Home Industry News Releases Fiddlehead Cellars Embarks on Next Chapter with Sale of Prized Fiddlestix Vineyard

Fiddlehead Cellars Embarks on Next Chapter with Sale of Prized Fiddlestix Vineyard

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(November 24, 2021; Lompoc, CA)—After more than two decades of owning, farming and making wine from the iconic Fiddlestix Vineyard, Kathy Joseph, proprietor and winemaker of Fiddlehead Cellars, is pleased to announce the sale of her pioneering site that helped define Santa Barbara County’s Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The vineyard’s new owners are Justin Willett (Tyler Wines), Erik Mallea and Todd Gray (Willett-Mallea Farming) and William Borgers.

Fiddlehead Cellars Proprietor Kathy Joseph

Purchased in 1996, planted in 1998, and farmed by Kathy Joseph at the highest standards, Fiddlestix emerged as a beacon for some of the most respected producers in the Sta. Rita Hills, and is recognized as one of the most coveted Pinot Noir vineyard sites in California. The sale marks an exciting new transition for Kathy Joseph as she embarks on a new chapter for Fiddlehead Cellars. 

“Having overseen the Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills for 25 years as a one-woman-show, I feel I have made my mark in the arena,” says Kathy Joseph. “I’m so proud of the recognition that Fiddlestix Vineyard has brought to not just California but the wine industry as a whole. This is a much-anticipated time in my life as I transition from full-time farmer of the 100-acre Fiddlestix Vineyard to solely focusing on working with growers to make small-lot wines for Fiddlehead Cellars.”

Kathy will continue to operate Fiddlehead Cellars, which will be releasing estate-grown wines from Fiddlestix Vineyard through its 2021 vintage. In addition to making wines from Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs, Kathy plans to expand Fiddlehead’s focus to include new regions and sites for future vintages.

“I truly believe Fiddlehead Cellars’ best wines are yet to come,” says Kathy. “I plan to continue making place-driven wines, sharing memorable experiences with my customers, and now also exploring opportunities to make wines from new vineyard sites. I remain fully committed to bringing Fiddlehead Cellars into the future.”

Founded in 1989, Fiddlehead Cellars is an embodiment of Kathy Joseph’s pioneering spirit to create some of the most distinguished place-driven wines from what at the time were lesser-known regions: Santa Barbara County and Willamette Valley. With an eye toward small-lot, elegant Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, in 1995 Kathy began searching in western Santa Ynez Valley for land to establish an estate Pinot Noir vineyard. She honed in on a flower farm located at mile maker 7.28 on Santa Rosa Road. The property was not on the market at the time, but she made an offer to acquire it, and went on to plant 100 acres of vines, with the plan to use 15 acres for Fiddlehead Cellars and farm the remaining vines for other wineries. The site was primarily planted to Pinot Noir, but Kathy also had the foresight to become one of the first to plant Grüner Veltliner in Santa Barbara County. 

“There were only a few vineyards in the region at the time, so I was taking a big risk purchasing the property,” says Kathy. “Because of my training and experience tasting Pinot Noir wines from around the world, I was attracted to the property’s positioning in the valley. The site was in just the right spot to avoid extremes and offered a perfect protected pocket for vines. I also recognized that the area’s soils consisted of clay loam laden with Monterey Shale and chert, which were ideal for producing Pinot Noirs with exciting structure.” 

Under Kathy’s leadership, Fiddlestix Vineyard’s reputation rose in prominence in tandem with the Sta. Rita Hills. She worked alongside fellow pioneering winemakers Richard Sanford, Brian Babcock and Rick Longoria to help establish the Sta. Rita Hills winegrowing AVA in 2001. Kathy also established a base of winery partners including Dragonette, Hitching Post, Ancien, Bonaccorsi and the vineyard’s new owner, winemaker Justin Willett of Tyler Winery, who purchased fruit from Fiddlestix in earlier years. 

“This sale of Fiddlestix to Justin Willett and partners was born out of mutual respect and a commitment to both the region and the community that we have fostered here,” says Kathy. “I am proud to be passing this vineyard on in such great condition and I remain deeply committed to the Sta. Rita Hills, and plan to stay an active member of the winemaking community. My love of farming runs deep, and I am looking forward to connecting and collaborating with our local growers in ways that allow Fiddlehead Cellars to expand in new directions.” 

About Fiddlehead Cellars

Founded in 1989, Fiddlehead Cellars encapsulates founder and winemaker Kathy Joseph’s leadership in Santa Barbara County and the Willamette Valley, to make wines that capture the pure essence of place-driven grape varieties. Out of a belief that winemaking starts with fruit grown in extraordinary sites, Kathy directs the farming at each vineyard she works with to produce wines that are place driven, vintage driven, textural and satisfying. Fiddlehead Cellars produces approximately 4,000 cases annually of Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir at the winery in Lompoc, CA.

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