Though it’s hard to imagine California as a stronghold for Riesling production, there were quite a few acres dedicated to the variety before the whims of the market saw those vines uprooted for the likes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But in a small corner of the state—the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys—some 40-plus-year-old vineyards remain, and in the early 2000s, they caught the attention of a young aspiring winemaker who had been assisting in local cellars since high school. Inspired by the grape’s capacity to convey nuance and minerality, Graham Tatomer sought a harvest internship in the Wachau with Austrian wine master Emmerich Knoll in 2003, in tandem with his work for Adam Tolmach of the Ojai Vineyard. That ten-week contract evolved into a 4-year engagement, a lifelong friendship and an intimate understanding of both growing and making Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.

In 2008, Tatomer founded his winery with one Riesling vineyard, making two bone-dry Austrian-esque versions with a unique Santa Barbara signature. He gradually added two Grüners and some lively, delicate Pinot Noir as quality plantings became available, working closely with the growers to farm the fruit to his own exacting standards. In the Austrian tradition, he picks in multiple passes through the vineyard and has made a name for himself for pure yet phenolic, textured whites unlike any other produced in the state.



The Wines

Paragon Grüner Veltliner

variety: grüner veltliner soil type: marl, quartz, limestone avg vine age: 10 years

Paragon is a single vineyard in the northern part of Edna Valley. With its cool, Pacific exposure, it yields a Grüner that’s laden with vibrant mineral and herbal tones. Graham Tatomer ferments the wine in stainless steel and ages it in a combination of stainless steel (85%) and 500-liter acacia casks (15%), bottling in late winter/early spring following the harvest. 200 cases produced

Vandenberg Riesling

variety: riesling soil type: sandy loam avg vine age: 18 years

Most of the fruit for this wine comes from Kick-on Ranch, a site located one mile from the Vandenberg Air Force Base (hence the name). It’s picked in 2 to 3 passes and includes a higher percentage of botrytis than the other Tatomer Rieslings, resulting in a richer, more fruit-driven palate.

Kick-on Ranch Riesling

variety: riesling soil type: sandy loam avg vine age: 18 years

Kick-on Ranch, located in western Los Alamos, is the coldest vineyard Graham Tatomer works with. Cold Pacific winds here act like a natural air conditioner, keeping the vines dry and allowing for a longer hang time. Only the innermost clusters of the highest density plantings are selected for this vineyard designate, and they see a bit of skin contact and aging in neutral wood—a process Tatomer refers to as the “full Austrian treatment”. Bottled in August following the vintage and aged an additional year in bottle before release.

Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

variety: pinot noir soil type: sand & sandy loam avg vine age: 15 years

This multi-clonal blend includes fruit from the biodynamic Duravita site and two other sustainably- farmed, hand-harvested vineyards: John Sebastiano and Kick-on Ranch. It is fermented using 50% whole clusters, aged 12 months in neutral French oak and bottled without fining or filtration.


Tatomer in the News


Santa Barbara Is Making Some of California's Most Exciting New Wines Read More…


The essential producers, wines and methods that define the “alt” branch of New California. Read More…


California Riesling’s popularity, and quality, return Read More…


Winemaker to Watch: Graham Tatomer Read More…