Collab Series: Fidencio Flores of Esfuerzo Winery (Tasting Notes by George Yatchisin)

| March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

As you know, I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for a new Santa Barbara label. I monitor all the social media platforms, and the moment I see something new, I pursue it by messaging all my contacts in the area (you all know who you are!). A little while back, I noticed chatter on a new label named Esfuerzo.

I was instantly intrigued by the winemaker’s background. Fidencio Flores grew up in an agricultural household and went to school to study it. His Grandfather, Armando Zepeda, is a LEGEND in the area for his vineyard management skill. His Father, Lupe Flores, has been a Cellar Master at Buttonwood Winery for over twenty three years. Fidencio works in some of the best vineyards in Santa Barbara and decided to start making wine himself. He has worked with some of the absolute BEST vineyard managers. As you will see below, the guy gets it.

Fidencio was nice enough to answer my questions remotely from the U.K. A popular phenomenon in the craft beer industry is to create a Collaboration or ‘Collab’ beer. I thought it would be cool to try the same approach on this post, combining my remote interview with Fidencio with input and tasting notes from a local friend and journalist, George Yatchisin. George is an experienced and accomplished writer specializing in food and drink. He has a site, www.georgeeats.com, has written for the local Santa Barbara paper, and has a regular radio show, “Frank ‘n’ George” on KCSB FM. So the man knows food, beer, wine, and music. It’s no wonder we get along so well. His tasting notes follow my questions.

And now, my interview with Fidencio:

Where were you born?
I was born in Santa Barbara, California.

What were you like as a kid? Sports fan? Interested in agriculture back then?
As a kid I was very curious and adventurous. I played soccer for most of my life. I was always interested in agriculture as I grew up farming with my family.

What was your family life like? What did your parents do for a living?
My family was always working and farming. My father was a farmer and cellar master. My mother was a homemaker.

You have an interesting educational background. Where have you gone to school and what did you study?
I went to Dunn School for high school. During my high school years I played a number of sports (Soccer, Football, Volleyball). I was part of student government and started a student cafe on campus with a team of classmates. After I graduated, I attended Chico State University- College of Agriculture. My major was agricultural business finance. I also minored in crop and soil science. During my studies I also attended Butte College with an emphasis in IPM, and organic viticulture. At Hancock College I studied viticulture and enology to further my knowledge.

Where do you work currently?
Currently I work for Coastal Vineyard Care Associates.


Fidencio in the vines

When did you realize that you are able to grow agriculture successfully?
When I was 12 years old, my father gave me my own small piece of land to farm. That for me was the test and beginning of my journey to joining the agricultural world.

When did you realize you have a passion for agriculture and vineyard management?
As a kid I had the common aspiration of becoming a fireman. However, I also had this vision of me driving a diesel truck with a trailer and tractor in the back, wearing my boots around town. I always had a love for nature and watching things grow. I was curious about what made plants grow, how water, soil, nutrients, etc effected their growth. Farming is not just about produce but the table your product reaches. I like watching people enjoy what I farm where it be wine, live stock, or vegetables. Agriculture has provided me with a career path that gives back to the community in the form of jobs, fresh produce, and overall community development.

Who are some of your mentors in vineyard management?
Growing up my grandfather was definitely one of my biggest mentors. Jeff Newton, Ruben Solorzano and the team have been my biggest career mentors out in the field.


Fidencio with his Grandfather, Armando Zepeda…droppin’ knowledge

What is your favorite part about vineyard management? Least favorite?
My favorite part about vineyard management is watching beautiful sunrises and great interactions with different winemakers. My least favorite part is fighting the frost.

Do you see any new trends in vineyard management?
I see that technology is being implemented more into viticulture. Trellis retrofitting has also become a trend.

Coastal Vineyard Care takes care of some amazing sites. What are your favorite sites? Most challenging sites?
My favorite site and also most challenging site has to be John Sebastiano Vineyard (located in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA). The reason it’s challenging is because of the variation of soils within a hundred of fifty acres. The mesa-climate each part of the ranch has to offer creates the best quality of fruit.

