With all the big names now living in the Central Coast, especially Santa Barbara County, it is a little-known fact that the very first vineyard planted here was the work of Uriel J. Nielson in 1964. The winemaker is Anna Clifford, a California native whose parents were Irish and Guatemalan. Her only exposure to wine was in church but became inspired when she saw "French Kiss" with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline.
That was all it took to get hooked. She studied at UC Davis and upon graduation worked at Beringer, William Hill, and Geyser Peak until going as far away as possible, New Zealand. Most don't think of New Zealand as a place for Pinot Noir, but Central Otago is now considered one of the best. That's where Pinot Noir became her favorite grape. She arrived at Nielson in 2018 and became totally taken by how similar the climate and soil was to Central Otago. That was enough. In 2020 she became winemaker and has shined ever since.
Pinot Noir in the Central Coast is considered as good as it gets in California. There are several classic appellations, but few have the diversity as Santa Barbara County. The vineyard almost overlooks the ocean where the fog can cover the vines in the middle of summer. This slows the ripeness and allows the grapes to reach full maturity. That's what accounts for the intense flavors and texture here. Dark cherry and rose petals dominate with hints of smoke and cinnamon. A rich plate of smoked meats and cheeses awaits.