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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

Dynamic Duo Release Optik Wines

Bien Nacido Vineyard Owners Tap Joey Tensley for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah

For all of the sources that syrah stud Joey Tensley tapped — and critically established — over his three decades as a Santa Barbara County winemaker, he’d never waded into the historic rows of Bien Nacido Vineyard until two years ago.

First planted by brothers Steve and Bob Miller nearly 50 years ago, the Santa Maria Valley property put cool-climate California syrah on the global map by grafting some for Qupé founder Bob Lindquist in 1987. That rippled into coastally influenced plantings of syrah across the state, delivering the umami-laden, pepper-powered character of what I think is the most interesting style of wine in the galaxy, reflecting in uncanny ways the gamy hallmarks of the variety’s ancestral home in the northern Rhône Valley of France.

Tensley, meanwhile, was building his own legacy, turning both cool and warmer syrah sites into unctuously expressive wines, bagging big magazine scores, and becoming the darling of wine lovers from Chelsea to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. So when the Millers gave him a call in August of 2019 about possibly collaborating on a wine brand — one that also included chardonnay and pinot noir, Bien Nacido’s best-known grapes — the Bakersfield-raised, Los Olivos–residing winemaker was intrigued.

“A lot of places talk the talk, but these guys are walking the walk,” said Tensley of what he realized during his first tour of the vineyard, a leader in innovative and sustainably minded farming that’s overseen by Chris Hammell, for whom Tensley has massive respect. “I was instantly hooked.”

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