I created Fiddlehead (the Winery) to focus on Pinot Noir and the place it is grown is essential to the personality of the brand. Fiddlehead is all about sense of place.
In the early years, 1989-1993, I was lucky to be allocated a perfect little block at Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Maria…I was even luckier to have my wine selected for the White House Cellar (and yes, they even paid for it!). After Sierra Madre sold, there was little Pinot Noir to be had from Santa Barbara County, and even less that was the top quality that I demanded for Fiddlehead. I knew the only way I could progress my commitment to Pinot Noir was to invest in the development of bare ground.
I tasted my way through a myriad of Pinot Noir districts and was impressed by just how delicious some of those old Sanford and Benedict wines tasted and was challenged to invest in a little known, cool-climate district. Many more years into my palate development, I learned that it was the clay soils that I found to be most interesting in their imparting a sprier, broader, more layered component to these finicky, delicate, enticing wines. Hence, my search for land turned to what was then known as “the western, cool climate district of the Santa Ynez Valley”, and more specifically the Santa Rosa Road corridor, where clay soils make their home.
After what seemed like an eternal search, I spotted a flower farm, not on the market, directly across the street from the historic Sanford and Benedict Vineyard. In 1996, I wrapped up “secret” negotiations to purchase the old Bodger property and found myself with 96 potential, glorious acres just waiting for Pinot Noir!
I took almost 2 years to explore clones and rootstocks, the soils and the water, row direction and trellis system options and farming choices. I selected 6 clones (Pommard 4 and 5, Dijon 113, 115, 667, 777), 3 rootstocks (mostly 101-14 and 3309 and a little 110R) and designed a plat of 35 unique blocks.
The first blocks were planted in 1998 with dormant grafted vines and the first tiny crop of Lollapalooza was produced in 2000! In 2001, a group of us local winemakers successfully earned the Sta. Rita Hills AVA designation. Now world renowned and recognized for its ideal, cool climate for Pinot Noir, this uniquely east-west oriented valley was perfect for Pinot Noir.
96 acres is clearly more than my petite brand wanted to produce, but Fiddlestix provides exactly the quality that Fiddlehead needs and wants. So it was very easy to spread the love to other small, hands-on producers that take it upon themselves to sing the praises of the place. Now there are 14 winemakers that I sell grapes to who share the love of the fruit and join together every harvest to pick the new crop.
Fast forward to today - Fiddlestix Vineyard has grown up and supports incredible Pinot Noir vines that produce wines with charming character year after year. At Fiddlehead, what started out as a tiny crop of Lollapalooza has now evolved into three spectacular Fiddlestix offerings – Seven Twenty Eight, Lollapalooza, and Doyle. From my Vineyard to your glass…Cheers!