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Phil Kaplan @ Velvet Bee Wines

Trial Attorney Turns to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sta. Rita Hills


Born and raised in Downey, Kaplan has been a successful trial attorney for more than 30 years. In 2009, he and his wife, Collette, bought a vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. Three years later, Kaplan dove in deep to start his own brand, sourcing Sta. Rita Hills pinot noir, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.

Did you have a wine epiphany moment? The one that stands out is a visit in 1978 to Navarro Vineyards in Philo. It was the vibe of the Bennetts and staff — firmly stuck in the tie-dyed 1960s, turning out this mind-blowing gewürztraminer. It always stuck with me that if this was ever something that I could do, I would love to make wine.

How has your mentor, Joe Davis of Arcadian Winery, influenced your style? The biggest factor is restraint. Joe has stopped me on multiple occasions from freaking out, trying to intervene when I shouldn’t, and not letting the pinot noir in the barrel evolve. I have also followed Joe’s lead in picking earlier than many, with a focus on making sure that the acids have not fallen out before the grapes are harvested.

Tell me about the name “Velvet Bee.” “Velvet Bee” is a tip of the cap to the bees that work our lavender field in front of our house in Los Olivos. “Velvet” is to put you in the mindset of the wine experience we hope to create.

Where do you fit in the current wine landscape of the Central Coast? Definitely still a new face, trying to get noticed. We are focusing on a few varietals — pinot noir, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc — trying for generally consistent styles within those varietals, and sourcing from a few top-notch Sta. Rita Hills vineyards (Bentrock, La Encantada, Rita’s Crown) with the goal that the wines are memorable and we create a base that is curious to try what Velvet Bee has come up with in each vintage.

See velvetbeewine.com.

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