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Vintners Foundation’s 2018 Wine Auction to Honor Pioneer Fred Brander

The Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation in May announced that Fred Brander, longtime winemaker and owner of The Brander Vineyard in Los Olivos, will be honored at the Santa Barbara Wine Auction on Feb. 17, 2018, at the Bacara Resort & Spa.

Brander will be feted as “Vintner of the Year” for his vision and dedication in identifying, developing and promoting Santa Barbara County as a leading wine region, foundation organizers noted.

The biennial Vintners Foundation gala event regularly benefits Direct Relief, a Goleta-based medical relief organization founded in 1948.

Since 2000, the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation — the charitable arm of Santa Barbara County Vintners — has raised more than $4 million toward Direct Relief’s global efforts.

I met Brander more than a decade ago when I watched his cellar crew pressing sauvignon blanc. I was there as an observer for a story about harvest. Brander’s father, Erik, and his son, Nik ​Hodosy-Brander, were up to their knees in grapes with the crew.

It was clear that The Brander Vineyard was a family affair, and it remains so to this day. Erik Brander passed in 2010, but Nik remains involved with the vineyard and winery operations alongside Fabian Bravo, Fred Brander’s right hand man for the past several years.

The stellar wines and peaceful setting make Brander Vineyard one of my go-to tasting locales to this day.

Brander, who was born and raised in Buenos Aires, later moved with his family to the United States, and they settled in Santa Barbara.

A natural affinity for languages meant the young Brander was able to pursue studies on three continents: at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina; at the University of Uppsala in Sweden; the University of Dijon in France; Harvey Mudd College for chemistry; and finally, UC Davis, where he graduated with a master’s degree in Food Science with an emphasis on enology.

In the early 1970s, Brander convinced his family to plant a vineyard along Highway 154, just east of Los Olivos, in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley. The first grapes were planted in 1975, making the Brander Vineyard one of Santa Barbara County’s earliest vineyards.

The young Brander predicted that Bordeaux grape varietals would thrive in the climate and soils native to the warmer edge of the Santa Ynez Valley. He suspected that the trinity of sauvignon ​blanc, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc would bring Brander Vineyard success across California and the nation, and he was right.

After 40 years in the wine industry, Brander continues to promote the benefits of Santa Barbara County as a wine-growing region. He was the driving force behind the push to identify the Los ​Olivos District appellation — Santa Barbara County’s newest AVA — as a distinct region home to both Rhone and Bordeaux grape varietals.

Last October, Brander hosted a celebration of his four decades in the industry. Guests were treated to plates from area restaurants and — a special treat — verticals of his wines from over the years. The courtyard outside the “pink castle” tasting room is ideal for such a gathering, and the guests felt honored to participate.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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