Brick Barn Wine Estate stands at a winegrowing frontier unto itself in the western Santa Ynez Valley. Since the 1800s, our property has been a place of farming, ranching, equestrianism and entrepreneurship. We now fulfill its destiny as a premium wine estate.
Our estate vineyard is located on a historic 1,100-acre ranch. It was here in the early 1970s that Italian stonemason Carmello Valente created a masterwork: a 36-stall Arabian horse barn made from hand-laid red bricks. This barn endures as an achievement of artistic and physical exertion, with each brick signifying a determined attention to detail. Fittingly, we have restored Carlo’s original brickwork to serve as the centerpiece of the estate experience—and as a touchstone for all that we do.
The 35-acre Brick Barn estate vineyard lies just north of the Santa Ynez River in a largely unexplored winegrowing corridor near the city of Buellton.
The vineyard’s south-facing orientation is unique in our area. With the Pacific Ocean just 10 miles away, the marine influence is forceful yet solar exposure remains persistent—a providential combination that produces fruit with extraordinary dimension.
White varieties are planted to the river basin, where sandy soils produce assertive aromas and tenacious acidity. Red varieties unfold along an upper highland, where rocky loam and limestone soils impart qualities of intensity and finesse.
The back hills of our historic ranch remain untamed, inhabited by ancient oaks, wild pigs, red tail hawks and other wildlife. We farm our vineyard with an unconditional respect for nature, and we believe that the native beauty of this land speaks through our wines.
Brick Barn Wine Estate belongs to the legacy of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata dating back to California’s rancho era. Rancho San Carlos de Jonata was a 26,634-acre Mexican land grant that stretched from west of Mission Santa Inés in the Santa Ynez Valley, and extended north from the Santa Ynez River along Zaca Creek- now called Solvang and Buellton.
Brick Barn Wine Estate founder Norman Williams acquired 40 acres in 1969, and shortly thereafter purchased an adjacent 1,100 acres of the original Buell Ranch. As an Army veteran originally from Nebraska and now a bootstrapping entrepreneur based in Southern California, Norman was ready for a new challenge. Inspired by his first wife’s love of equestrianism, he embarked on creating a world-class Arabian horse farm, replete with a 36-stall brick barn. Beyond its distinctive split-face brick and redwood beams, the barn was artfully marked by a mid-century modern roofline at its entrance.
Fast forward through the decades. With the once-thriving horse industry in the Santa Ynez Valley having dwindled, Norman and his wife Kathy cultivated a new passion for growing grapes—and now for making wine. The brick barn has been reimagined as a winery and gathering place. Other portions of the ranch continue to be dedicated to organic vegetable farming and cattle ranching.
The guiding philosophy of our wines is the same as the one behind the brick barn itself: “We just like quality,” Norman says.
Ranging from cool and foggy in the west to warm and dry in the east, the Santa Ynez Valley is a climatically diverse growing area. The most expansive AVA within the larger Santa Barbara County region, Santa Ynez is also home to a wide variety of soil types and geographical features. The appellation is further divided into four distinct sub-AVAs—Sta. Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos District and Happy Canyon—each with its own defining characteristics.
A wide selection of grapes is planted here—more than sixty different varieties, and counting. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir dominate in the chilly west, while Zinfandel, Rhône blends, and Bordeaux blends rule the arid east. Syrah is successful at both ends of the valley, with a lean and peppery, Old-World sensibility closer to the coast and lush berry fruit further inland.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”