Michael Larner has been thrown some curve balls as he has worked to build the future of Larner Vineyard and Winery. The vision for this family legacy was to be an estate winery with a tasting room and some events. When they took this business plan to the county, the neighbors revolted. So they worked to be dynamic in dealing with these issues, continuing with the vineyard, opening a wine tasting room in Los Olivos and then Michael created the Buellton Bodegas.
The Vision – The future of Larner Vineyard and Winery
The property in Ballard Canyon, has a barn, which they hope in the future be able to turn into a winery, and a small General Store building and turning it into a tasting room. They are currently asking for an 8000 case production for the winery, the tasting room and then 4 events each year which all would be shuttled. This is the vision, so people can come and see the source.
How to deal with the Curve Balls
In the meantime, in Los Olivos you will find the Los Olivos General Store which Michael and his wife run, along with their Larner Wine tasting room. In Buellton, Michael has created the Buellton Bodegas. After working out of other wineries for a bit, he was looking for a space where he could close the door and crank his music while working. He was not alone in his need for this. So…went out looking for a 2000 square foot space and he found a 30,000 square foot space in Buellton where he could chop it up into 9 different spaces for wineries with a community space. He formed a cooperative, took a master lease on the building and then leased out all 9 spaces. He purchased equipment for processing that is communal for all the wineries, but then they all have their separate space and equipment like pumps and hoses, so that they can do their own temperature control and they have stability in their zone, which is essential to winemakers.
The Community Spirit in the Santa Barbara Wine Region
We spoke about the community spirit in the Santa Barbara Valley. Just as the vineyards in Ballard Canyon have bonded together to make Ballard Canyon AVA a recognized name, all the vineyards in Santa Barbara County are of a like mind to call attention to this amazing region where you can find some of the most phenomenal wines in the world reasonably priced. Santa Barbara sits right in LA’s backyard, and maybe as such it is taken for granted. They often find people stopping in on their way to Paso Robles.
This area is like Burgundy with the smaller wineries, where as Napa is more like Bordeaux with the big wine houses. As Michael said, if you head into Flatbreads in Los Almos, 10 out of every 100 people that walk in there are winemakers. This is still a community that is bound together by wanting people to know about the great wine that they produce. Sadly 75% of the grapes grown in the Santa Barbara Valley, leave the valley to be bought up by bigger wineries outside the area and blended into their wines. The County loses revenue as well as dilutes the name of Santa Barbara County for wines. You probably drink more Santa Barbara wine than you realize, it’s just blended in with some big name wine company and is labeled with the ambiguous “California” wine on the label.
Enjoy the video and make your way to Santa Barbara and taste some of these amazing wines, in places where you are likely to be able to speak with the winemaker. In the future as more people discover this overlooked area…it may get busier and these wines harder to get ahold of.
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