Sierra Madre Vineyard: Our History

1971----------------------------------------------------------------------- First planting, George A. Lucas and Sons

1988----------------------------------------------------------------------- Hampton, Cramer and Cushman purchase property

1996----------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert Mondavi purchases property 

1999/2000--------------------------------------------------------------- Portions of the vineyard replanted by Ken Brown 

2003----------------------------------------------------------------------- Doug Circle purchases property

The property that would become Sierra Madre Vineyard was first planted by George A. Lucas and Sons of Delano, CA, a family business involved in the production of wine grapes since 1943. Dale Hampton, their Superintendent of Farming Operation, managed the development. They planted 700 acres. 

In the late 1970s the property was purchased by the Prudential Insurance Company, which had acquired it, along with a number of other California vineyards, as investment property.

After having worked with the vineyard for almost 20 years, Dale Hampton, purchased the vineyard in 1988, together with Douglas Cramer, a Hollywood television producer, and John Cushman, an LA real estate developer. With considerable demand for Santa Maria fruit coming from the larger growing regions, Hampton wanted to ensure that San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County vintners would be assured of a source for their wines. 

At that time the property was 1000 acres, 630 acres planted to vineyards:  Sauvignon Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Clients included Byron Vineyard and Winery, Zaca Mesa, Robert Mondavi, Qupe, Caymus, Cambria, Fess Parker, and Sanford Winery. 

In the early ‘80s, wine critics began to take notice.  Noted wine writer Mike Stepanovich called Sierra Madre Vineyard “one of the state’s – make that the nation’s – best Pinot Noir vineyards,” citing consecutive awards for Sanford Winery, Byron Vineyard & Winery, and Wild Horse Winery for “Best American Pinot Noir,” all from Sierra Madre fruit.

In 2003, following the advice of Michael Mondavi, accomplished businessman and strawberry grower Doug Circle purchased 500 acres of Sierra Madre Vineyard from Mondavi, with a plan to reintroduce this great site to the wine world. Another 250 acres,  originally known as part of Sierra Madre, are owned by John Wagner.  The final 100 acres were purchased by Fess Parker Winery.

Doug Circle replanted half of the vineyard, but left the best clones and rootstocks, those planted by Ken Brown.  In 2003-2004, the vineyard remained under contract to Mondavi. Since then, winery clients have included Au Bon Climat, David Bruce Winery, Diageo Wine Estates, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Hitching Post Wines,  Edna Valley Vineyard, Gainey Vineyard, Hahn Estates, Paul Lato, Point Conception Wines, Row Eleven Wine Company, Rusack, Scott Cellars, Wild Horse Winery and Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, many of whom have or will be producing Sierra Madre vineyard designated wines.

This precious parcel is in good hands with Doug Circle. With over 35 years of agricultural experience in both farming and business practices, he is uniquely qualified to shepherd the Sierra Madre Vineyard. Doug sees this vineyard with even more potential quality than it has enjoyed in the past, and he is eager to bring that vision to fruition.