During a recent visit to Fred Brander Winery to celebrate the annual and renowned Argentine BBQ, I not only enjoyed one amazing BBQ luncheon, prepared by Fred, his son Nicholas and two devoted friends, but learned of Fred Brander’s recent efforts to turn the January 9 Montecito tragedy into a heart warming labor of love that would ensure hope springs forth form heartbreak in the form of a new wine varietal.
The Oak Creek flood ran right through the award winning wine makers property in Montecito following the Thomas Fire, and when the rain came, the water crushed down the creek bed leaving 900 tons of mud, rock and rich ash nutrient soil piled behind his home. The disastrous mudflow that so tragically hit Montecito gave Fred Brander, referred to as the “King of California Sauvignon” the brainstorm idea that in the aftermath of the flood he would take what Mother Nature threw at his community and turn it into a future blessing at his Vineyard at 2401 N. Refugio Road in Santa Ynez Valley.

Brander Vineyard

Fred decided to re-use the debris from the storm hoping to bring about three major changes including clean up the area around his neighborhood in Montecito; help the county by moving tons of debris to an alternative site and, help his wines by enriching the soil for wine growth. Brander is using the soil on his Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and in late 2019 he hopes to release the wine from these ‘grapes of wrath’ so to speak, with a portion of the proceeds going back into the Montecito rebuilding effort. Brander’s winemaker Fabian Bravo seemed very enthusiastic about the soil for these vines, and indicated a wall of rock is scheduled to be built around the 42 acre property using the sorted out rocks brought from Montecito that will lend to the Brander landscape.

Chef Wally, Fred Brander & son Nicholas cooking Argintine BBQ

Born and raised in Buenos Aires, he attended university in Argentina, Sweeden, France and England. His family immigrated to the US, settling in Santa Barbara in 1975. After graduation, with a master’s degree in food science from UC Davis, his father Karl strongly supported him to buy land near the eastern end of Santa Ynez Valley to ensure a climate and soil suited to Bordeaux grape varieties.

Brander Rose All Day

While I was photographing the vines during my visit to the vinyard, where the new soil is being distributed, I noticed a commemorative plaque honoring Fred Brander’s father Karl Eric Brander, who passed away in 2010. I think it’s a given that the Brander men who came before Fred are surely in the happy vineyard in the sky feeling very proud of the legacy he continues to give the wine industry of California. Brander has been a leader in the push to qualify his region as a separate viticulture area, and his petition to the federal government was approved in 2016 when the Los Olivdos District AVA was established.

Delicious Brander Argentine BBQ

The most recent of Fred Branders many recognitions was awarded in May of 2018 when The Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation honored Fred Brander at the Santa Barbara Wine Auction as Vintner of the Year for his vision and dedication identifying, developing and promoting the Santa Barbara County premier wine region.

Cabernet Sauvignon Vines

Brander Vineyard is one of the original vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley and the producer of world-class Sauvignon Blanc wines in a variety of styles, as well as small quantities of hand-crafted Bordeaux-style red wines. Their principal varities include Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon,Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Semillon, and Syrah, with case production of 12,000. For news on Fred’s newest Montecito soil varietal look for announcements on the website at www.brander.com.

By Bonnie Carroll

Bonnie Carroll has been a food/travel/lifestyle writer since 1983. She is the founder & publisher of Bonnie Carroll’s Life Bites News (www.lifebitesnews.com), and does travel and food reporting on local radio/TV, she also contributes to a variety of national and international travel/lifestyle publications and blogs, and is a member of IFWTWA and NATJA. Contact her at writebc@aol.com.