VINTAGE BASH: Legendary winemakers shared their wares at the Ontiveros Adobe last Saturday.


VINTAGE BASH: Legendary winemakers shared their wares at the Ontiveros Adobe last Saturday.

Bien Nacido’s 40th Anniversary

Party Celebrates Santa Maria Valley’s Iconic Vineyard

In 1973, with pretty much no clue of what might come, the Miller family planted Bien Nacido Vineyard on the northern hills of the Santa Maria Valley, where only a couple of other vineyards then existed. Four decades later, the 900-plus-acre vineyard is one of the wine industry’s most recognized sources of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, listed prominently on more bottles than any other vineyard in the world.

That was the cause of much celebration on Saturday night outside of the property’s historic Ontiveros Adobe, where the Millers hosted more than 100 of California’s top winemakers and industry insiders to toast the 40th anniversary of both Bien Nacido and French Camp, another vineyard the family planted in Paso Robles the same year. While Bien Nacido is more geared toward smaller boutique wineries and French Camp produces bulk juice for the big boys, both have been aimed at sustainability, premium growing techniques, and genetic purity — thanks to the scientists at UC Davis, which has provided the family virus-free grapevines, various varietals, and prosperous clones — since their inception.

“It was really with a contrarian attitude that they planted Bien Nacido,” said Nicholas Miller of his father and uncle’s decision to forge a new agricultural path for the valley, pointing out their “mantra of quality, quality, quality driving every decision.” The international wine press has exalted Bien Nacido as one of the top 25 vineyards in the world, said Miller, and vineyard manager Chris Hammell was named by one magazine as the number-one grower in the world a couple of years ago.

“It’s a true gem to have 40-year-old own-rooted pinot noir and chardonnay,” said Miller during his speech, referring to the fact that his grapevines are not grafted onto their roots, the predominant practice in most regions due to threats of virus. Further explaining that the property is named on more bottlings than any other, Miller announced, “Today, Bien Nacido Vineyard is the most vineyard-designated vineyard in the world.”

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