Santa Barbara County vineyard
Santa Barbara County’s vineyards, such as Star Lane-Dierberg Vineyards’ Sta. Rita Hills property along Drum Canyon Road, continue to show healthy growth as the 2020 vintage inches toward harvest. (Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo)

In an effort to bolster the local fight against COVID-19 and continue to support Santa Barbara County’s farmworkers, the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation and Direct Relief have gifted $200,000 to Community Health Partners of the Central Coast.

The Santa Barbara Wine Auction, which took place Feb. 15, united a special partnership between the wine industry and the nonprofit sector. The Santa Barbara Vintners, Direct Relief and Community Health Centers each share the common mission to support humanitarian health assistance for people in need both locally and globally — especially during the fight against COVID-19.

CHC has stepped up to meet the challenges of the pandemic in the Central Coast, but its clinics have been stretched thin, and it’s been short on staff, medical supplies and protective equipment.

“This generous gift will literally save lives — it’s that simple,” said Ron Castle, CEO of CHC. “Our clinics are on the health care front line.”

For 20 years, the Vintners Foundation has been active in sustaining and expanding Direct Relief’s health assistance for people in need, both locally and globally.

“Our goal with the 2020 Wine Auction was to serve as a bridge and bring together and support the important works of Direct Relief and CHC,” said Jessica Gasca, president of the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation.

The biennial Santa Barbara Wine Auction has evolved through the years with the partnership of the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, Direct Relief and Community Health Centers. The 2020 Wine Auction marked the11th year of uniting to boost the community.

Miller Family Wine Co. Hires Jonathan Nagy

The Miller Family Wine Co., the newest division of the industry-leading Thornhill Companies, recently hired industry veteran Jonathan Nagy as winemaker.

Jonathan Nagy

Jonathan Nagy has joined the Miller Family Wine Co. as a winemaker. (Contributed photo)

Nagy brings more than 20 years of experience to his new role. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Davis, Nagy worked two harvests with Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley before returning to Santa Maria, his hometown. For three years, he worked as lab manager/enologist for Cambria Winery. In 2001, Nagy was hired as assistant winemaker at Byron Winery. In 2004, he was promoted to winemaker — a position he held for 16 years.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to have Jonathan join as winemaker,” said Marshall Miller, vice president of operations. “He is an accomplished winemaker with an inherent understanding of winemaking on the Central Coast that sets him apart.”

Miller Family Wine Co. is a division of The Thornhill Companies, the umbrella brand of one of the state’s premier winegrowing families. The family has farmed on the Central Coast for five generations. Miller Family Wine Co. manages national branded wine labels, including Bien Nacido & Solomon Hills Estates, J. Wilkes, Ballard Lane, Smashberry and Barrel Burner wines.

Kevin Travis Joins Star Lane, Dierberg Vineyards

Star Lane and Dierberg Vineyards have hired Kevin Travis as vice president of sales and marketing.

In the role, Travis will oversee the sales and marketing efforts, including wholesale and retail sales. He will report to Tyler Thomas, president and director of winemaking.

Travis brings extensive sales and leadership experience to Star Lane and Dierberg. Most recently, he was brand manager for Buccella, a Napa Valley winery. Before Buccella, Travis served in a general manager or beverage director role for a variety of top-flight restaurants in Los Angeles and Hawaii.

“Kevin will play a crucial role in expanding the reach and awareness of Star Lane and Dierberg beyond our current enthusiast and loyal customer base,” Thomas said. “He brings exceptional knowledge of the market and a skill set to grow our sales to fulfill our founders’ goal to produce some of the best wines in the country and recognized around the world for their quality.”

Buellton Brew Fest Postponed

Earlier this month, organizers of the Buellton Brew Fest postponed the event a second time (from the original May date, to July, to September). It is now scheduled to take place from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5 — Labor Day weekend.

The ninth annual event will once again be held at River View Park in Buellton. More than 55 craft breweries, wineries, and Kombucha and spirit producers will be on hand.

Will Breman, a finalist on “The Voice,” Lompoc’s Richie Rey and DJ Hecktic! will provide the music, and a variety of food trucks and vendors will have food for sale. Participants are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating.

River View Park is located at 151 Sycamore Drive in Buellton.

Alma Rosa Winery Announces Philanthropic Partnerships

In May, Bob Zorich, owner of Alma Rosa Winery, announced a long-term commitment to support the research and treatment for anxiety and depression. In observance of Mental Health Month (May), the winery donated 10 percent of all sales to the Mental Wellness Center of Santa Barbara.

In addition, the winery will partner with the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation to co-host the Vintners 5-Miler on Sept. 12. Net proceeds will benefit the Wellness Center and One Mind, a mental health organization dedicated to the research of causes, treatments and cures for brain-related diseases.

Zorich has a long history of supporting mental health causes. He is chairman of the Hope and Healing Center & Institute in Houston, Texas, which provides educational programs to improve the delivery of mental health care, raise awareness and educate the community on addiction, mental health and caregiving issues, as well as reduce the stigma of mental illness and addiction.

Alma Rosa Winery was founded in 2005 by Richard Sanford. Bob and Barb Zorich purchased the winery in 2014.

Molly Lonborg Named Winemaker at Alta Colina

Alta Colina, a Paso Robles-based producer of estate Rhone wines, has announced the second winemaker in its 17-year history. Molly Lonborg will replace founder Bob Tillman.

Lonborg comes to Alta Colina after nine years at Halter Ranch Vineyard, also in Paso Robles.

Lonborg’s presence will free up Tillman to focus on managing the winery’s 31-acre vineyard, which he farms organically. The site is located on the westside of Paso Robles in the Adelaida District sub-AVA.

“Molly possesses a world-class palate, and she is a longtime fan of our winemaking style,” Tillman said. “Even better, we have known Molly for years and know what a great compliment to our team she will be.”

Before moving to Alta Colina, Lonborg was an associate winemaker at Halter Ranch. She began her tenure there in 2011, and first worked as a lab manager and cellar assistant. Soon she was promoted to enologist, assistant winemaker and, in 2018, associate winemaker.

Lonborg is a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where she majored in earth sciences with a concentration in wine and viticulture.

— Laurie Jervis tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via The opinions expressed are her own.