By 1995, the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County not only had been discovered, it had been transformed into one of California’s top grape-growing areas.
A number of family-owned vineyards dominated the plantings, supplemented by a handful of very large vineyards owned and managed by some of the biggest players in the winemaking business.
Once known primarily for its horse farms, the Santa Ynez Valley had definitely been transformed into “Wine Country,” including all the trappings associated with those two words – bed-and-breakfast inns, high-end restaurants, tour companies, etc.
But there was one part of the valley that remained untapped – and amazingly so, considering its perfect climate for quality grape growing. It was in the extreme southeast corner of the valley, an area known as Happy Canyon.
Entrepreneurs and wine lovers Neil and Francine Afromsky happened upon the canyon in 1995, and couldn’t believe that it was undeveloped. So they purchased the Westerly Estate, and acquired the services of renowned viticulturist Jeff Newton to develop their vineyard.
“We sensed that there was magic here,” Neil Afromsky says. ‘We started by planting Bordeaux varietals, and the quality of the grapes was extraordinary. That’s when we decided to take the next step, to make wine ourselves.”
With the help, that is, of one of the rising stars in winemaking, Seth Kunin.
With extraordinary fruit and a talented vintner, is it any wonder that wine lovers from all directions are seeking out the wines of Westerly?