The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is one of California’s coolest (in both senses!) regions for elegant, precise, and complex Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, and one of the most exciting Estates is John and Gill Wagner’s Peake Ranch Winery. Their stunning wines have attracted a huge following, and serious critical acclaim.
Owned by PhD Physicist and Hegde Fund Manager, John Wagner, and his wife Gill, Peake Ranch Winery has gone from strength to strength in just a short time, to become one of Santa Barbara County’s leading names. While the first vintage was 2014, the land has a prestigious history.
The Peake Ranch Vineyard surrounding the winery was previously home to the Sandford Winery, owned by pioneering vintner Robert Sandford. It was here that he and a few other regional legends developed what was to become the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in the 1990s – it’s literally the birthplace of the area surrounding it! The land was purchased by the Wagners in 2012, and developed in the stunning site and winery that stand there today.
Their vinous tail starts earlier, though, with John’s purchase in the early 2000s of the Sierra Madre Vineyard, around 30 miles north in the Santa Maria Valley. He has since developed it into one of the most coveted sources of the high-quality fruit, especially the Chardonnay.
In 2008, John entered into a partnership to develop 150 acres of land in the east of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, that was to become the John Sebastiano Vineyard. It is renowned as a ‘Grand Cru’ for Pinot Noir fruit.
Having simply farmed the land to this point, John and Gill hired renowned winemaker Paul Lato to craft their first ever vintage as vintners with their 2014 release, under their new Peak Ranch Winery brand, and the rest is history.
Located on the eastern end of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA on Santa Rosa Road, Peake Ranch is a 43 hectare parcel with 20 hectares under vine. The combination sloped with of 360 degrees of aspect coupled with the exposure to varying degrees of the cool wind give the vineyard a diversity of fruit flavour profiles that is unique for a ranch of our size.
John Sebastiano Vineyard is located on the eastern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The raised elevation of this vineyard exposes this spot to an extra dose of the winds that the region is famous for. Cool nights and constant wind make for grapes that show great concentration.
Sierra Madre is located on the western side of the Santa Maria Valley, around 50 miles north of the winery, where it benefits from cool summers. the Peake Ranch block is a south-facing hillside comprised of sandy, well-drained soil. The Robert Young clones that grow here take advantage of the spot to become both fully ripe and at the same time retain a high level of acidity.
The vineyards are managed by a true West Coast icon among wineries, Michael Anderson. Michael spent most of his life in vineyards, and viticulture is both a profession and avocation. He grew up working in his family’s grape nursery leading to an early interest in viticulture. After finishing his education at UC Davis, Michael served as a researcher, author and educator at his alma mater for 30+ years. He was also vineyard manager for the University’s legendary Oakville Station in Napa. He joined the Peake team in 2017.
Wynne Solomon grew up in Sonoma County, in the town of Windsor, and fell in love with the wine culture there. She moved down to the Central Coast to study Wine and Viticulture at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo in 2010. She began making wine with Stephen Ross Winery in the Edna Valley and moved down to the Sta. Rita Hills to continue pursuing cool climate winemaking with Melville Winery. She worked with Paul Lato in blending the 2017 vintage and made the 2018 vintage hand in hand with him. She joined the Peake Ranch team in 2018, and inaugurated the new winery and tasting room with the 2019 harvest. Her vision for Peake Ranch is to focus on the unique attributes of this area while emphasising balance in Californian wines.