Get the Dirt about McKinney Family Vineyards from winemaker Matt McKinney

22 Mar

mckinneyMatt1. What was your first vintage year?  2010 was the first harvest from our half acre vineyard in Santa Ynez which was planted in the Spring of 2010.  2015 was the first vintage release of wines to the market.

2. How many cases do you make per vintage?  250-500

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? No. Tastings can be made by appointment only on our vineyard property. 805.895.1853 for private tasting scheduling. 
4. How did you get your start in the winemaking business?  I planted a vineyard on my family’s property in 2010 after winning the Puerto Rican Men’s Pro Volleyball Championship.  I had made a deal with my Dad that if I won the championship that year he would allow me to plant a vineyard on the family property. My first year making wine was 2012.  I got my first Harvest job working at Dierberg/Star Lane in 2015 and made my wines at Dragonette Cellars in 2016.
5. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery?  It wasn’t a wine it was my two best friends from Santa Ynez who started a boutique wine distribution company out of college called Central Cal Wine (They currently have a tasting room on Segundo Street in Santa Ynez)  They opened my eyes to the world of small volume, hand crafted boutique wines and from there my passion for quality wine was solidified. 
6. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why?  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon.  They are all special to make in their own way.  I don’t play favorites, they are all capable of being great and I treat each wine differently to create a unique and captivating expression of the varietal or blend. 
mckinneyvineyard7. What vineyards do you source from? If estate, why did you choose the spot you’re in?  My estate vineyard is located dead center of the new Los Olivos AVA.  All my wines come from the AVAs of Santa Ynez Valley and some outlying vineyards of Santa Barbara County.  Part of why I am doing what I do is to represent my hometown and show the amazing potential of this area as a world class wine growing/ winemaking region. 
8. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why?  All French Oak.  I love the clean flavor profiles derived from French Oak: vanilla, caramel, cream brule, coffee bean, chocolate.  All of these flavors are what I am looking for and French oak seems to have a softer tannin profile than other oaks which creates a more velvet textured mouthfeel. 
9. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special?  I love that I grew up here and have always loved this area.  The fact that there are now beautiful vineyards everywhere just makes it that much better. The vineyard landscape of the Santa Ynez Valley reminds me of my time living in Tuscany Italy playing professional volleyball.  I truly believe the Santa Ynez Valley is the new Tuscany of California (Esthetics and Wine Quality). I also love how humble and down to earth people are. We don’t have the pretentious vibe here that many wine regions have and that says a lot to the people living here. There is a special camaraderie within our wine community which makes our local wine industry so unique. If your neighbor wins, you win, we are growing the SYV wine industry together. 
10. What’s the story behind your name/label?  I wanted to create a family crest for our wine label which symbolized our family’s journey to wine country, and my gratitude to my parents for making that decision.  After 6 months of brainstorming I concluded; my dad is a Taurus (Bull), My mom a Libra (Scale) — which is also significant with winemaking and balance, I am a Leo (Lion), The Vineyard brings us all together, and the Navigation Star is a symbol of our families journey to the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.
mckinneycrest11. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery?  I think I reached out to half the winemakers in Santa Barbara County before even beginning down this path.  I heard every story of trial and tribulation and the vast difficulties this industry ensues. Working around the clock, small profit margins, sales and marketing hula hoops & never-ending logistical maneuvering… Through it all I still came back to the fact that I love wine and want to do something I’m passionate about, and the fact that all my friends and family are working in wine or live in wine county is why I am here doing what I’m doing.  Some of the best advise I ever received in my life was from an Italian Business man and restaurant owner in Orange County, Bruno Serato, who told me “Matt is doesn’t matter which career path you choose, as long as you surround yourself with people you truly want to be around.” So here I am pushing through the many hurdles winery owners, winemakers and vineyard owners have to do to pursue their passion and align themselves with the people they truly want to be around. 
12. Most importantly, what’s so great about being small? What can you do as a small winemaker, that wouldn’t be possible for larger wineries? Being small has allowed me the freedom to work with other great winemakers and share services and also create friendships in the process.  I see a lot of the people who work in the cellars for bigger wineries and they are stuck there in some respects.  I love the freedom to change every year and to always be learning something new from new people in the industry.  There is a cool camaraderie that all the smaller wineries in this area share. As the saying goes you need to have ‘friends in low places’ to truly succeed in this industry! No one can do it alone, and being small has given me an unusual ability to network and make friends within the industry. 
13. How do you view the future in the wine industry for small-lot winemakers? I view the future as very positive for small winemakers.  There is a huge movement taking place in America of conscious consumers who seek out quality over quantity and the “craft” beer movement along with Boutique wine is another perfect example.  As long as that kind of demand is present we have a chance to make waves in our industry as little guys. 
14. If you had to choose another wine region to work in what would it be? For me It would be Tuscany, Italy, working with Super Tuscans.  I really like the people and life style in Italy and Sangiovese Blends that come from there are truly some of the very best wines in the world. I also love blending myself so the idea of Super Tuscans is something I really resonate with.  A close second would be Mendoza, Argentina.  I spent two weeks there in 2011 and had a really great time.  It’s a young vibrant city with a big diverse wine industry exploding within it.  I speak Spanish pretty well after living in Puerto Rico for two years so that also makes it a place I could live and really enjoy the quality of life and wine equally. I would focus on Bordeaux Blends if in Argentina. 
To learn more about McKinney Family Vineyards, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK.

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