Get the Dirt about Conarium Wines

12 Mar

Conariumdan&greg1. What was your first vintage year? 2011

2. How many cases do you make per vintage?  We began at 50 cases and now are at 800.

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? Our tasting room will be opening this Spring, 2015, at our winery in Lompoc.  Currently , we schedule tastings by appointment.  Please contact

4. Who is your winemaker? Both owners, Dan Green & Greg Nelson, share the winemaking duties.

5. How did you get your start in the winemaking business?

Dan and Greg met in a fermentation class at Fresno State. Their major project for that class was to make their first wine ever, they chose Viognier.  Crushing grapes through a colander in Dan’s backyard they fermented the juice in a garage refrigerator.  The name of that first wine was, Dan & Greg’s Garage.

After Fresno, they set out to gain experience working at wineries, vineyards, cellars and wine labs. In 2011, the year of Conarium’s first vintage, Dan had an opportunity to intern on an estate in the Sta Rita Hills. He moved his then family of three (including one-year old daughter Julia) to live amongst the sheep, dogs and vines in a small, single wide trailer.  This experience stuck with Dan, and after working for a short time in Sonoma, he moved Conarium, and his now family of five, back to Santa Barbara County.

ConariumGrapes6. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? Dan and Greg share an affinity for Burgundies and Barolos.

Dan:  “My wife and I shared a half bottle of Corton – Charlemagne on our honeymoon in Burgundy.  The wine was transcendent, but what really made it fabulous, was the moment.  We drank it under a tent, with rain pouring down all around us. We could have drank that wine at another time, or in another place, but we didn’t and it all came together perfectly.  I returned from France inspired to make something that could be shared, enjoyed and remembered.”

7. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? We make Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.  Each varietal involves a different perspective and different approaches, so they are all favorites.

Dan: “Chardonnay is my wife’s favorite, so I feel particular pressure to make memorable Chardonnay. Coincidentally, it is also the varietal that has taught me the most about wine making – to be patient, to trust the process, to go with my instinct, even when the data says otherwise.  I think my wife would be happy to hear that”.

ConariumBottle8. What vineyards do you source from? Why? We source from vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley, and Sonoma Coast AVAs.  Vineyard choices are made based on soil composition, age of the vines, average temperature and the vineyard manager’s willingness to collaborate with us in the field.  We look for cool climate vineyards and old vines in our effort to produce wines with structure and texture that will age.

9. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? For both reds and whites, we believe extended barrel aging promotes structure and elegance, up to 26 months for our red wine and 16 months for our white.  Pinot Noir receives 0-30% new French Oak, mainly from Sirigue (Allier very tight grain) and Remond (3 year dried, Medium toast), with a small portion of the chardonnay seeing Francois Freres and Damy barrels (15% new maximum). Some of our white wines also go into stainless steel barrels to enhance the mineral sensation in our wine. The rest goes into neutral older French barrels.

10. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? The Sta. Rita Hills has a majestic, rugged beauty that is still relatively untouched. At Conarium we love that we can spend the day in our “urban” winery in Lompoc, while never losing the romance when we step outside and are surrounded by mountains and vineyards.  The land here is shared by ranchers and farmers whose families were here long before anyone planted a vine. Thus, the history and diversity of the region is rich.  You may come here for the wine, but you will experience much more.  Our 2014 vintage will showcase the wines from this region.

ConariumLogo11. What’s the story behind your name/label? The Conarium (k ô – n â ‘ r ê – u m) is the part of our brain which links us to nature’s seasonal changes.  It has also been described by the 17th century French Philosopher Renee Descartes, as the seat of the soul, and the locus for transcendence. Striving for this type of balance between nature, science and culture underlies much of what we do at Conarium Wines.  Dan and Greg share a reverence for both the science of wine as well as the tradition and mystery surrounding it.

Our logo comes from a 17th century image by Descartes, showing how the body and soul interact via the Conarium.

12. What do you love about small-lot winemaking? Anything you DON’T love about it? Small lot wine making provides a freedom to experiment and improvise.  One mistake is not going to ruin enormous quantities of wine and millions of dollars.  We love the freedom and  intensity required to be hands-on all of the time.

13. Do you still have a day job? If so, do you mind sharing what it is?Both Dan and Greg work full-time producing, managing and promoting Conarium Wines.  When not at the winery, Dan has a full-time job at home preparing family dinners and helping his wife care for their three young daughters: 5 year-old, Julia and 2 year-old twins Madeline and Alexandra.

For more information about Conarium, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

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