Kenneth Volk - Central Coast Legend
Kenneth Volk has been a long-time proponent of Pinot Noir
sourced from the Santa Maria Valley. As a fruit science
major at California Polytechnic State University San Luis
Obispo he became interested in winemaking. He followed
up his early interest with multiple training classes in enology
from University California Davis. He started Wild Horse
Vineyards in 1981, eventually planting 33 acres in
Templeton in San Luis Obispo County. He built his winery in
1983 and that same year crafted a Pinot Noir from Sierra
Madre Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley that brought early
notoriety and success to Wild Horse. He produced a wide range of other varietals and eventually
reached an annual production of 150,000 cases. Some of his most memorable Pinot Noirs were released
under the Cheval Sauvage label.
In 2003, Volk sold Wild Horse Winery for $48 million to Peak Wines International and the winery was
subsequently sold to Constellation Brands. Volk purchased the Byron Winery building on Tepusquet
Road in Santa Maria (Byron moved to another facility) in 2004. He named the winery Kenneth Volk
Vineyards and released his first Pinot Noir in 2006. He produces a Santa Maria Valley appellation Pinot
Noir sourced from the Sierra Madre Vineyard that Bill Hampton manages and Volk leases. The vineyard
is 2½ miles east of Highway 101. The climate here is quite cool (mean August temperature is 73°)
and the soil is low vigor in type. The clone in this bottling is Pommard 4. He also sources Pinot Noir
from Bien Nacido Vineyard, Garey Vineyard and Solomon Hills Vineyard, all in the Santa Maria Valley.
Along with the Sierra Madre Vineyard Pinot Noir, he produces a Santa Maria Cuvee Pinot Noir ($24)
and a Garey Vineyard Pinot Noir ($48) vineyard designate.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Volk and taste a vertical of Sierra Madre Vineyard Pinot Noirs
from 2004-2006. He is a very likeable and congenial man with a wealth of knowledge about topography,
climate, farming and winemaking. I found his Pinot Noirs to my liking, crafted in a more classic
and elegant style. He crafts his wines to reflect the vagaries of each vintage rather than a searching for
a consistent year-in year-out style. Volk de-stems his grapes, ferments in lined almond bins using dry
ice for temperature control, and ages the wines in about one-third new French oak.
Kenneth Volk Vineyards is located at 5239 Tepusquet Road, Santa Maria. The tasting room is open
from 10:30-4:30 Friday through Sunday. The phone is 805=938-7896. The wines are sold on the website
at www.volkwines.com. Volk produces a number of other varietals, including a superb Chardonnay.
A second, value label, Aqua Pumpkin, includes a Pinot Noir ($14).