“Carr Winery has been tucked away in what looks to be just another steel Quonset hut on the outskirts of downtown Santa Barbara for just under ten years. However, once inside, it’s a completely different story. The walls of the structure curve up into forty foot ceilings and wrap around a sea of stacked wine barrels, oddly resembling the interior of a barrel itself. The wood paneled bar and large stainless steel equipment in the room emit an unforgettable ambiance that leads you into completely forgetting what the exterior of the building even looks like. Who would have ever thought that this all stemmed from 10 cases of wine made in a trash can?
Ryan Carr is the proud owner, grower, and winemaker at Carr Vineyards and Winery in Santa Barbara. Growing up in Southern California around weather that is far from imperfect, Ryan fell in love with agriculture, specifically planting and farming. However, while his long time passion for architecture lead him to pursue an art degree at the University of Arizona, his heart was always in farming. Even though his educational pursuit wasn’t in the direction of his farming career, his time in Arizona was well utilized as it had introduced him to another soon to be passion, his future wife.
After graduating and moving to the Santa Ynez Valley in 1998, Ryan Carr began learning the trades of viticulture and enology from a local company where he then produced his first unofficial vintage from a trash can in his garage. This same company also pushed him to cross paths with Andy Kahn of Kahn Winery. Recognizing and witnessing the passion and determination Ryan had for the industry, Andy hired Ryan to manage Kahn Winery’s vineyards and assist as the assistant winemaker. Not only was Ryan able to begin his career of doing what he loved, Andy Kahn also granted Ryan use to the production facility to produce his very own, first commercial vintage.
By 2004, the Carr Winery label was producing just over 1000 cases annually and Carr Vineyards and Winery was in full gear with Ryan’s wife, Jessica, as the General Manager. Jessica had previously been a part of the world renowned Bacara Resort and Spa as an event coordinator and was eager to put her skills and passion alongside her husband’s to drive their family owned and operated business into the success story it is today.
The Carr’s opened their first tasting room at a cooperative facility called Cellar 205 in downtown Santa Barbara, in the area that is now called the Funk Zone. In 2007 they moved to their current location just off Haley Street in the industrial area. “It was fun to be part of the Funk Zone’s beginnings, but we are now a destination of our own.” says Ryan, “and the Haley Corridor is getting better and better, and we’re glad to be here.”
With no outside investors, this nationally recognized company’s foundation is built solely on the dedication and hard work of Ryan and Jessica. Every penny they’ve made has gone into the winery and even through all the success that the Carr’s have seen in the past 16 years, both Ryan and Jessica come in to work at the winery or out in the vineyards everyday.
All Carr wines are made from Santa Barbara County grapes, primarily from vineyards under Ryan’s direct care. Ryan manages and oversees about 100 acres of vineyards throughout Santa Barbara county varying in size from one acre to about twenty. Several of these he designed and planted for his vineyard management clients, and recently he’s taken over the leases of those vineyards. Each vineyard is “precision farmed” to produce low yields with high quality fruit in order to ensure a high quality final product. When discussing the California drought with Ryan, he explained, “the vines are struggling, but still producing good crops and fruit”. However, just as any other unpredictable weather challenge, viticulturists, like Ryan, learn to adjust and overcome new challenges, which keep the industry moving forward.
Carr Winery is one of only six full production wineries in the downtown area of Santa Barbara. They specialize and are widely known for their Pinot Noirs, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Carr Winery offers their guests traditional wine tastings, glasses, and bottles for purchase as well as the new up and coming trend of Wine on Tap. Wine on Tap is a new, cost efficient and environmentally sustainable way to enjoy fine wines in the tasting room, or at home. Each glass is poured fresh from a temperature controlled tap system, and one-liter refillable growlers are available to take with you.
With all the growth Carr Vineyards and Winery has seen in the past sixteen years, it’s no surprise that there are plans currently in motion to keep the wheel moving forward. The winery and tasting room in downtown are currently expanding and will be featuring an outdoor patio, a catering kitchen, as well as private, temperature controlled wine lockers available for rent. Ryan Carr’s CrossHatch label has also seen some growth since it’s debut in 2011 as a full series of co-fermented blends. It features wine made from grapes that were fermented, pressed, and aged together yielding flavors not capable of being found with the traditional blending method. “They are fun to make and create beautiful aromas during the winemaking process,” Ryan notes.
Just with any successful business that made it’s way from the ground up, it all starts with a vision. Ryan and Jessica Carr put their skills, passion, and determination together through 16 years of early mornings, late nights, highs, and lows to keep their dream alive. Carr Vineyards and Winery is currently producing about 4,500 cases under the Carr label annually, hosting art shows, and playing live music, all driving the winery further into success, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.”
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