A pioneer vintner in Santa Barbara Wine Country, Fred Brander was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and later emigrated with his family to the US, settling in Santa Barbara. With a strong formation in science and chemistry, Fred knew at an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in the wine business. He is well remembered by his classmates at Harvey Mudd College for his prowess in making tasty batches of both beer and wine with lab equipment during his days living in the college dorm.
Fred’s wine career, which spans five decades, began in the early 70s with him working at Mayfare Cellars, a celebrated Santa Barbara wine merchant. During this period, he launched his own wholesale and import wine business, bringing wines from France and his native Argentina into the US. Upon graduation from UC Davis with a Master’s degree in Food Science with an enology emphasis, he and his family planted a vineyard in 1975 near the town of Los Olivos in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, which he identified as having climate and soils well suited to Bordeaux grape varieties. His first Sauvignon Blanc harvest in 1977 (which was made by him at the Santa Ynez Valley Winery) won Santa Barbara County’s first gold medal at a major wine competition. To complete his vision and dream, Fred began construction of his winery in 1979. The three flags that wave proudly over the pink chateau and tasting room make reference to his family roots: Sweden, Argentina, and the US.
Fred Brander’s pursuit to produce the best Sauvignon Blanc in California is documented in various publications and by the numerous awards and accolades that his Sauvignon Blancs have received. One Master of Wine wrote that his Sauvignon Blancs not only rank as the best in California but also in North America. With over 75% of the winery’s production volume dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc blends and no less than 11 different bottlings of the variety made in any given vintage, the Brander brand is unique. His fanatical fervor has earned his place in the wine world, as he is often called the “King of Sauvignon Blanc” in California. He has recently put the same effort and dedication into creating exceptional small lots of estate Cabernet Sauvignon that push the quality envelope for red Bordeaux varietal wines produced in Santa Barbara County.
As both enologist and viticulturist, Fred has continued to promote Santa Barbara County as a wine growing region. Over the last forty years, he was the first to grow and produce wines from lesser known varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Semillon, Sauvignon Gris, and lately, Petit Manseng – in addition to his signature Sauvignon Blancs. Most recently he led the drive to identify the distinguishing features in the section of the Santa Ynez Valley, bordered by Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA to the east and Ballard Canyon AVA to the west, which qualify the region as a separate viticulture area. His petition to the federal government was approved, and in February of 2016 the Los Olivos District AVA was established.
Fred embraces his multicultural upbringing by collecting Latin American Art with an emphasis on museum-quality Mexican folk art. He travels throughout Mexico frequently visiting artisans to purchase their best pieces, much the same way he visits the small wine producers in Europe to sample their wines. The recently opened Brander Museum of Folk Art, a non-profit organization, which houses his collection at the winery, illustrates the close connection between wine and folk art and their common expression of “a sense of place”, or terroir.