Melville Winery–stop two in our three winery tour

I think if I lived closer to the University of California, Davis, (UC Davis) I’d really enjoy quenching my thirst, pun intended, taking “history of winemaking” courses.

UC Davis, with its world-renowned Viticulture & Enology department, has provided preeminent research and teaching for more than 100 years.  Alas, the commute at more than 400 miles north of Los Angeles is prohibitive, so self-study is the best I can do at this time. That’s probably good. I tend to hop all over the vineyards, and I’m sure my ability to keep up with the required college level science would quickly become stressful.

I’m learning as I go, however, and this week’s questioning suggested I may not always use terms correctly.

In case we’re ever asked on Jeopardy, let me clarify.

Viticulture: The cultivation and culture of grapes
Enology: A science that deals with wine and wine making

In my previous post I shared some background on the family and story behind Mosby Winery & Vineyards in Buellton, California. And just a short ten miles from Mosby is another Santa Barbara County family owned operation, Melville Winery and Vineyards.


Searching for the stories behind the labels, Ron Melville and his family did not disappoint.


As a young college student Melville was an enthusiastic gardener and collector of fine wines, which perhaps offered him an interest in viticulture–OR enology, but his career took other profitable turns, and Ron entered a 30-year financial career as a member of the Pacific Stock Exchange.

My favorite people stories include tales with  examples of resilience and creative reinvention or opportunity that comes in tandem with a life detour.


Ron Melville entered the winemaking business through a shift in fortune. In the 1987 economic crash he lost 40% of his holdings, and following the imperative to diversify his portfolio, he then purchased a 153-acre ranch near Calistoga, and began planting Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay grapes.

For probably 40 years, if not more, any reference to California wine country to most people, including Californians, only referred to the more than 400 wineries in Napa/Sonoma, a lovely region north of San Francisco. Calistoga is part of that region. But California is a very large state.

In February before the vines began to leaf.

And discovering his love of Pinot Noir, once again Melville considered diversification, but also realized Calistoga was too hot for growing the moisture sensitive Pinot grapes, so in 1996, with his sons Brent and Chad, decided to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at their new site in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation in the western Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County.

I’ve previously mentioned how this appellation’s microclimate of cool temperatures with coastal wind and foggy mornings is well suited to growing grape varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Northern Rhone Syrah.

But I recently found a reference to soil in this area called “Lompoc dune sand,” and that really caught my attention because of an observation I made at our Lompoc lodgings.

View from the home we rented

The home was perched high in the hills, well above the fertile valley, yet there was so much sand! This so surprised me that I took photos and hoped to find out more about the soil’s composition.

At such a high elevation all this sand was a surprise, but the Lompoc dune sand, a natural feature of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, seems to impress the grapes. I guess that’s what matters most–I’d still like to know more about where all this sand comes from. I have more questions than time.

Melville Vineyards currently hosts 139 acres planted with 255,000 vines of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and two Rhone varietals, Syrah and Viognier between the Sta. Rita Hills location and Verna’s Vineyard in Los Alamos.

The lovely Mediterranean style wine tasting room with beautiful picnic grounds makes it a natural tourist stop, or place for a local to just meet with a few friends and enjoy the beautiful vistas. We enjoyed an outstanding glass of Chardonnay and have every intention of seeking out this label when we can find it locally.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit this area, I would recommend a stop at this particularly inviting location and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

And do remember…if you’re a Scrabble player, plan to hold on to the word enology. It could come in handy.

Melville Vineyards and Winery   5185 East Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA




60 thoughts on “Melville Winery–stop two in our three winery tour

  1. thank you Debra for an enlightening post … and a lovely story of how loss opened the door to ‘creative reinvention’ … beautiful photos of lovely country 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the flavor of the Melville story as I did, Christine. The Melville webpage doesn’t include the story of financial “redirection” but I found it in another book that highlighted the family. It’s always interesting to me to see how when disappointments or severe losses come along, people often find an entirely new path that includes hobbies or interests they couldn’t, or didn’t, readily pursue in their youth. This really is a beautiful winery!

