It’s a big deal when a baseball player hits a home run in his first Major League at-bat, or when a quarterback throws a touchdown pass on his first NFL snap.
Likewise, it was a huge deal when the first wine he ever made for commercial release – a 1977 Sauvignon Blanc – brought Fred Brander the first gold medal ever awarded to a Santa Barbara County winery in a major wine competition.
The Brander Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley now has 30 vintages behind it, and the wines continue to garner lots of gold.
Today, Brander concentrates on Sauvignon Blanc as well as the classic red Bordeaux varieties – one of the few in the valley to dabble in Cabernet Sauvignon.
Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean makes the Santa Ynez Valley friendly to cool-climate varieties, and that makes Cabernet plantings rare. However, Brander’s vineyard is on the eastern side of the valley, where the warmer daytime temperatures are ideal for Bordeaux reds.
The wines also benefit from Brander’s artisan approach. All told, he makes only 8,000 cases of wine each year, 5,000 of those dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc.
Brander is able to take his time in the cellar and, through the use of oak barrels of varying ages, put his individual stamp on each cuvee.