found Bryan instead of the other way around. And once he got his feet
wet and his teeth purple, wine became an intrinsic part of Bryan's
being. He owned it. Bryan makes wines on his familys property
in Santa Barbara with a singular vision that is inspired, unwavering
and summed up in two very different words, provided by Bryan himself:
"amplified" and "balanced."
Bryan Babcock was on his way to business school for his MBA to follow
his passion for the "philosophy of capitalism" after graduating
with a liberal arts degree from Occidental. However, as life goes,
there was an unavoidable bump in the middle of that road, and he changed
direction. All of his business school applications to Stanford, Harvard
and Wharton were turned down because Bryan lacked real world working
experience. So, he took UC Davis up on their offer for
a graduate degree in Food Sciences the program that feeds into
a graduate degree in Enology which generally leads to winemaking,
I thought hmmm... this is interesting. I love alcoholic beverages.
My parents own a ranch (in Santa Barbara). I am going to Davis.
Now, this cutting edge winemaker who was named by the Los Angeles
Times as one of the "Ten Best Winemakers of the Year" and
voted "Most Courageous Winemaker of the Year", can hardly
imagine a different life, ...who knows what I would be doing
now if I went to business school... but I didnt get in.
However, it was not exactly love at first crush for Bryan. It took
him about five years to really find his own style, ...there
wasnt any one moment so much as a gradual process of falling
in love with it. I guess I realized I was pretty good at it, and whatever
I did, it could be what I wanted it to be. That is one thing Europe
did for me." Bryan explains that he has made numerous trips to
the Old World, eager to learn and appreciate. "The winemakers
and wineries in Europe are highly revered and food and wine is very
important to the culture. I didnt have that feeling about working
in Santa Barbara county because then it was the Wild Wild West. It
wasnt like it is now. Now people pay attention to it.
And Bryan has played a leading role in that new-found recognition.
Babcock has grown with Santa Barbara in its rise to fame in the wine
growing regions of the world. Now it is an area that is becoming more
and more established as a world class region for growing Pinot Noir,
Chardonnay and Syrah. Especially Syrah. From here to Paso Robles
it is like a Syrah mecca! Babcock winery is located on the far
western edge of the Santa Ynez Valley in northern Santa Barbara County
approximately 50 miles north of the city of Santa Barbara.
The Babcocks are part of the pioneering generation of families who
helped this wine growing region achieve its current reputation, although
Bryan points out they were definitely not there first. The true
pioneers for this area are Richard Sanford and Pierre Lafond at Santa
Barbara winery those are the guys that went for it. We are
part of the second wave, arriving on the scene with Gainey, Foxen
and Zaca Mesa.
Bryan may be part of the "second wave", but he is a leader
in style. He tries to make his Syrah according to his super-charged,
yet balanced philosophy. He makes his Syrahs very dark and saturated
and believes that the grape naturally lends itself to this style.
Bryan likes wine that lets you know it is there he wants lots
of bang for his wine buck. He claims ...as a winemaker and a
consumer, I like wine with flavor. I like the idea of the wine being
amplified so there is a full impact on all of the senses something
you can chew on, in a sense, and as long as their is balance and harmony
with this, then it works." He goes on to say, "as a craftsman
you need to have a strong devotion for objectivity, starting with
the vineyard, farming, and winemaking and you need to integrate everything
to get that final vision.
Part of integration for Bryan is inspiration from other winemaking
areas that he respects, namely Tuscany and Burgundy. He admires how
well the Italian people continually assimilate inspiration into their
winemaking and recalled a time in Tuscany, I walked into an
old castle. They were sending down wine form a couple floors above
and they heard there was an American winemaker who arrived and they
stopped what they were doing and came down to meet me 'you
are a winemaker, lets talk shop'. He laughed, I
I thanked Bryan for being gracious enough to take time from his busy
harvest schedule and got a quick tip on 2003 in the Santa Ynez
looks like it will be a very good year if you like your wines ripe.
There have been no clouds in the sky, sugars are through the roof,
and winemakers in that valley are very happy... busy... but happy.
With a glass of his Syrah in hand, I am happy as well, and once you
taste it, you will be happy that Harvard business schools loss
is our gain... Enjoy.
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