For many years, several people in the Cuyama Valley have had small plots of wine grapes. These plots were experimental and never developed commercially. Larry Hogan recognized that the warm days, cool nights and well drained soils were conducive to wine grape production. He planted the first forty acre commercial wine grape vineyard in 1982. That vineyard produced its first wines in 1985. Thus,
Barnwood Vineyards was born.
Barnwood is currently owned by Selim Zilkha and has grown to an excess of
1250 acres. Some of Barnwood's grape crop is sold to other wineries. The rest is made into wine at Zilkha's
Laetitia winery in Arroyo Grande.
Karina and Larry Hogan grow some of their own wine grapes and purchase additional fruit from Barnwood vineyards to make their
Sagebrush Annie's and Stone Pine Estate cabernet wines. These grapes are made into the wine at Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria. Since the Hogan's own fruit is grown in Ventura County, a different appellation is on the label. The purchased product, while grown within a couple of miles of the Hogan fruit, is in Santa Barbara county, thus has the Santa Barbara appellation.
The growers and producers of another wine from this area, Core wines, are Dave and Becky Corey. Dave and Becky lease vineyard land from Barnwood and process their fruit in Santa Maria. This gives Core wines a Santa Barbara appellation as well.
All the wines, Barnwood, Core, Sagebrush
Annie's and Stone Pine Estate, are from vineyards in the Ventucopa area of the Cuyama Valley. All are interesting and, without a doubt, excellent. In the future we hope to see a continued growth of the wine grape industry and the participation of more wineries.
Cuyama History - A La Dale Lingo of the Half-way Station
To give you a little insight into why we are so proud of our area and the people who inhabit it, we have noted a few little-known facts about the area for your review and information.
The Half-Way Station is located exactly half way between Taft and Ojai, thus its name. The surrounding area abounds with wildlife including bear, deer, quail, golden eagle, raccoon, mountain lion, bobcat, rabbit and many varieties of small birds and mammals including several members of the fox family.
Many years ago the area was inhabited by the Chumash Indians and their neighbors the Yokut (or Yokoch) Indians. Throughout the region there were 18 to 20 thousand Indians divided among 50 tribes with each tribe having a dialect of its own. Sign language was used to communicate. The White Man, in his infinite wisdom, determined that the Indian tribes were actually located in 8 different linguistic areas, and for the sake of simplicity, called all of the tribes and areas "Chumash". Caves containing Indian paintings can be found in the local mountains.
indicate that on July 23, 1806, Father Maria de Zalvidea, on an expedition from the coastal missions, visited the Chumash Indian village of Siguecim (Ciwokon) located very near the site of The Half-Way Station. From all known facts, this expedition is believed to be the first known visit of Spanish explorers into what is now known as the Cuyama Valley. The name Cuyama is an Indian word meaning "Valley of the Clams" so named for the abundant number of fossilized clams shells found
throughout the Caliente and Sierra Madre mountains
surrounding the valley. Another early visitor to the area was Juan de Dios Santos. In spite of his good-sounding name, Santos was a bandit better known as "El Lobo" the wolf. Santos visited this area in 1852.
Under instructions from the War Department in Washington D.C. dated May 6, 1853, Lt. R.S. Williamson was directed to survey and explore the region west of the Colorado River. The Williamson Survey party reached this area late in 1854 and upon arrival found several families already living here. The prime objective of the Williamson Survey party was to survey and to research the possibility of installing a railroad from the San Joaquin Valley through the mountains and down into the area known as Los Angeles.
In the 1880's, a man calling himself Joaquin Murrieta camped on the Reyes Creek Ranch located
at the far southeast corner of the valley. History records that there were several Murrietas
and the most famous one was supposedly killed in
1853, in the between Quatel canyon and Lockwood
Valley. It is believed that one of the members of Murrieta's horse gang was related to the first family to homestead here.
This first family, the Reyes family migrated up from the San Fernando area where their forefathers had at one time controlled over 62,000 acres of land near the present site of the city of Carson. Their family included a sergeant in the Spanish army who was the scout for the first group of explorers that traveled up the California coast and is also credited with being the first group to travel the route known as The El Camino Real, ( The Royal Road ) or Highway 101 today. That scout
was reported to be the first person to see San Francisco Bay from a land vantage. Point Reyes in the San Francisco Bay area is named for this scout. Another ancestor of this family became the commanding officer of the Spanish troops at the Santa Barbara Mission and another was at one time the alcalde (mayor) of the original city of Los Angeles. The eldest son of the original homesteaders became the first ranger for the U.S. Forest Service in California and was a personal friend of Teddy Roosevelt. Many of the ranches homesteaded by the Reyes family still exist today and some are still utilized for raising cattle and/or alfalfa.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt not only visited the area, but on one of his hunting trips killed a bear just a few miles from
the Half-Way Station atop Pine Mountain. Located in the patio area of The Half-Way Station is a table top made from an old cottonwood tree that contains a lead bullet that was shot into the tree about the time that Roosevelt was originally hunting in the area. The tree was located about 3 miles east of The Half-Way.
Earl Stanley Gardner, the famous mystery writer (creator of Perry Mason) frequently visited the area in the early 1920's on deer hunting trips. At the time he was a young attorney in Ventura. The Gardner estate is located about 25 miles east of the Half-Way.
The area became somewhat famous during the early 1900's when stories of a fabulous gold mine known as "The Los Padres Mine" began appearing in newspapers in both Ventura and Bakersfield. In actuality there were 14 Los Padres mines and none of the mines were located in this area. However, an old Indian who lived with the Reyes family (the area's original homesteaders) reportedly knew where at least one of the mines was located and on several occasions obtained gold from the mine. An uncle of the Reyes family reportedly was a mule skinner who drove one of the wagons that transported the gold from the mine to the Spanish missions.
The stories and history of the area go on and on.
We will continue to add stories about different
areas of the valley as time permits.