Open: Year Round
In 1998 Joey Tensley launched Tensley Wines with one hundred cases and one single goal - to make wines that let the unique and little-known vineyards of Santa Barbara County speak for themselves.Â Thirteen years later Tensley is a 4,000 case-a-year business with Syrahs in the Wine Spectator's Top 100, a history of high scores with Robert Parker, and a Food and Wine Magazine award for producing the "Top Syrah in America Over $20."
Joey's first experience with wine took place when he was just twelve-years-old and his soccer team toured a winery while taking part in a tournament in Bordeaux. Joey vividly recalls the chill of the old caves and the aromas of wines fermenting in barrel.Â From that moment on he knew he wanted to be a winemaker. "Which pretty much made me the only kid in Bakersfield, California, with that particular dream," Joey says. "We all raced go-carts and most of my friends wanted to be race car drivers."
Ten years later, in 1993, Joey got his start in the wine business working as a "cellar rat" for Fess Parker Winery in Santa Barbara County.Â After only three years he became the assistant winemaker at Babcock Vineyards.Â There Joey came to appreciate the importance of the vineyard and the grower. He also came to appreciate the uniqueness of Santa Barbara County as a growing region. "We're one of the only places in the world with a mountain range that runs east-west.Â That gives us a lot of different microclimates."
In 1998 Joey moved on to become the assistant winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards.Â There he was offered space to launch his own label. He decided to produce only vineyard designated Syrahs from Santa Barbara County.Â He also decided that those Syrahs would all be priced the same and made in the same fashion. He stays true to those methods today.
By 2001 Tensley Wines' original 100 cases had grown to 750 cases, and Joey had moved into his own winery in Buellton, California. Tensley appeared on prestigious wine lists from coast to coast including Manhattan's Gotham Bar and Grill, Chicago's Bin 36, and Picasso in Las Vegas.
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