Though it’s hard to imagine California as a stronghold for Riesling production, there were quite a few acres dedicated to the variety before the whims of the market saw those vines uprooted for the likes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But in a small corner of the state—the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys—some 40-plus-year-old vineyards remain, and in the early 2000s, they caught the attention of a young aspiring winemaker who had been assisting in local cellars since high school. Inspired by the grape’s capacity to convey nuance and minerality, Graham Tatomer sought a harvest internship in the Wachau with Austrian wine master Emmerich Knoll in 2003, in tandem with his work for Adam Tolmach of the Ojai Vineyard. That ten-week contract evolved into a 4-year engagement, a lifelong friendship and an intimate understanding of both growing and making Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.
In 2008, Tatomer founded his winery with one Riesling vineyard, making two bone-dry Austrian-esque versions with a unique Santa Barbara signature. He gradually added two Grüners and some lively, delicate Pinot Noir as quality plantings became available, working closely with the growers to farm the fruit to his own exacting standards. In the Austrian tradition, he picks in multiple passes through the vineyard and has made a name for himself for pure yet phenolic, textured whites unlike any other produced in the state.
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