By Laurie Jervis
Andrew “Andy” Busch, the scion of one of America’s great brewing families, Anheuser-Busch, relocated his family to Santa Barbara after first visiting the region for a match as captain of the United States Polo Team in 1998.
Today, after a severe leg injury, Busch has (mostly) shed his professional polo jersey and spurs for jeans and a Folded Hills logo baseball cap.
His family keeps several riding horses on their ranch, and on the June day we met, Busch was looking forward to a competitive polo match that afternoon.
But since buying a historic 600-acre ranch in Gaviota, he and his wife, Kim, and four children are more focused on viticulture and winemaking, from ground to glass, as the owners of Folded Hills Winery. It’s clearly a family business.
“Kim handles the marketing on a day-to-day basis,” Busch explained. “And our four kids, Lacey, Andy, Will and Nick (ages 20s to mid-30s) love it.”
With Angela Osborne and Tymari LoRe on board as Folded Hills’ winemaker and general manager, respectively, the Busch family has the team to bring it home. Osborne is owner/winemaker of the label A Tribute to Grace, and LoRe brings years of winemaking experience, most recently as assistant winemaker at Kita Wines in Lompoc.
The vineyard manager at Folded Hills is Ruben Solórzano of Coastal Vineyard Care.
Two estate vineyards comprise 15 acres of organically farmed grapes, with all vines visible from Highway 101 just north of the Nojoqui Grade. One plot, adjacent to the northbound lanes, includes three acres of head-trained white Rhone varietals (grenache blanc, marsanne and claret blanc). Atop a hillside across Old Coast Highway from 101 stretches a 12-acre site devoted to grenache and syrah, LoRe noted.
Below the hilltop vineyard is a historic barn on property once owned by the Giorgi family, longtime area ranchers and farmers, LoRe told me.
After the Busch family purchased the barn and adjacent acreage on both sides of Old Coast Highway in 2011, it opted to continue the tradition of selling freshly grown produce.
The barn houses the “Farmstead,” where organically grown fruits and vegetables are sold on weekends. Early next year, a winery will be erected across the road from the Farmstead, and eventually, so will a tasting room, LoRe noted.
Folded Hills ranch itself is tucked away more than a mile east of the vineyards, off Alisal Road and just across the road from Nojoqui Falls Park. Only a fence line separates the Busch’s ranch from the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort.
The main home on Folded Hills was built by the Morton Salt family in the 1920s, Busch said.
Folded Hills’ private driveway meanders across a bridge over Nojoqui Creek and winds around fenced pastures, one of which contains a groomed polo field, a nod to Busch’s longtime passion.
Grazing throughout the ranch are 300 head of cattle, and donkeys, llamas, one cow, goats, chickens and peacocks, LoRe said. Like the grapes, the row crops grown on the property — blueberries, strawberries, apples and peaches — are organically farmed.
Of the nine wines Folded Hills produces, five are from estate-grown grapes: the “Cluster” grenache, the Lilly Rosé, a sparkling rosé, the grenache, and the August Red blend of syrah and grenache.
A gentleman named Eberhard Anheuser was the father-in-law of Adolphus Busch, founder of Anheuser-Busch. Eberhard’s daughter, Lilly, was Andy Busch’s great-grandmother, and it’s in her honor, and that of Andy Busch’s granddaughter, Lilly Peterson, that Folded Hills’ Lilly Rosé is named.
Wine & Spirits magazine awarded the 2016 Lilly Rosé “Year’s Best Rosé” and 90 points, LoRe noted.
Today, Anheuser-Busch owns more than 50 beer labels, but in the days when Andy Busch’s father and grandfather, August Busch Jr. and Sr., respectively, worked the family business, their families were priority.
The famed Budweiser Clydesdale horses, the beer label’s icon and the staple of modern Super Bowl commercials, originated as a “gift from August Junior to August Senior to celebrate the repeal of prohibition,” Andy Busch said.
Two “retired” Clydesdales reside on the ranch and tower over the Busch family’s other horses.
Folded Hills’ white Rhone blend, August White, honors those two men, Andy Busch told me.
“It’s family history, and a tribute,” he said. “We’re all about celebrating friends and family.”
In the years before Busch delved into competitive polo, he managed a family property built in 1848 by Ulysses S. Grant.
“Grant’s Farm” is a landmark property in Grantwood Village, Missouri, that opened to the public in 1954. The homestead is a popular tourist attraction with bison, elk and elephants on display, Busch said.
In keeping it open for viewing, “our goal is to give back to the St. Louis and Midwest community,” he said.
Another of Folded Hills’ wines also celebrates history, albeit that of France: “Cluster” is estate grenache, crafted in the Beaujolais Nouveau style of carbonic fermentation — a shorter term, whole-cluster effort that yields a bright, drinkable red.
“Ours was released in November and gone the following January,” LoRe said.
Folded Hills’ production of the Lilly Rosé jumped from 600 cases in 2016 to 1,300 for the 2017 vintage, LoRe said, and the rosé will continue to be the label’s highest production.
Wine tasting is available by appointment at the ranch, she said.
Total case production will remain around 3,200 annually, Busch said. “We will always be a boutique winery.”
Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com and can be reached by email at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are her own.