The local wine network is hopping with the news that Kris Curran, winemaker of the phenomenal Sea Smoke Pinot Noirs, is leaving that position to work for William Foley and his ever-growing wine holdings.
With the recent purchases of Ashley’s Vineyard from Fess Parker and Firestone Vineyard & Winery, Foley now owns more than 750 vineyard acres in Santa Barbara County. Curran will act as winemaker for three labels — Foley, Lincourt and the developing Two Sisters — while consulting on other Foley Wine Group efforts. The move gives Curran a great opportunity to combine her skills with Foley’s vast production and distribution resources.
Curran is a Santa Ynez local with a wine degree from Fresno State. Her reputation and responsibilities have grown steadily as she moved from Cambria to Koehler to her work with Sea Smoke. She also produces her own label of well-regarded Curran Wines.
In 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle included Curran as one of its Winemakers of the Year. In 2007 the Wine Spectator’s James Laube wrote: “I have yet to taste a wine from Sea Smoke’s winemaker, Kris Curran, that has not been exceptional.” The Sea Smoke pinots have been called “quintessential” and “legendary,” “sadly elusive” and “nearly unobtainable.” The Greta Garbo of wine.
Unlike Garbo, Curran is very social and approachable. Unlike her press, she is not prone to hyperbole. Her winemaking is scientific, meticulous and practically intelligent. While she lacks no confidence in her own abilities, she is typically quick to praise the teamwork that makes excellence possible. Perhaps above all, she does not see wine in a vacuum, but rather as part of a “holistic venture, one that revolves around family, food, friends and conversation. In the absence of any of these elements, wine ceases to be the thought-provoking enjoyment that it is,” Curran observed in a 2006 Lompoc Valley Magazine article, “A Woman in Wine” (Click on Summer ‘06).
Curran shares that philosophy with longtime partner Bruno D’Alfonso, who has moved on from his pioneering days at Sanford to producing his own DiBruno and Badge wines. Hence the name of their new tasting room in Solvang, Trio, which represents their three labels, and also embodies their “Food, Wine & Society” credo.
Even the move to Foley is just a part of a Trio for Kris. She celebrated a birthday last month, and, for good measure, confirmed the rumor that she and D’Alfonso had married in December. It was supposed to be a secret, but sometimes what happens in Solvang doesn’t stay in Solvang.
Tom Chiarodit, a local freelance writer, can sometimes be found pouring wines for Trio in Solvang.