Riverbench Vineyard was established in 1973, when the first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes were planted on the bank of the Sisquoc River, known as the Santa Maria Bench. For decades since then, some of the most renowned wineries have purchased our fruit for their wines. In 2006, we began producing our own wines in limited quantities, with many available exclusively through our tasting rooms in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, California.
Situated on the southeastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley, the northernmost AVA in Santa Barbara County, the vineyard currently consists of 115 acres of Pinot Noir and 15 acres of Chardonnay. We continually evaluate the vines as they age, replanting as necessary. In 2008, we committed ourselves to our premium sparkling wine program. We continue to take steps to make wines that are inspired by centuries of sparkling wine making history in Champagne, France. In 2015, we added the third great grape varietal famous in that area, Pinot Meunier, to our vineyard. We anticipate incorporating these grapes into our sparkling wine blends beginning in 2017.
A transplant from the Carolinas, Laura has been in the Santa Barbara County wine business since 2004. Raised in a family dedicated to wine importing, distributing, and sales, her own career in wine industry began after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when she relocated to the California’s Central Coast wine region.
In 2007, her substantial retail background and experience in the local wine business allowed her to take on the role of General Manager at Riverbench. Since then, she has established the brand as a respected sparkling wine producer with a flourishing wine club and opened a second tasting room location in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.
In 2013, she earned her MBA from Pepperdine University and and in 2016 passed her Level 3 Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) exam with distinction. Most recently, Laura attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, receiving a certificate in basic cuisine with honors. She is fluent in several languages, including French and Greek.
Clarissa fell in love with the aromas of Pinot Noir when she started working with wine in 1995. She received a Bachelor of Science in Food Science from California Polytechnic State University, and began her career as a Lab Technician at Edna Valley Vineyards. From there she moved through the roles of Assistant Winemaker at Byron Winery, Assistant Winemaker/Vineyard Supervisor at Longoria Winery, and winemaker for Bonaccorsi Wine Company.
Clarissa is known for her elegant, sophisticated winemaking style, and for her appreciation for fruit that comes from the Santa Maria Valley. She continues to refine Riverbench wines each vintage, and adds her own unique style to our portfolio.
A graduate of the University of California at Davis with a B.S. in Crop Science and Management, Jim began overseeing vineyard operations at Riverbench in 2006.
Jim works closely with the Riverbench wine making team to maintain a consistent standard in our estate wines, while customizing wine grape farming practices for the dozens of other winemakers who purchase fruit from our vineyard.
Jim's additional expertise ranges from grapes grown on his family ranch in San Miguel to avocado and citrus farming. He lives in Santa Maria with his wife Sammi and two twin boys.
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