The family of Andrew Murray, a well-respected California producer of Rhône varietals and blends, has sold their Santa Barbara County estate for an undisclosed price to a new entrant in the region's wine business: Santa Monica real-estate developer John Zahoudanis. Murray, however, plans to continue making wine under his own label, using different grape sources.
The sale, which closed in January, does not include the Andrew Murray brand name or any inventory. Zahoudanis has acquired the 200-acre Santa Ynez Valley ranch on which Murray's parents made their home, including Murray's 42-acre Painted Hills Vineyard and Mediterranean-style winery facility, located on Foxen Canyon Road, adjacent to Zaca Mesa Winery.
Murray explained that his parents had wanted for some time to sell their property and move to a smaller place. "Knowing that this was going to happen one day, we had worked with Oak Savannah [another vineyard on Foxen Canyon Road] … to make sure we'd have a great vineyard source in the future," he said. "It's an estate and microclimate that we are already well-familiar with. We'll now be getting Syrah from there." He added that Zahoudanis plans to sell him some grapes "so we'll continue to have fruit from our original source." Murray will make the wines in a facility leased from the Firestone family, less than two miles from his old winery.
Zahoudanis, who developed his love for wine in Greece, where he grew up, plans to launch a new label named Demetria Estates, after his daughter. He also purchased Ashley's Vineyard, planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, from Fess Parker Winery in 2005 and renamed the site Gaia, after the Greek goddess of the earth. (Painted Hills has been renamed Demetria Vineyard.)
Zahoudanis, who plans to farm his vineyards and make his wines following biodynamic principles, has hired winemaker Michael Roth, who worked at Koehler in the Santa Ynez Valley, and biodynamic vineyard consultant Philippe Armenier.
Demetria will release its first wine, a Pinot Blanc, this summer, followed by a range of Rhône and Burgundy varietals and a white Rhône blend called Papou ("grandfather" in Greek). The winery will also continue to sell grapes from the Gaia Vineyard to wineries such as Brewer-Clifton, David Bruce and Tantara.