  2. Debra, that does it. I am officially inviting myself to stay with you and go on a wine tour together. (Yes, I know what the coming months are bringing you. I can’t afford it at least until Fall. 🙂 )

  3. I love that 2nd pic, Debra ~ with the Liquer Crux poster in the background. I’m glad you’ve found another label that suits you to a C. Our favorite vineyard to visit in North Carolina/Virginia: Chateau Morrisette. They held jazz festivals and picnics on the lawn that were tremendous fun to attend during the summer months.

    1. The scene you describe at Chateau Morrisette is perhaps my favorite leisurely entertainment. The wineries that invite the public “into their home” are gracious and comfortable and provide a relaxing outdoor gathering spot. I’d really enjoy knowing more about the east coast wineries. I’d like to know more about the wines that grow best. Perhaps a trip to the library is in order–or an east coast vacation? 🙂

      1. I’m a big fan of North Carolina ~ especially the mountains with waterfalls and wonderful hikes. Virginia is great too ~ especially Wmsburg with all its wonderful history.

        And I KNOW your aunt would LOVE to see your smiling face!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the photography from the wineries, Koji. I’m eager to go back up there now that the vines would be leafing. It was so dry while we were there, and there’s been some rain, so I’d like to see the changing color in the landscape. Some of those little Santa Barbara coffee houses are as appealing as the wineries…they’ll have a seat for you. 🙂

  4. If you were playing scrabble in Oz, you’d have to spell enology like this: Oenology! Just a tip in case you ever find yourself here playing scrabble! I once bought a book on oenology and it was so scientific and talked in such depth about wine-making that I never got past the first chapter. What a surprise to find all that sand so far from the sea. I’m sure the book I was reading would have a lot to say about growing grapes on sandy soils! xx

    1. Ah, the crazy spelling differences between our two countries. And I’m with you on some of the books that are intended to “educate” about wine. I’m humming along and then all of a sudden I fall off the cliff! LOL! Sometimes it’s just too much information. I am afraid that’s what is going to concern me when I try to find about the sand. I don’t really want to go too deep into studying geology. I’ll be left behind.

  5. Can you manage a coach load of visitors for that tour? I would love to be able to tag along. It brings back memories of wine tours and tastings in Germany, many years ago!

    1. If we could ever figure out the “how” to all get together, I’d figure out all the added details. With joy and glee! I am learning quite a bit about California wines, but admit I know next to nothing about German wines. I think of beer and Oktoberfest, but nothing about the wine. Now you have me wondering about that, too! 🙂

  6. Okay. Enology is taped to the Scrabble board (where only I can find it).
    Your enthusiasm and curiosity are contagious, Debra. On Sunday morning, needing one ingredient I found I did not have, I ran out to the store, and found myself perusing, the wine section of Marriano’s. There were quite a few of the Napas, but, nothing from Santa Barbara. Sigh – with note to self to check out the newly opened wine cellar not far from home.
    It’s interesting how many of the wineries you visit and their vintners emerge out of other of life’s circumstances. Lovely, informative post, my friend.

    1. I tried playing Words with Friends on-line, Penny. Are you familiar with it? It is similar to Scrabble, but it annoyed me because words that won’t cut it in Scrabble got through. I guess I’m a purist. Haha! I stopped playing, but in my family, Scrabble is serious business. We don’t have as many occasions to play these days, but I do occasionally “bank” words in my memory to pull out if possible. LOL! And about the wines, I don’t know a thing about wine distribution. I don’t know why some regional wines are just impossible to find in one location or another. I think you’ll just need to come and visit. That’s the best solution. 🙂

  7. Dear Debra, okay, now I’m looking forward to your posting on the next winery and on that sand! I know I can count on you to do the research and to share it with us. I have no one with whom to play Scrabble but my cousin, who just turned 82 so enjoys the first edition of Trivial Pursuits, as do I. And i bet you a bottle of Melville wine that the word “enology” is an answer to one of the questions in that game! Peace.

