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This Kendell-Jackson property is located on the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trail and covers more than 1,400 acres. Barbara Banke, along with her spouse, the now-deceased Jess Jackson, established Cambria in 1986 after purchasing what was originally known as the Tepusquet Vineyards. This benchland is located between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Sisquoc River, and was originally denoted as Tepuzli, a Chumash Indian term meaning “copper coin.” Spanish settlers later renamed it Rancho Tepusquet. The original owners of the rancho, part of a 1838 Mexican land grant, were the Olivera family who raised cattle and planted Mission grapes.
According to Salud! The Rise of Santa Barabara’s Wine Industry (Victor Gurachi, 2004), Tepusquet Vineyards was owned by Luis and George Lucas and partner Al Gagnon, and consisted of a 2,700-acre ranch with 1,700 acres of developed vineyard dating to the 1970s. The Lucas brothers eventually fell on hard financial times and decided to sell the ranch. They spurned a generous offer from Beringer because of their concern that Beringer would “bury its quality grapes in their Napa Ridge second label and not give recognition to Santa Barbara County.” By 1985, Kendall-Jackson was producing 63,000 cases of Chardonnay per year from the Santa Barbara County region and Jess Jackson wanted to expand his production of Chardonnay to produce a vintner’s reserve based on Tepusquet Chardonnay grapes. Eventually, the Lucas brothers sold a sizable portion of the Tepusquet Vineyards to Jackson and Banke, who partnered with the Robert Mondavi Winery that valued the Tepusquet Vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Cambria Estate vineyards are located 17 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and sit at 400 to 800 feet above sea level. They are planted in sandy, alluvial soil that is well-drained which limits yields and drives the vines to concentrate their energy on fruit maturation. The cool climate with moderating maritime influences from the east-west orientation of the valley leads to a long growing season and desirable acid retention.
There are currently five estate vineyards at Cambria, with Katherine’s and Julia’s named after Banke’s daughters. Along with Tepusquet Vineyard, these three vineyards supply 90% of the grapes to the winery. A smaller contribution comes from Bench Brake Vineyard and Rae’s Vineyard. The winery is best known for three wines: the Julia’s Pinot Noir, the Katherine’s Chardonnay and the Tepusquet Syrah. Julia’s Vineyard grapes are especially prized by local wineries and grapes have been sold to such notable wineries as Benjamin Silver Wines, Bonaccorsi, Byron, Foxen, Hitching Post, and Lane Tanner.
There are a total of 483 acres of Pinot Noir planted on the Estate including 4, 5, 12, 15, 23 2A, 115, 667, 777, 828, and Julia’s, creating an attractive mix of clonal diversity. Over 300 acres of the Estate are available for future development. All grapes from the Estate are certified sustainable by the CCSW program.
The Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir is a standard bearer for Central Coast Pinot Noir. Anchored by one of the oldest commercial plantings of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County (1974), it contains eight different clones. It is produced in large enough quantities to be widely available in the retail marketplace and is value priced at about $25. What Steve Heimoff said in 2009 holds true today: “Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir is the best Pinot Noir at this price on the market.”
What is less well known and advertised is that Cambria Estate Winery also specializes in limited production, distinct clonal Pinot Noirs. If you have the interest, tasting the clonal Pinot Noirs side-by-side can offer a good education in clonal differences since the wines are vinified in an identical manner. These wines are sold primarily through the winery’s tasting room, to wine club members, and to a mailing list, but you can call the winery at 888-339-9463 for availability.
Denis Shurtleff was appointed winemaker in 2002. She is a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who started her career as a lab technician at Corbett Canyon. She eventually worked her way up to winemaker and spent sixteen years at Corbett Canyon. She then joined winemaker Fred Holloway at Cambria and eventually replaced him. All Cambria wines are grown, produced and bottled on the Estate.
Cambria Wines are well distributed in retail wine stores and supermarkets and can be ordered on the website. The tasting room, located at 5475 Chardonnay Lane, Santa Maria, is open daily from 10-5. The phone is 805-937-8091. A Kendell-Jackson property.
