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episode 3: the heart of SB



Photography for Episode 3 by the lovely Summer Staeb (unless otherwise noted)

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Jim Clendenen

One of the lions of the wine industry, Jim Clendenen, the “Mind Behind” Au Bon Climat since 1982, was essential, early on, in elevating Burgundian varietals on California’s Central Coast, and continues to be a driving force. He has cultivated an international reputation for balanced, classically styled Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, sourcing grapes from several highly regarded vineyards including Clendenen’s own Le Bon Climat Vineyard, and estate plantings at the legendary Bien Nacido Vineyard – both in the Santa Maria Valley appellation of Santa Barbara County. Among Jim’s accolades he has been named Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine Magazine; one of the Fifty Most Influential Winemakers by Wine & Spirits Magazine; one of the Fifty World Wide Creators of Modern Classic Wine by Oz Clark; inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who; and deemed One of the Best Wineries in the World by Robert Parker.

Mikey and Gina Guigni

Mikey and Gina Giugni are a husband and wife team that operate two brands respectively, Scar of the Sea and Lady of the Sunshine, out of their winery in San Luis Obispo, CA.  Mikey works with local vineyards and farmers to source grapes for Scar of the Sea and Gina farms the 6.5 acre Chene Vineyard in Edna Valley using biodynamic farming practices.  Both Scar of the Sea and Lady of the Sunshine reflect Mikey and Gina's intentions to make wine with minimal intervention.  The wines are inspired by less is more, using native yeast, natural acidity, and neutral oak to reflect the vineyard sites they farm, work with, and care for.


(photo by Summer Staeb)


Matt Kettmann

Matt Kettmann is a senior editor of the Santa Barbara Independent, where he's worked for 20 years, and a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast, where he reviews more than 200 wines each month and covers the culinary culture of the Central Coast and Southern California. A fifth generation Californian originally from San Jose, Matt has also written for the New York Times, Smithsonian, Wine Spectator, and many other publications both regional and international in scope. He will soon publish Vines & Vision: The Winemakers of Santa Barbara County, a groundbreaking, 600-page project with photographer Macduff Everton, and continues to make small batches of wine in most vintages under the name Periodista.

Pete Stolpman

Pete is partners with his wife Jessica at Stolpman Vineyards. The two met while both working at a Southern California wine distributor.

Pete left their employer to take over Stolpman Vineyards in early 2009. First, he took back the majority of the vineyard for wine production rather than selling the fruit to other winemakers as his father, Tom, had done.  Once his first vintage was in barrel, Pete augmented the Cuadrilla profit sharing program to 10% of all bottles produced.  Never idle, Pete continued improvements in the winery, including custom concrete and carbonic fermenting tanks.  In the vineyard, Pete is most proud of the new 6,000 vine/acre “Great Places” Syrah vineyards.

Back in the early years circa 2009, Jessica supported Pete, financially and otherwise, as he tried to sustain the then fledgling winery.  Once they got married in July of 2013, Jessica left her day job, and took over management of California for Stolpman Vineyards.  Today, she balances running Stolpman’s largest wholesale market with raising Jessica and Pete’s two young sons, August and Otto.  As a little boy, Omar Solorzano called Jessica “La Princessa” and one day soon her own wine project may be announced.


Photo courtesy of Stolpman Vineyards


Photo by Summer Staeb

Ruben Solorzano

The always theorizing and experimenting Vineyard Manager at Stolpman since 1994, Ruben was crowned “the Grape Whiserer” by Wine Enthusiast Journalist Matt Kettmann.  Via Ruben’s vineyard management company, he controls not only his home Stolpman Vineyards, but also several of the best sites from the Western edge of STA Rita Hills through Happy Canyon.  On top of his natural farming prowess, Ruben is one of the most lovable and loving humans on the planet AND he is August and Otto Stolpman’s Godfather “Padrino”.

While Ruben farms many different vineyards, his wife, Maria, concentrates solely on the day-to-day operation here on their home ranch, Stolpman Vineyards.  Because of her importance, the Solorzano and Stolpman families named their partnership brand “Para Maria” – for Maria.   Daughter Marissa has become an accountant while Omar is still causing trouble in elementary school.  One often encounters Omar and his dog Rex playing near the Solorzano family home on the vineyard.

Matt Dees

There are some people who are educated toward certain positions in life and others who are born to assume them—and Matt Dees is what you’d call a natural winemaker.


Armed with a degree in soil science from the university of Vermont and vintages at Staglin in Napa, California and Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, Matt has an intrinsic feel for wine, from dirt to glass. Curious, earthy and experimental by nature, Matt’s approach to winemaking is grounded in the vineyard (pun intentional) first and foremost: attuned to the vines, the weather, the soil, Matt seems almost to be a part of the vineyard itself. Not being bound by the conventions of the enological world of academia (no degree in winemaking here) has allowed Matt to come to an untethered philosophy of wine. Where Jonata is concerned, this is an important point: Jonata is an unconventional place that requires an unconventional, open mind to bring it to life.


Lastly, Matt has another very concrete talent: a keen feel for the shapes and dimension of tannin. Listening to him discuss the tannin elements found in Jonata wines is like listening to Buckminster Fuller describe the geodesic dome (which he invented), or like listening to the daring polyphonic construction of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos. Dees is a winemaker who’s emotionally and intellectually connected to structure, texture and tannin and explores these elements deeply in his wines.

Matt Dees Hilt Photo.JPG

Photo courtesy of The Hilt



Summer Staeb

Summer was born and raised in Southern California where she currently resides. Her work evokes a sense of nostalgia for times past, days well spent, and the moments that bring people together. She shoots lifestyle, event, fine art and travel photography. Most of her work is shot on 35mm and medium format film. (Summer shot the beautiful photos that accompany Episode 3 that provide a visual component to our journey).

The Salty Strings

Coming out of the coastal mountain town of Santa Barbara, CA, Salty Strings is a 5-piece string band setting out to transcend the boundaries of traditional bluegrass music. Sprinkling in notes of latin and jazz and adding percussive elements, this untraditional band puts on an engaging live performance filled with fast-picking originals and old-timey favorites. You can often find them playing their instruments along a coastal bluff as the sun is setting,
​their strings ever so salty.


This episode is brought to you in part by All American Drilling Incorporated. All American Drilling and their subsidiary, Fisher Pump and Well service are based in Santa Maria CA and provide well, hydroengineering, and geologic services to agricultural, municipal, commercial, and residential customers in the Central and Southern Coastal areas of CA

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