There are several clues at Tres Hermanas Winery in California’s Santa Maria Valley that you are among cattle ranchers: the big red barn next to the tasting room (used by the Teixeira family’s ranching forefathers), the miles of ranch land and small herds of animals surrounding the winery, and the mechanical horse proudly displayed in the tasting room (and yes, customers can still ride this horse).
But what you really want to do is taste the wines. There are around 20 small-lot production wines for sale, with 6 on the current tasting sheet. If you get one of the family members behind the bar – it’s not hard to do…Paulette Teixeira, her sister Beverly and her daughters Stacey, Tracey and Marcey (the three sisters) frequently work in the winery – or even better, the wine maker Mark Horvath, ask if anything else is open for tasting.
You won’t be disappointed. Every wine on the sheet is unique, interesting, well-made and highly enjoyable. Exceptional even, especially the 2007 Roussanne – a white Rhone varietal that has been gaining popularity, some of which Luke made with wild yeast – and the 2007 Refosco, a grape native to northern Italy, Croatia and Slovenia and hardly made in California, or in the US at all. Deeper and more complex than a Sangiovese but lighter and easier-to-go-down than a Cab or Syrah, this Refosco is a real find here in Santa Barbara wine country. All these wines are gems.
Mark is intent on doing something different, something new, while retaining all the heritage and traditions of old world wine making. And it shows. Ask for a tour of the winery and vineyards and you’re in for a real treat: learning about terroir, trellising, bud break and shatter, seeing wines in various stages of cold fermentation and aging, and visiting horses, cows and sheep.
In fact, this is still the headquarters for the family cattle operation and if you happen to be enjoying this countryside along Foxen Canyon road on an early spring morning, you could witness a Cattle Branding right here in front of the barn. Cattle will fill the hills with their plaintive moos while young calves are herded into groups, then roped and branded one by one with the JT cattle brand by a host of neighborly ranch hands.
This is cowboy wine country.
- (Also, you can stay the night at Tres Hermanas.)