A History of Bien Nacido
Bien Nacido Vineyard has become one of the most prestigious and best known vineyards in the Santa Maria appellation - a region which owes much of its reputation as a producer of world class wines to the remarkable Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Syrah, and Merlot wines produced from Bien Nacido Vineyard grapes.
The vineyard traces its roots back to the year 1837 when a Spanish land grant of some two square leagues was made to Tomas Olivera by Juan Bautista Alvarado, then Gobernador of Alta California. This grant covered nearly 9,000 acres ranging upward to the San Rafael Mountains from the Santa Maria Mesa, which bordered the Sisquoc and Cuyama Rivers. The ranch was generously watered by Tepusquet Creek, so called by the Chumash Indians to whom it meant "fishing for trout." Thomas Olivera sold Rancho Tepusquet in 1855 to his son-in-law Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros and daughter Martina. Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros started construction on an adobe in 1857 and moved to the ranch the following year. He and his wife raised horses, cattle, sheep, several grain crops, and grapes for the production of wine. During subsequent years, his heirs divided the property until only about fourteen hundred acres remained surrounding the Ontiveros Adobe.
In 1969, the Millers, a fifth generation California farming family, purchased the property. They also purchased an adjacent parcel which had been part of the original land grant, and reunited the two as Rancho Tepusquet, now comprising over two thousand acres. The original adobe remains as one of the few privately maintained adobes in California.
In the early 1970's, it became clear to the Millers that the soils and climate were ideal for growing grapes, and they moved quickly to realize the full potential of the property. Premium varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Merlot were planted.
While the ranch itself had always been called "Rancho Tepusquet", the Millers selected the name "Bien Nacido Vineyards of Rancho Tepusquet" for the vineyard operation.
Bien Nacido Vineyards consists of over 700 acres, of which over 300 acres are planted to Chardonnay, over 250 to Pinot Noir, and a number of acres each to Pinot Blanc, Syrah, and Merlot. Since 1992, experimental plantings of Pinot Gris, Barbera, Rousanne, Nebiollo and Viognier, as well as new clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Merlot, have been added.
Bien Nacido has the distinction of being one of the major viticultural nurseries in the state for certified, varietal budwood. Most of the vines were originally from stock grown by the University of California at Davis. While the average increase block in California is less than 10 acres, Bien Nacido Vineyards has several hundred acres of certified Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and a number of other varieties. Much of the Chardonnay planted in California in the last twenty years began as Bien Nacido Vineyard cuttings.
As the grapevines on Bien Nacido Vineyards have grown, so have the other Miller family operations associated with the vineyard. There are two winemaking facilities on the property, one of which is leased to Bob Lindquist of Qupe Winery and Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat Winery, and the other is leased to Jeff Fink and Bill Cates of Tantara Winery.
At their Central Coast Wine Services, located in Santa Maria, custom wine making services have been offered to commercial size clients since 1995. Services include pressing or crushing of grapes into juice, processing fruit into finished wine, barrel and case good storage, bottling, assistance with compliance issues, and lab analysis. In addition, it serves as a home for 25+ boutique wineries.
Each of these developments has contributed to further the progress of the Santa Maria wine growing region while increasing the recognition and role of Bien Nacido Vineyard. It is a symbiotic relationship that has been rewarding for all involved.
It is the combination of the "terroir" of Bien Nacido Vineyards, the people who manage it, and the close relationships they have developed with others in the wine industry of the region that makes Bien Nacido Vineyard and the Santa Maria region unique in the wine industry.