    1. I do need to know more about that sand, Dee. I don’t know how I’m going to find the answer to that quite yet, but I am going to try! I love Scrabble, but in my family, there are some extremely competitive players and it gets a little intense. LOL! Thank you for sharing with me today, Dee. I hope you are well!

    1. It really was a great place, Sandy! Do you remember the time we drove to Santa Barbara and got stuck on the freeway when they closed it down? LOL! I think of that every time we’re stuck in traffic up there…these wineries are north of that, and in such a wonderful area. 🙂

  8. Episode two was just as interesting and full of lovely images as the first, Debra. I really appreciate the research you do for your history posts and the way you present the information so entertainingly.

    1. Thank you so much, Perpetua. I’m really glad you find the history of the area interesting. I do try to find some way to make it more than just about the wine, because for me, it really is about the geography and the story of people that keeps me hooked. A nice glass of wine is enjoyable, too, of course. LOL! But I am certain I could never be a wine critic with my interests being primarily the story of the people who do all the hard work. LOL! Thank you so much for coming along with me, my friend.

  9. dandyknife

    Not only is there sand where you didn’t expect it, the sand is (for me at least) quite an unusual colour. Orange? Tangerine? Paprika? Coral? Love the picture of the single mauve flower against that orange sand.

    1. Gosh! Now I have to go back and look at the sand again. LOL! I didn’t seem to notice it as unusual, but maybe studying the color will give me a little more information, a clue, about its origin. Thanks for the direction…I appreciate you eye for the detail. 🙂

  10. It looks like you had a great trip Debra. Mike and I love to visit and tour wineries – we try to do it on every vacation! One of these days we’ll get back out to CA for some more touring. 🙂

  11. I hope to visit the place soon. That’s wonderful to take a course from UC Davis. Some years ago, if I remember correctly, I read that a French wine making released the secrete of growing grapes and process to America…

    1. I really don’t know much about the history of winemaking in America, Amy, but it’s fun to learn as I go along. 🙂 I think you would definitely enjoy all of Santa Barbara County. Everything about that region is a must-see. Thank you for stopping by today, Amy.

  12. I love these stories too, and if you ever find out why there’s sand up there let us know! (By the way, I’m a Scrabble fan, so I shall note that!) 😉 Thanks Debra, and have a good week!

    1. I really do want to know more about that sand, Cathy! The city is coastal and there’s wind…do you think that’s all there is to it? LOL! I don’t know much about geology, that’s a fact! I hope you’re enjoying your week, too!

  13. Many thanks for another tip for when I get the chance to explore this region! … and yes … Ynez and Rita regions do Pinots and Syrahs very well … and I find the chards more drinkable than most (well, for my taste0.

    1. Frank, I really enjoy what you add to the discussion. You know much more about this region than many of my California friends. I enjoy sharing a few particular wineries with you and perhaps on your return visit you’ll give them a try. 🙂

    1. You never know! Maybe someday we’ll arrange a little blog “meet and greet” in Santa Barbara and just see what happens. 🙂 The world seems to be getting smaller. Wouldn’t we have fun? ox

    1. Hi Inger! I found you in my Spam this morning! I have let you out…I think you have been in there for a while and need some fresh air! How frustrating for you to comment and then be sent away. 🙂 If you are having trouble with other WP blogs, put a little note on your next post and remind everyone to check their Spam box. Then it is up to us to notify WP of the problem. I will. This morning I sent an email to a favorite blogger in Australia. I notice that my comments aren’t posting. I think there is just so much blog traffic that on occasion things go awry! Glad I found you today…hope you feel liberated. 🙂

  14. Would love to go on a wine tour especially since now I have a little history behind it, thanks to you! The second photo with the flowers, plants and Valentine Special menu is my favorite. 🙂

  15. Much like restaurateurs, “resiliency” is the key to a successful vineyard. So much can affect a vineyard, most of them not good. You’ve got to have the resolve to see things through or you’re in the wrong business. Interesting that the very attribute of that area — the sandy soil — is what attracted Melville Vineyards for their Pinot grapes. You may have a “Little Ol’ Winemaker” deep inside you, Debra, just screaming to be let out. 🙂

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