2015 Cambria Fog Tide Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.4% alc., $38. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Sumptuous oak, butter and subtle herbaceousness dominate the citrus oil aroma. Serious extract of citrus and orchard fruits greet the streamlined palate with some, but not overbearing dependence on oak. Rich, but not too rich, with enough vibrancy and freshness to appeal. Score: 90. Reviewed September 24, 2017 ARTICLE »
2015 Cambria West Point Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.61, $38. Aged 9.5 months in 94% French oak barrels, 10% new. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. A strong butter note accompanies aromas of citrus peel, nuts and vanilla. Richly styled and quite succulent on the palate, with flavors of lemon, pear, apple, caramel and honey. Viscous in texture with well integrated acidity. A Caliesque style of Chardonnay that is quite popular. Score: 89. Reviewed September 24, 2017 ARTICLE »
2015 Cambria Element Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.56, $45. Clone 115. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 39% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose is highly aromatic, featuring the scent of black cherry, dark bittersweet chocolate and toasty oak. Welcome attack of black cherry, boysenberry and tar flavors with a quenching finish offering slightly astringent tannins. The wine has definite merit, but the voluptuous oak treatment is not for me personally. Score: 89. Reviewed September 24, 2017 ARTICLE »
2015 Cambria Mesa Terrace Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.57, $45. Clones 2A, 23, 4 and 115. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 62% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Forceful and assertive, with attractive aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackberry, fertile earth and oak-driven dark chocolate and spice. The flavors fill the mouth without over reaching. Mid weight plus in style, with a firm backbone of tannin that keeps the fruit in line. The broadly flavored finish is appealing. Score: 91. Reviewed September 24, 2017 ARTICLE »
2013 Cambria Benchbreak Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.54, $25. From a vineyard situated at 400-800 feet elevation on a bench overlooking the Santa Maria Valley. Produced by sisters and proprietors Julie and Katie Jackson. Clones are Pommard 4, Wädenswil 2A, 23, 667, 115, 777 and “828.” Aged 8 months in French oak barrels, 27% new. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Earthy dark cherry aroma with an overlay of seasoned oak. Polished and juicy in the mouth, with mid weight flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, black tea and anise with conspicuous, slightly drying oak in the background. A like able wine with a backbone of fine gritty tannins and a finish infused with modest but appealing cherry goodness. A solid, quite affordable, everyday Pinot Noir for the dinner table. Score: 89. Reviewed February 26, 2016 ARTICLE »
2012 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.58, $25. An amalgam of different clones and vine ages with some very old vines dating to 1974. Named after proprietor Barbara Banke’s youngest daughter Julia. Clones 4, 2A, 23, 667, 115, 12, 5 and 777. 7-day cold soak, aged 7 months in 20% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish purple hue in the glass. This wine is often one of my favorite value priced offerings, but this edition has too much oak sheen for my taste which is surprising since the percentage of new oak is very modest. The fruit aromas of dark cherry and blackberry are overshadowed by oak. The lovely fruit core of black cherry, blueberry and pomegranate is earth-blessed, but somewhat buried in oak-driven flavors of tobacco and toast. The finish is satisfying but offers a rush of tannin. Another 6 to 12 months in bottle should mitigate some of the tug of oak and soften the tannins. Score: 87. Reviewed April 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
2011 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 34,694 cases, pH 3.59, TA 0.63, $25. Released October 2012. Anchored by one of the oldest commercial plantings of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County. (1974). An amalgam of different clones and vine ages. Clones Pomard 4, Wädenswil, 23, 667, 12, Pommard 5 and 777. Aged 8.5 months in 20% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Perfume of dark red berry jam, mu shu plum sauce and spice. Lighter in this vintage with delicate flavors of dark red cherries and berries and a hint of spice. Solidly crafted but not exciting, and a bit shallow on the finish. Not up to the level of the past few vintages, but still a good value daily drinker that is widely available. Decent. Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 Cambria Estate Winery Bench Break Vineyard Estate Grown and Bottled Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.65, 648 cases, $32. The Bench Break Chardonnay vines were planted in 1971 and a solo bottling first appeared in 1999. Clone is old vine clone 4. Aged 12 months sur lies with twice weekly stirring in 100% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. The nose is appealing with scents of apple, citrus, straw bale, hazelnuts and brown butter. Slightly creamy on the palate with crisp, moderately rich flavors of lemon tart, green apple, lime zest, spice and vanilla. Score: 90. Reviewed October 27, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 Cambria Estate Winery Bench Break Vineyard Estate Grown and Bottled Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.60, 703 cases, $34. Sourced from four blocks that represent a structured fruit expression in contrast to the feminine qualities of the Julia’s Pinot Noir. Clones 667, 2A, 4, 23 and 115. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple robe in the glass. Aromas of oak-kissed black cherry, spice, new leather, anise, sweet smoke and ash. The full-bodied core of black cherry and blackberry fruit makes a statement on the mid palate and hangs on through a generous, long finish. The tannins are fine-grain and reserved and the mouth feel is quite smooth. The dark fruit is impressive, but is currently saddled with too much oak. The wine showed better the following day from a previously opened and re-tasted bottle. I would give this wine another year to allow the oak to better integrate. Score: 89. Reviewed October 27, 2013 ARTICLE »
