In 1984 when Ken Brown founded Byron, his plan seemed simple enough: produce spectacular Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. At the time, this was both good news and bad news. Chardonnay was the good news. Santa Barbara had established a solid reputation by the mid-‘80s for its tropical, buttery bottlings. But Pinot Noir? That was a completely different story. This challenging and complex varietal was a daunting hurdle for the winemakers of Santa Barbara.
Today we tend to forget the obstacles that historically confronted Santa Barbara’s producers. In those days, no one dreamed of competing with the North Coast when it came to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And now? To most wine drinkers, Santa Barbara is regarded as one of California’s premiere appellations for both varieties.
As it turned out, the climate was never the problem. The Santa Maria Bench – Byron’s home – is less than 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean allowing for cool ocean air to sweep through. Once growing methods were perfected, Pinot proved to thrive on the Bench.
In 2003, Jonathan Nagy assumed winemaking duties. His small-lot, hands-on winemaking techniques have helped contribute to Byron’s success. Intensive grape sorting, native yeast fermentations, and lot separation from harvest through winemaking with more than 170 separate batches of Pinot Noir alone – have helped create wines that combine the finesse of Burgundy and the power of California. Jonathan’s wines are soulful, opulent and haunting.