Pinot Paradise: Backyard Vines

Orv Madden and his wife LeAnn have a talent for turning their dreams into reality. I remember meeting them for the first time in the winter of 2003 at a breakfast restaurant in Montecito, California. Our phone discussion the week before was long and involved. Orv seemed convinced that his large, steep backyard in Ortega Ranch could produce some fine wine grapes. Who could have guessed that 16 months later we would be gearing up to harvest the first crop from his vineyard. Impossible you say? From planning to harvest in a year and a half? This is the story about a special piece of earth and a shot at the impossible: to grow Pinot Noir less than a mile from the ocean. When I first saw the plot of land I was excited but hesitant. The soil was rich, deep and black. It was loaded with small white stones and other complex parent material that had broken down from the hill above. The exposure to the moving sun was excellent. I retrieved a shovel and dug a number of