2010 Cambria Estate Winery Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.54, $25. Clones 4, 2A, 23, 667, 115, 12, 5 and 777. Aged 8 months in 26% new French oak barrels. Week-long cold soak for optimum color and flavor extraction. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Beautifully perfumed with aromas of boysenberry pie glaze, dark cherries, black grapes, spice and just a hint of mocha. Very tasty core of moderately dark red, blue and black berries with an earthy undertone, well-integrated oak and a polished mouth feel. A quintessential Santa Maria Valley wine that has respectable power, good finishing length and enough spirit to be thoroughly satisfying. Very good. Reviewed October 26, 2012 ARTICLE »
2010 Cambria Estate Winery Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.54, $25. Clones 4, 2A, 23, 667, 115, 12, 5 and 777. Aged 8 months in 26% new French oak barrels. Week-long cold soak for optimum color and flavor extraction. · Moderately dark reddishpurple color in the glass. Beautifully perfumed with aromas of boysenberry pie glaze, dark cherries, black grapes, spice and just a hint of mocha. Very tasty core of moderately dark red, blue and black berries with an earthy undertone, well-integrated oak and a polished mouth feel. A quintessential Santa Maria Valley wine that has respectable power, good finishing length and enough spirit to be thoroughly satisfying. Very good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »
2010 Cambria Bench Break Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc, $34. Sourced from the Bench Break Vineyard that has very shallow soils. Although this vineyard usually produces an opulent wine, the wine has more restraint in this vintage. Tasted at the World of Pinot Noir. · The nose is open and expressive with scents of fresh red and black cherries and berries. The fresh fruit flavors are enhanced by an earthy, grilled mushroom riff. Very smooth on the palate with restrained tannins and a bright black cherry finish. I like this a lot. Very good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »
2010 Cambria Estate Winery Clone 115 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.50, 261 cases, $52. Aged 10 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Subdued, but likable aromas of dark cherries, berries and spice. An appealing rush of dark red fruits saturates the entry, expands in the mouth, and finishes extremely long and powerful. Hints of herbs and edible flowers add interest. Lithe, with supple tannins and appealing crispness. Very good. Reviewed October 26, 2012 ARTICLE »
2010 Cambria Estate Winery Clone 4 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.57, 262 cases, $52. Aged 10 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. A complex and alluring nose offers scents of black cherries, spice, wood shop, mushroom and sandalwood. Polished and very appealing with impeccable balance, offering flavors of fresh, spicy black cherries, with a hint of toasty oak in the background. Lavish, seductive and satiny, this is pure pleasure. Given a choice, I always seem to prefer single Pommard clone wines over single Dijon clone wines. Reviewed October 26, 2012 ARTICLE »
2010 Cambria Estate Winery Clone 667 Barbara’s Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.65, $80. The winery’s pinnacle wine made from owner Barbara Banke’s favorite grape. Aged 10.5 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very subdued aromas of black raspberries, aged wine cellar and oak. Rich, dense and deeply flavored with copious amounts of black raspberry and blackberry fruit and a riff of complimentary oak spice in the background. The lush fruit extract is somewhat buried in the structural tannins and the wine will need more time in the bottle to correct this. The finish is of special note with the dark fruited aromatics returning for several extended encores. This is a Cabernet drinker’s Pinot that is bit over the top for me, but is very well made in its style. Solid now, but may deserve more accolades in a few years. Good. Reviewed October 26, 2012 ARTICLE »
2007 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $25. · More deeply colored than the 2006 vintage. Bright scents of cherries, strawberries, and oak toast and spice. A little riper and richer than the 2006 version with dark red cherry, berry and plum flavors augmented by a subtle loamy underpinning and a refreshing lift of acidity on the finish. Plenty of structure and intensity to satisfy and the soft tannins make for easy sipping. Very good (-). Reviewed February 15, 2010 ARTICLE »
2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Estate Bottled Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $20. This well known vineyard is located at the western end of the Cambria Estate on the Santa Maria Bench 17 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Named for the owner’s youngest daughter. · Deep red color. Highly nuanced nose of cherries, strawberries, oak, cinnamon and green grass. Light strawberry and cherry flavors with a touch of savory herbs and a grassy finish. Decent acidity and very soft tannins. An easy drinker which will perform well at the dinner table. Reviewed May 7, 2009 ARTICLE »
2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., The winery’s signature Pinot Noir comes from a vineyard named after the owner’s daughter. The label says, “cherry, strawberry, cinnamon, vanilla” and the label is right on. Multiple clones. Aged in 30% new French oak. The winemaker is Denise Shurtleff. · Red fruit driven wine that is light red in color and elegant in design. Plenty of strawberry flavor and attractive spice and vim. Easy and very approachable, this is a daily “go-to” meal time Pinot. Reviewed March 3, 2008 ARTICLE »
2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $25. · Lovely Pinot perfume of cherries, strawberries, brown spice and cinnamon which loses some intensity in the glass over time. Tasty cherry and strawberry fruit offered in a moderately light style with supple tannins, bright acidity and a lingering red cherry and lemon toned finish. Highly drinkable and a perfect daily drinker. Very good (-). Reviewed February 15, 2010 ARTICLE »