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Ken Brown | Credit: Courtesy

The Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance is honoring Ken Brown as their 2023 Vintner of the Year. Ken, a true pioneer of the Santa Barbara County wine region, began his journey at Zaca Mesa Winery as head winemaker in 1977. Having studied enology and viticulture at Fresno State University he applied his knowledge in both the vineyards and the cellar. Passionate about Pinot Noir and Chardonnay he was the first winemaker to introduce Syrah, as well as Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, to Santa Barbara County.

In 1984 Ken, with his wife, Deborah and several partners founded Byron Vineyard & Winery in the little-known Santa Maria Valley where he honed his skills producing exceptional wines for several years. Byron was purchased by the Robert Mondavi Family in 1990 and Ken stayed on as head winemaker.

Yearning to return to a smaller, handcrafted production Deborah and Ken migrated towards the Sta. Rita Hills in 2004 starting their own label, Ken Brown Wines. Ken sources fruit from premium vineyards in the AVA producing beautiful Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah. 2023 will be his 47th harvest in Santa Barbara County! 

Ken will be celebrated at the Alliance’s annual Wine and Fire Weekend August 17th – 20th. The weekend’s events consist of a library and large format tasting, a sparkling wine seminar, 

The La Paulee Dinner at Foley winery honoring Ken and Deborah, Speed Tasting with a Winemaker event, and a Grand Tasting at La Purisima Mission.

Tickets and more information are available at

Ken joins an esteemed group of the previous Vintners of the Year which include Fiddlehead Cellar’s Kathy Joseph, Lafond’s Bruce McGuire, Alma Rosa Winery’s Richard Sanford, Babcock Winery’s Bryan Babcock, and Longoria Winery’s, Richard Longoria. 

Sta. Rita Hills contact information:


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