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The Mountain Drive Wine Stomp

Mountain Drive in Santa Barbara in the 1950s was a center of bohemian life, inspired in part, by Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’. Located in, what was then, an isolated area in the mountains above Montecito, a rich enclave then as now, and because of its then isolation, of cheap land – $1,000.- $2,000 an acre. Nearly all Mountain Drivers built their own houses with the help of their friends and neighbors and often without the benefit of plans or permits.

Many, if not most, had day jobs but in the evenings and weekends they became right bohemians living their iconoclastic fantasies. They celebrated everything worth celebrating, Robert Burns Birthday, Bastille Day, Twelfth Night, the summer and winter equinox, sunset and above all the grape harvest. Wine was the social lubricant in an age where the dry martini reigned, and the wine of preference was Zinfandel from a small family winery in San Luis Obispo.

A Hollywood movie Seconds starring Rock Hudson includes the wine stomp as a central part of their narrative. Filmed on site and with real Mountain Drivers as extras.

Our first winemaker at Santa Barbara Winery was from Mountain Drive, an Optometrist by trade, but a bohemian by choice. What started this train of thought is that David Lafond lives in the house of what was then one of the principle actors on Mountain Drive. David has resuscitated, after more than 20 years absence, one of Mountain Drive’s most cherished celebrations – the Mountain Drive Wine Stomp and the choosing of a Wine Queen.

Today, because of technological advances, only children are allowed to stomp. Being lighter they are gentler. In the excellent ancient days the whole community got into the vat and preferably naked. The wine did not turn out half as well.

The bohemian spirit may have vanished, children rebel against their parents, and these are mostly the second generation Mountain Drivers, and maybe, just maybe, sitting on million dollar properties is inhibiting, but they still have a excellent time and the spirit is there. Hopefully the tradition will survive.

Although never a part of this culture Santa Barbara Winery, and in fact, the whole wine industry in Santa Barbara County owes a debt to these pioneers and their like of the grape.

There is a book, Mountain Drive, compiled and edited by Elias Chiacos, published by Shoreline Press, P.O. Box 3562, Santa Barbara, CA 93130, that covers this early history of Mountain Drive with an ample selection of photos.

In 1962 Pierre Lafond opened the first sbwinery.com Santa Barbara winery since Prohibition. In 2001, he opened another sbwinery.com California winery
called Lafond Winery. Today, his two vineyards and winemaking operations are some of Santa Barbara’s finest. Tours and tastings daily.

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