Quite by happenstance, the highlight of my recent wine trek to Sta. Rita Hills AVA was discovering Spear Vineyards & Winery off Highway 246 in Lompoc. While tasting at a neighboring winery, it was suggested that I make an appointment at Spear for “a true vineyard tasting experience.”
Much to my delight, I was welcomed to the newly opened tasting room for a private seated tasting. Unobstructed views of the vibrant Chardonnay vineyard surround the eclectic tasting room, formerly a 1920’s dairy barn and creamery, complete with towering silo. Needless to say, the views were nothing less than spectacular.
Even more of a surprise, was meeting the young and upcoming Winemaker, Kat Gaffney. Instantly, Kat’s laid-back, unpretentious manner put me at ease and led to many questions about her burgeoning wine path.
Kat started as a harvest intern in 2011 in San Luis Obispo, later working as a “flying winemaker.” Chasing harvests from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere led her to cellar ventures in New Zealand, Oregon and Santa Barbara County.
Ego aside, Kat’s elegant Old World-style winemaking philosophy is simply to allow the pure expression of the fruit to present itself, with minimal intervention. The small lot wines are artfully handcrafted using small cluster fermentation. Grapes are carefully processed via gravity flow rather than traditional mechanical pumps, which can damage and bruise the fruit. Wines are then aged in neutral French oak barrels to retain the varietal characteristics.