemaking since his first harvest in 2007.

Like many, Fabian didn’t take a direct path into winemaking. He grew up in Gonzalez California, in the Santa Lucia Highlands. One of California’s premier cool-climate winegrowing districts. Surrounded by agriculture Fabian decided to take a different path. He attended Cal Poly for electrical engineering, and after college began working for a company in Goleta. He worked 4 years in his field but realized he couldn’t see himself growing old doing that type of job. Entering an early “mid-life crisis” he began to explore other career paths.

During his soul searching he dabbled in baking bread at a bakery, looked into law enforcement, and taught high school geometry and algebra. Eventually he went back home to work as an engineer again. Shortly after, he met a friend who offered him a harvest position, he would have to take a leave of absence from work if he decided to do it. As harvest crept closer he finally decided to take the leap and began working for Siduri winery in Santa Rosa, California. That was the point where he decided this industry was something he could see himself doing for a while. Watch Part 2 of our interview with Fabian to hear his inspiring journey in his own words here.

Right after harvest Fabian celebrated his birthday in Santa Barbara County, he went wine tasting, of course! One of the wineries he found himself tasting at was Brander winery. As fate would have it, the next Monday he saw that a winery had posted a job for assistant winemaker, which turned out to be Fred Brander, of Brander Winery. About a week after harvest at Siduri he started working as assistant winemaker for Fred at Brander. He is about to celebrate his 9-year anniversary there.

Fabian’s passion for winemaking is easy to see, as he describs his devotion to the craft. “You want to capture the vintage, the vineyard, the varietal. You have one shot at each vintage. Keeping that in mind, you only have a certain amount of years to make wine, a certain window to capture each year. Getting up early and staying late in necessary. You want to make sure you showcase the vineyard and hard work that goes into the fruit and production.”

Brander is well known for their Sauvignon Blanc production, which is celebrating its 40th vintage. Making 11 different bottlings every year. The vineyard was planted in 1975, and was first harvested in 1977. 44 acres are devoted mostly to Sauvignon Blanc, with a few other varietals planted on property.  Brander has been practicing bio dynamic farming since 2010 which Fabian observed has given the wines a cleaner, fresher feel than before.

Fred Brander has been working for many years to get the Los Olivos District AVA approved. All of his hard work has finally paid off, the 2015 vintages will be the first with this AVA on the label. Great work Fred!

Enjoy learning about the story behind the Los Olivos District in Part 3 of our interview here.