You’re listed as Agriculturist at Buttonwood. Can you tell us what you do there? How is it working with Karen Steinwachs?
At Buttonwood, I manage anything that pertains to the growing of row crops and fruit in their production. Karen came to Buttonwood when I was in my teens and brought a different mindset and approach to wine making. It has been great watching her grow and expand the Buttonwood label.

You’re making some wine now. Have you always enjoyed wine? When did you realize?
I was introduced to watered down sauv blanc at the age of 12. It was at that age that I realized I wanted to do something in the wine industry.

Was there one producer or wine that made you discover you enjoyed wine (epiphany wine)?
Growing up on Buttonwood has overall influenced my joy of making wine. The wine that I enjoyed the most was Buttonwood’s Rosé.

When did you decide to start making wine on your own?
Right out of college I decided that wine making was a career option for myself.

Who are some of your mentors in winemaking?
My father was a mentor in winemaking, Mike Brown, Karen Steinwach. I also appreciate Dragonette Cellars wine making style as well as Peter Work’s from Ampelos Winery.

How did you come up with the name of your label?
I grew up with the saying of “esfuerzo.” Success comes with a lot of esfuerzo or effort. My label is dedicated to all those hard working people that give it there all day in and day out.

What sites are you working with? What grape varietals?
I consider myself a coastal/maritime mesoclimate explorer. I farm small vineyards hidden in the pockets of the Santa Barbara Coast up to Avila beach. My vineyards vary from 150 acre properties to 2 acre properties. For example, John Sebastian is 150 acres, whereas another vineyard I hand farm organically is only 2 acres.

What is your winemaking philosophy?
I believe that a good wine makes itself. Therefore fruit quality must be superior at the time of condensing wine making. Minimal intervention is what I strive for.

Preference on stem inclusion? Percentage of new oak? Anything you’d like to share?
I do include whole cluster and stem. But I always keep it to a max of 10%. I do not do much oak additives because I believe in attaining full expression of the grapes through using neutral oak. At times I will use new French oak for my pinots.

You have a tasting room in the Buellton Industrial way area. Who are your neighbors? Are you open? Have you enjoyed this part of the business?
My neighbors are Buscador, Ken Brown, Helix, Tierra Y Vino, Imagine winery, and Cholame Vineyard. Yes, I am now open. I have most definitely enjoyed this part of the business. For me it’s the best part of the business because I see the people that my wine goes to beyond the winery.


Fidencio and his tasting room. Pics courtesy of George Yatchisin.

What are your next steps? Any goals?
My next steps are to continue to make wine and then keep expanding the label. My ultimate goal is to make enough revenue so I can donate a significant amount to organizations and scholarship foundations. I value community so I hope to become a big community supporter and give any contribution possible.

Participating in any tastings? Member of any associations (Santa Barbara Vintners)?
I am not currently participating in any tastings. The only people that have my wine are the members of the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Club. I will be doing future small private group tastings outside of tasting room hours. Currently along with tasting room hours I also do tastings by appointment. I am looking forward to doing some tastings in communal events.

And, as promised, here are George’s notes!

Fidencio had three wines for us. The first was a pinot gris, 2017, which he refers to as a mutant pinot noir. Hand farmed from 2 acres off Refugio, originally planted by his uncle, so it’s a family affair. He wants to keep growing it despite pinot gris being as difficult as pinot noir and then not getting you anywhere near the same return when you bottle and sell it. As with all of Fidencio’s wines, this one is elegant and leaning Old World, a bit shy but still enticing. Clean–100% stainless. Lovely pale straw color going to something like liquid mercury; the color almost reminded me of an expensive joven tequila more than a wine. Notes of Meyer lemon and guava and a long finish. Keen acidity begging for food.

