When Fred and Linda Rice and their three children moved in 1989 from Santa Barbara to a peaceful 55-acre Santa Ynez ranch to grow wine grapes, little did they know that they would end up happily presiding over one of the largest organic vineyard estates in Santa Barbara County. Today, Sunstone Vineyards and Winery devotes its entire 55 acre estate to organic grape growing. The Rices’ sun-dapple... Read more
When Fred and Linda Rice and their three children moved in 1989 from Santa Barbara to a peaceful 55-acre Santa Ynez ranch to grow wine grapes, little did they know that they would end up happily presiding over one of the largest organic vineyard estates in Santa Barbara County. Today, Sunstone Vineyards and Winery devotes its entire 55 acre estate to organic grape growing. The Rices’ sun-dappled acreage, planted to Rhone and Bordeaux varietals, meets all California Certified Organic Farmer (C.C.O.F.) standards.
The Rice family, along with consulting winemaker Daniel Gehrs, have become adept at growing organic fruit and producing high-quality estate wines. Before coming to Sunstone, Gehrs created a Syrah for Zaca Mesa Winery that was heralded by Wine Spectator as one of the top ten wines in the world.
Fred and Linda, along with son Bion, who is now President of the winery, and daughters Ashley and Brittany, originally chose the terraced site overlooking the Santa Ynez River for its ideal south-sloping exposure, its sandy, rocky soil, and a microclimate that features early morning fog, warm, breezy afternoons, and cool evenings. It proved to be a fortuitous choice, as they soon discovered that it was a perfect spot for the growing of top-notch organic grapes and enjoying a country lifestyle.
“Our goal was to create a place where wine and food could be enjoyed in a picturesque atmosphere,” says Linda Rice. “Camaraderie and a sense of sharing is so much a part of this lifestyle. All of our interests, from environmental preservation and organic growing, to the celebration of food, family, and friends have come together here at Sunstone. We have found our home.”
The site of the winery was originally a horse barn, which was seriously damaged when an oak tree fell on it after heavy rains and winds. Thanks to that storm, Sunstone now has one of the most attractive wineries and tasting rooms in the Santa Ynez Valley. Aromas of French lavender and rosemary greet visitors as they approach the winery’s inviting courtyard and tasting room.
The architecture recalls wineries in the Provencal countryside, and the relaxed ambiance in the tasting room includes a kitchen complete with wood-burning oven. Over 5,000 square feet of stone barrel-aging caves are built into the hillside. Winemaker dinners and other special events are held in the tasting room, caves, and courtyard year-round.
Bion Rice recommends experiencing Sunstone wines at the winery. “Tasting our wines is tasting the terroir of this special place,” he says. “As you walk in, you are surrounded by the soils and the vines that create our wines. You can feel the temperate winds that sweep between the rows, creating the perfect climate for Bordeaux and Rhone varietal grapes. Our goal is to capture the true essence of this vineyard in your glass.”
Sunstone is renowned for its Rhone varietals, including Viognier, which received a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Wine Competition, and their unique Syrah that rated 90 Points at the Wine Enthusiast’s Beverage Testing Institute. Highly acclaimed “Eros”, a Meritage blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, has earned Best of Class at the Los Angeles County Fair, and also received 90 Points in Wine Enthusiast. Sunstone has also been honored by the Santa Barbara Independent reader poll as "Santa Barbara's Favorite Red Wine" for the last three years in a row. Read less