Baileyana Winery was founded over 25 years ago by Catharine Niven. Located in the Edna Valley in the heart of San Luis Obispo County, our inspiration continues to build on Catharines passion and her mantra, be the best you can be in whatever you pursue.
A bold woman with a can-do attitude, Catharine had a generous manner and a magnetic personality. Born and raised on a world-class thoroughbred horse farm outside Lexington Kentucky, she developed a love for horses early on. That interest, coupled with a tremendous sense of perseverance, led her to eventually own a race horse and have her name shown in the winners circle at the famous Santa Anita racetrack in Southern California. Equally passionate in other areas including antique collecting, gardening, cooking, entertaining and fundraising, she always sought out the best.
Catharines husband Jack introduced her to the wine industry in the early 1970s via their move to the Edna Valley on Californias Central Coast. Pioneering the planting of the first winegrapes in this area, they founded Paragon Vineyards. Jack focused on the large-scale business while Catharine busied herself with her own smaller project; a 3 acre parcel in their front yard. She went at it with passionate detail, just as with any of her other fascinations. Her research drew her to Burgundy, the worlds ultimate wine producing region. She quickly learned that Californias widely-spaced plantings and trellising system known as California Sprawl were not necessarily the best vineyard practices. Burgundian methods with tighter spacing and a more vertical approach to managing the canopy made sense to her. Despite advice from the California experts, Catharine stuck to her guns, planted her vineyard the way she saw fit, and eventually proved she was right.
And once Catharine had outstanding grapes to work with, it was a natural next step to turn them into equally stellar wine. Named after the neighborhood where she and Jack first met, Catharine began Baileyana Winery. She was one of a very small number of women to own a California wine brand in those days. Our early production was very limited, but Catharines vision of the Edna Valley becoming a prestigious wine region would soon be realized.
Recent History The Next Generations
Baileyana founder Catharine Niven eventually passed the winery on to her four children. Two of them, Jim and John, took the lead and began the long-term process of growing the brand. Additionally, they laid the groundwork for the planting of their estate Firepeak Vineyard and the construction of Baileyanas new winery.
Today, with Jim and John's guidance, the third Niven generation is at the helm. Catharines grandsons John and Michael are challenged with the task of taking her vision to the next level, and are proud to be afforded the opportunity. It was decided to hire veteran French winemaker Christian Roguenant in 1998. Born in Dijon, the capital of Frances Burgundy region, Christian was exposed to many prestigious Burgundy domaines through attending client meetings with his banker father. He later earned a degree in enology and winemaking from the University of Dijon, and became the head enologist for Champagne Deutz, one of the grand marques of Champagne. His work took him all over the world, making wine on no less than five continents; Asia, Europe, Australia, North America, and South America.
When Christian came to the Baileyana team, we charged him with designing a brand new state-of-the-art winery. He did just that, and it was constructed on a knoll in the Edna Valley, surrounded by our estate Firepeak Vineyard. The finished winery is both high-tech and unusually dramatic. Christian stocked it with innovative equipment, some specifically geared to the delicate handling techniques demanded by the finicky Pinot Noir grape. The fruit delivery system, small presses, dozens of small open-top fermentors and four individually climate-controlled barrel rooms are all designed to insure optimum production. Additionally, each of the cellar bays is lined with huge windows that allow sunlight into what is traditionally a dark and damp environment. Not only is this environment esthetically pleasing, it helps to keep the winery clean.
Here at Baileyana, Christian focuses on making Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah from our estate Firepeak Vineyard. Located at the winery, we planted this vineyard to many new French clones, with production of the highest-quality fruit for each particular varietal top-of-mind. Our Firepeak Vineyard runs right up to the base of Islay Mountain, the last in a chain of extinct volcanoes known as the Seven Sisters. Only four miles as the seagull flies from the Pacific Ocean, the soils here are heavily influenced by layers of fossilized seashells left behind 25 million years back when the seas rose at the end of the last Ice Age. The soils are made more complex by the eroded volcanic rock from the Seven Sisters. This unique combination is unlike any we have found elsewhere, and contributes to the outstanding quality of grapes grown here.
Baileyana is one of a number of wineries producing wines from the world-class Edna Valley appellation. The north-south valleys proximity to the ocean makes these vineyards some of the closest to the sea of any in the world. Cool Pacific breezes are channeled straight into the mouth of the valley, bringing frequent fog and a remarkably mild climate. The result is a Region I rating on the U.C. Davis scale. The designation is deceiving, however, as it is warmer in spring and cooler in summer than most regions in the same category. This means that leaves appear on the vines up to two weeks earlier than in other areas, and the ripening season is longer and harvest is later. All these factors create an opportunity for exceptional depth of flavor and wonderfully balanced acidity in the grapes, and point to the Edna Valley has having one of the longest growing seasons in California.