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Winemaker Joey Tensley Buys Colson Canyon Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley

Sale gives Santa Barbara vintner and his wife Jennifer control of 16 acres of vines on a rugged 115-acre property
Photo by: Chris Leschinsky
Joey Tensley makes several top Santa Barbara Syrahs.

Augustus Weed
Posted: January 27, 2016

Santa Barbara winemaking star Joey Tensley and his wife, Jennifer, are taking their brand to the next level. Tensley Wines has purchased the 115-acre Colson Canyon property in the hills of Santa Maria, which includes 16 acres of vines, from grower Reo Reiswig. The Tensleys have been purchasing Colson Canyon fruit since 2000. The sales price was not disclosed.

A retired doctor, Reiswig established Colson Canyon in 1997, planting 16 acres of Syrah and Grenache. He sold the grapes to labels such as Margerum and Brander. But after several years of drought and low yields, Reiswig was ready to move on. “I was his first client and we had always been really good friends,” said Tensley. “He made me an offer and I took it.”

Tensley first saw Colson Canyon in 1997 and was taken by the rugged hillside and its rocky soils. The property borders the canyon's edge and rises to an elevation of 1,400 feet. It's possible to plant another 3 acres—the rest of the land is too rugged. “It's got power but it's not over the top,” said Tensley, describing the character of wines from the vineyard. These are some of the most compelling Syrahs in Tensley's lineup, typically scoring 90 points or more on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.

Tensley plans to expand the vineyard with plantings of Mourvèdre for a future red blend. He will continue to sell some of the grapes but will keep the majority to bolster production of his Tensley label.

Joey and Jennifer launched Tensley in 1998 focusing on Santa Barbara Syrah. Joey also consults for several wineries in Chile and Argentina and cofounded Santa Barbara's Tenshen with Guarachi Wine Partners. In addition to Colson Canyon, the couple owns 2 acres of Syrah at their home in Los Olivos, which they call Tensley Vineyard.

With the purchase, the Tensleys are one step closer to fulfilling their goal of solidifying their brand. In 2015, they sold their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay label Lea to Roblar Winery, where they rent winemaking space. Now they've used the revenue to buy Colson Canyon. “The whole thing played out perfectly,” said Joey. “We're literally living the dream.”

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