Our estate vineyard, Fe Ciega, was established in 1998. Originally planted to 7.75 acres with three clones of Pinot Noir, we added an additional 1.25 acres of Pinot Noir and .75 acres of Chardonnay in June 2008. The vineyard is situated on a small mesa about 350 feet above the Santa Ynez River in the middle of a 40 acre ranch owned by Hank and Brenda Klehn. Located at the end of Sweeney Road about 8 miles east of the Lompoc city limits, it is at the western end of the Santa Rita Hills viticultural appellation. The combination of the cool climate, clay loam soil with shale fragments, and gentle southern exposure all combine to produce intense, concentrated Pinot Noirs.
From the first vintage in 2001, it was clear to me that this was a special site for Pinot Noir production. The wines have had a distinct personality which sets them apart from other Sta. Rita Hills wines. They take on different nuances with each vintage, but the core personality comes through each year. Fe Ciega Pinot Noirs have an interesting sage-like herbal character behind the more typical black cherry and blackberry aromas. On the palate the wines tend to be quite intense, with strong but smooth tannins and strong acidity. They have often been described as masculine. We are excited about our Chardonnay planting which is located immediately next to Sweeney Canyon Vineyard. That vineyard has produced many outstanding wines for the Longoria label as well as others. This planting, first harvested in 2011, provides us with an opportunity to produce classically-styled Chardonnay from our estate vineyard. Our small planting of Chardonnay produced some outstanding vintages of wine before the vines became infected with the virus, Pierce’s Disease. Our last vintage of Fe Ciega Chardonnay was in 2015 and the vines have since been pulled out.
In 2003, I decided to sell a few tons of Fe Ciega grapes to a longtime friend and a winemaker for whom I have tremendous respect, Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards. Adam has a great feel for vineyard sites and as soon as he saw Fe Ciega for the first time, he didn’t hesitate to sign up for grapes. Adam feels Fe Ciega makes one of his top if not top Pinot Noir each year. In 2011 I decided to sell some of our Pinot Noir grapes to another good friend and esteemed winemaker, Bill Wathen of Foxen Winery.
In 2020, Hank and Brenda Klehn, from whom I have leased Fe Ciega since 1998, let me know that they wished to sell the property. I notified my two friends and winemakers, Adam Tolmach and Bill Wathen, who currently purchase Fe Ciega Pinot Noir, about this sale. Adam immediately expressed interest in purchasing it. The sale was concluded in January 2021 and Adam and Helen Tolmach are now the owners of this property. The Klehns, and Diana and I, can’t think of a more appropriate winemaker to take over the stewardship of this vineyard. We feel the legacy this vineyard and its future are in great hands and I look forward to continue working with the grapes from our beloved Fe Ciega Vineyard.