When Jason Djang took Holly Carmichael out on their first date seven years ago when they both lived in New York City, he told his wife-to-be of his goal to someday learn about wine. “I meant that I wanted to be able to read a wine list,” Djang recalled recently while sitting on the patio of a chateau that’s surrounded by more than 40 acres of vineyard in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley. The hard-working, West Hollywood–residing couple, who are expecting their first child any day now, never expected to be running an estate winery. “But when someone asks you to work on a project in wine country,” explained Djang, “what do you say?”
Despite their full-time loads — he an online content strategist for YouTube and former Obama White House videographer, she the co-owner of a public-health research firm — the Djangs answered that calling when his dad’s friend, the Indonesian industrialist Rizal Risjad, purchased the former Harmon Family Vineyard on Refugio Road back in 2010. Since then, they’ve replanted parts of the vineyard with cabernet sauvignon and grenache, won approval for a winery and tasting room on-site, and created the Brave & Maiden brand, which is named after what Djang calls an “apocryphal Chumash” legend whose Romeo and Juliet meet their fate at Nojoqui Falls.
The wines, which are currently made at Central Coast Wine Services by Joshua Klapper with renowned flying winemaker Paul Hobbs as consultant, feature single-varietal offerings of syrah, merlot, and sauvignon blanc as well as two blends: the not-yet-released Bequest (a traditional Bordeaux blend and a nod to the Risjad and Djang family’s desire to leave a legacy for their children) and Union, which unites the Rhône grape syrah with the Bordeaux varietals of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc, depending on the vintage. “People ask if we are going to be a Bordeaux house or a Rhône house,” said Djang of the tradition-bucking blend. “We want to be a Santa Ynez house.”
The new winery was designed by the same firm that built Screaming Eagle, Harlan, and Ram’s Gate up in Napa and will stare at the sun setting over the Santa Ynez Mountains. They hope to break ground by the end of the year and then steadily build production from the roughly 1,600 cases today toward 8,000. By creating a stylish yet relaxing experience at Brave & Maiden, they hope to educate the masses of wine-loving Angelenos that the Santa Ynez Valley should be their number-one wine destination. “We are blown away by the lack of awareness of Santa Barbara wine country in L.A.,” said Djang, who said that Temecula blows us away on Google-searching popularity. “It’s shocking.”
Brave & Maiden will pour wine at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden this Saturday, July 18, as part of the Wine & Cheese series. Their wines will be paired with a talk on native plants by renowned landscape architect Susan Van Atta; future pairings include Kenneth Volk Vineyards with dudleya expert Tom Mulroy on August 22 and Cass Winery with urban park planner Christy Brigham on September 19. See braveandmaiden.com and sbbg.org.