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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 2:24 am | Fair 45º


Tara Jones


Tara Jones: The Tale Behind the Wine at Mosby Winery and Vineyard

Lifelong winemaker and owner Bill Mosby shares his story

Winemaker Bill Mosby.
Winemaker Bill Mosby. ((Tara Jones / Noozhawk photo))

I have a love/hate relationship with social media and the Internet.

Trending YouTube videos or shopping bargains are standard rabbit holes in which to fall down, but the links that sucker me in the most are articles about finding your passion or purpose in life.

I’m often mesmerized by daring stories of brave men and women who ventured into unknown fields of interest that fell outside the lines of what was considered normal.

Bill Mosby is one such character.

I recently sat down with lifelong winemaker and owner of Mosby Wines to chat about his own history.

Long before the yoga pants and wine memes, selfies taken at grand estate wineries and the wine industry trending daily on the Internet, there were a handful of men in the Santa Ynez Valley who fell in love with the unpopular science and art of making wine in their very own backyards and garages.

Initially, I intended to learn more about how he was the first person in Santa Barbara County to try his hand at distilling, but instead got wrapped up in his stories of the daring beginnings of Santa Barbara’s wine industry and his ongoing affair with wine.

Mosby is a native of Klamath Falls, Ore., and he's all to familiar with the days when prejudice would keep Native Americans from entering liquor stores.

Those desperate enough to whet their whistle would be forced to beg white people to purchase their alcohol for them so they would have the quick pleasure of chugging what they could behind the market before the police could catch them, bottle in hand.

Hot off the heels of prohibition, Mosby’s mother insisted on keeping a “dry” house, not even allowing vinegar in the pantry.

Despite his mother’s efforts, when Mosby was “just a little guy” his curious nature got the best of him and led him to sample the leftovers in the wine bottles found behind the stores.

Thus began his fascination and passion in life.

Mosby waited until his Oregon State University college days, which took him out of home, to try his hand at fermenting fruit.

Life and the war moved Mosby from Oregon to Southern California in the 1940s and eventually to Lompoc in the late '50s where his passion grew and his days as a winemaker began.

After befriending Italian and Portuguese farmers, Mosby was quickly introduced to Italian wines as well as a ring of new friends — Firestone, Bettencourt, Lucas, Sanford and Benedict — who had similar garage-based hobbies.

The small group’s interest soon went from amateur to pro after holding several meetings that circled around finding a winemaker who could help them take their hobby to the next level.

Most of the founding farmers of our county’s wine industry started with Burgundian, Rhone and Bourdeaux styles, most notably the pinot noir grape, but Mosby stuck to what he had learned from his farmer friends and planted Italian varietals and bottled the county’s first pinot grigio, the likes of which are a rare find today in Santa Barbara County.

After much opposition, Mosby received his winemaker’s bond in 1977 and within the first year of production received a gold and silver medal for his wines.

As someone who fell head over heels for Santa Barbara County’s French-style wines over a decade ago, I rarely stray from the pinot noirs, chardonnays and sauvignon blancs of this region. However, for Mosby I make an exception.

While keeping with Santa Barbara’s “sweet spot” alcohol content of roughly 13.5 percent, Mosby’s wines offer a change of pace to us regular imbibers of the county’s delicate fare.

The Italian whites are perfectly crafted and shouldn’t be missed during the summer, but during the winter season I recommend exploring the extensive list of red varietals.

The Primativo with its velvety, soft finish and the La Seduzione with its dark cherry notes that pair perfectly with a black forest cake are the very definition of winter comfort wines.

While your taste buds are off the beaten path, be sure to try the estate grown Sagrantino, a very unique grape with a hidden history. 

Mosby was the first to import the grape, known as the “parentless” varietal, which is found mainly in the Sacramento Valley and parts of Australia.

Rose petal and mint on the nose give way to tobacco and sassafras on the palate with a firm plum and dark berry finish; an inspiring flavor that mimics Mosby’s own story.

Whether luck or fortuitous timing, the passion of Bill Mosby is evident in the wines with stories behind each varietal that are worth a listen, which is time well spent.

Mosby Winery & Vineyard is located at 9496 Santa Rosa Road in Buellton. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday through Sunday.

Tara Jones leads Eat This, Shoot That! and welcomes reader tips and ideas for future columns. She can be reached at [email protected]. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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