Second wine was a 2017 pinot noir rose. Like the gris, it’s pale in the glass, a copper going to salmon. So much wild strawberry on the nose. He calls it “more of a serious rose.” A bit austere, but in a pleasing way, like it has a secret it wants to eventually reveal to you. With that strawberry, and acid, there’s some lime blossom, say. Again, this seems a perfect food wine; he suggests ceviche. That would be great.

Third wine was 2016 Mourvedre that comes from grapes off Alamo Pintado that he got with Chris King from DSP. This is a light on its feet Mourvedre (again, elegant is the word that fits all 3 wines), with enough tannins but nothing you have to chew, and a bit of wild bramble, but you don’t feel like you need pruning sheers to approach the glass. All that said, the fruit is deep, dark berries and black cherries, with a hint of black pepper.


Fidencio’s Mourved

If you’d like to see more info on Fidencio, visit his website by clicking HERE!
His Facebook Page is HERE!
His InstaGram is HERE!

Fidencio’s Tasting Room is OPEN and located at:

140 Industrial Way
Buellton, CA 93427
OPENING HOURS 11:00AM-5:00PM
TEL: 805-245-1578/INFO@ESFUERZOWINE.COM

Category: California Wine, Featured, News, Santa Barbara Wine Talk, Uncategorized, Wine and Food Blogs, Wine Articles, Wine News, Winery Visits

About the Author ()

Hello, and welcome to “Santa Barbara Wine Talk,” a blog dedicated solely to the wines of the Santa Barbara area. Santa Barbara has so much to offer the wine world. The area is relatively young compared to its Northern California counterparts, but its fame is skyrocketing. Pioneer Richard Sanford planted the first Pinot vines in the diatomaceous earth of the Santa Rita Hills in the 70’s. Around that same time, Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist, and Adam Tolmach worked together at Zaca Mesa on the Foxen Trail and established the fabulous Rhone varietals in the area. Fast forward to today, where Manfred Krankl’s wines garner a hundred points and a bunch of young guns are making world-class wine. The Santa Barbara growing region is incredibly diverse. From cool climate sites like Watch Hill, Thompson vineyard, and the aforementioned Santa Rita Hills, to the warmer Santa Ynez Valley and new American Viticulture Area (AVA) Happy Canyon. There is also the only north-south valley in California, the Ballard Canyon (the NEWEST AVA), Santa Maria, and perhaps the most famous vineyard, Bien Nacido. The towns of Los Olivos, Solvang, and the Lompoc Wine Ghetto have seemed to double the number of tasting rooms in the past few years! Happily for those with full tasting schedules, most sites are within twenty minutes of each other (at least when I’m driving!). As for me, I’ve had a passion for wine since 2004. In the grand scheme of things, that is a mere blip in the wine game. It wasn’t until my wife and her parents took me to Napa/Sonoma that I realized, “I love this stuff!” Ever since then, I’ve been on a quest to learn as much as I can about wine. I don’t think my wife’s family knew they were going to create such a monster… After a few trips to Sonoma/Napa, my wife and I decided to give Santa Barbara a try. Not expecting much, we woke up early to beat the LA traffic and headed up the coast. We had the great pleasure to meet with Greg Brewer at Brewer-Clifton. His chards and pinots left us speechless. Next appointment was with Larry Schaffer. Anyone who spends five minutes with Larry will be ready to run through a wall, jacked to try some Rhones. I’d never had a Grenache before…or a Syrah from a cool climate site and in neutral oak…again my mind was blown. A tour around Clos Pepe with Wes Hagen was an absolutely amazing experience and taught me the uniqueness of the Santa Rita Hills. Jaffurs was the last stop before we headed back to San Diego. I instantly fell in love with their wines. I couldn’t believe how amazing they were. I’ve been hooked ever since. As good as the wine is in this region, the people and the hospitality are even better. I’ve never had so much access to winemakers, facilities, and wines, and all are shared with great enthusiasm and passion. It’s because of this that I felt a need to share this special place with as many people as I could.

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