Back to the Future at Babcock Winery
Bryan Babcock annotates a wooden crate filled with wine grapes already harvested

Here in California, a lot of really cool things have been started in a garage. Heck, this device I’m writing this on was dreamed up in one. So it’s not all that surprising that one of the wineries Grapeline frequents is home to a vintner who started his journey in a bathtub.

Bryan Babcock, the only American named to a list of “Top Ten Small Production Winemakers in the World” by the James Beard Foundation, fermented his first cuvée in the bathtub of his UC Davis student apartment—from grapes that he’d stolen in the dark of night. The friend who helped him orchestrate the heist wasn’t a fan of the end result, but that did nothing to deter Babcock who has, since then, spent every day perfecting his approach to crafting some of the best wine in the Santa Barbara region.

In his 4th decade as a vintner, Babcock feels like he’s making wine that approaches the vision he’s had all along. Some of it, like his 'micro vineyard' Pinot Noirs, are extremely experimental. Others, like the 2014 Babcock Chenin Blanc, are much more classic in style. But what’s really raising the eyebrows of fellow vintners is the fact that Babcock is transforming the way grapes are grown.

I’m not even going to pretend that I understand the science behind Revolutionary Farming™, but it has something to do with canopy pivoting and shade throttling, which leads to gains in wine quality, and is definitely considered the cutting edge of wine evolution.

While their winemaking methods offer, potentially, a glimpse into the future of the craft, the tasting room at Babcock serves up a colorful look back in time.

Bryan’s wife, Lisa, designed the funky winery tasting room in vintage chic and then just kept on going. Now the tasting room also features eclectic vintage goods for sale along with an impressive collection of vinyl. The result is a Rock ‘n Roll retro fantasyland... where you can taste exemplary wines.

Stop by for a tasting and bring a picnic to while away the afternoon on the gorgeous property, or stay a few days in the Babcock Vintner’s House which is available for rent. The rental fee includes a free wine tasting and a 20% discount on any wine purchased during the stay.

So, to recap, cutting edge wine crafted by a man on a mission. Funky, retro location where you might find some cherished doodad from yesteryear. Cute cottage where someone who is into music, wine, and vintage goods can escape to for a few days.

According to Lisa, Babcock’s message is to:

  savor the past


live in the present

While writing this blog, I finished two glasses of Babcock's 2014 Deja Vu Pinot Noir. Message received, Lisa.


~ Kay Syrah

Wine Country Guru Gal

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