The story of Refugio Ranch is the story of California. One among many, but quintessential in its nature.
For thousands of years this land was the domain of the Chumash. The first Spaniards arrived in the area in 1769, led by Don Gaspar de Portolá. Among Portolá’s men was a Sergeant named José Francisco de Ortega. When Ortega retired several years later, he petitioned the King of Spain for a land grant of a particularly stunning stretch of coastline west of Santa Barbara. He named this swath of land “Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio” or the “Ranch of Our Lady of Refuge.” The original Refugio Ranch.
Ortega's 26,529 acre ranch stretched from Cojo Canyon in the west to Refugio Canyon in the east. If one follows Refugio Canyon from the sea, up and over the Santa Ynez Mountains, you arrive at our present-day Refugio Ranch. Our 415 acre estate is nestled into the north face of the Santa Ynez Mountains, with a mile of the Santa Ynez River snaking through the property. For hundreds of years this land was used for cattle grazing. The Gleason Family has opened a new chapter for Refugio Ranch, trading cattle for grapes. Although we know deep down that we are merely stewards of the land, and we promise to honor the spirit and legacy that is Refugio Ranch.
"You can't divorce the meaning of life from the experience of it."
- Kevin Gleason, Proprietor
In the middle of life's journey, Kevin Gleason found himself searching for the possibility of a vineyard. For two years, he wandered the Earth looking for something that even now he can only describe as terroir - an alchemy of place and climate that he and his family could steward and fully engage with in pursuit of making quality wines. In November of 2004, the Gleason's purchased Refugio Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, CA. Why?
Like the Rhone Valley, Refugio Ranch encompasses two unique microclimates. A mile of the Santa Ynez River snakes through the Ranch bringing with it centuries of sandy, alluvial soil, along with the natural flow of cool air combined with ocean breezes to create an ideal climate for growing white Rhone varietals and Sauvignon Blanc. As you climb out of the river valley into the hillsides of the Santa Ynez Mountains, one finds entirely different conditions. Dense clay and rock prevail on the Ranch slopes with temperatures conducive to growing complex and unique Rhone red varietals. What better place to start a vineyard?
Out of the four hundred and fifteen acres of the Ranch, twenty six were carefully selected as premium terroir and brought under cultivation. Under the watchful tutelage of our Vineyard Manager, Ruben Solorzano, Refugio Ranch now produces Rhone varietals and Sauvignon Blanc of stunning character and concentration. First comes terroir, next comes the fruit and finally, the wine ~ and to make great wine you need a great winemaker.
"You cannot separate terroir from people."
- Ryan Devolet, Winemaker
With the first harvest due in 2008, the Gleason family invited Ryan Deovlet to make their wine. Ryan's expertise came from his love of winemaking combined with his experience in working initially with California winemakers, then branching out to Australia in the Mornington Peninsula at Turramurra Estate, and ending up in Mendoza, Argentina working with Paul Hobbs at Viña Cobos. That's where we found him. Ryan's spirit, energy and love of craft seemed to be the perfect partner for bringing this new land into production, making him an ideal addition to the terroir of Refugio Ranch.
"Everywhere else, the story was already written."
- Kevin Gleason
In the Central Coast, there’s a real pioneering spirit among winemakers and premium winemaking. It's exciting, collaborative, inspiring and authentic. We're bringing together God's own madmen to give this land a voice through the wines we make, and we are honored to share them with you.