The pursuit of great Pinot Noir
Ken Brown (né Byron Kent Brown) is recognized as one of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemakers and innovators. He was among the first vintners to realize the tremendous promise for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in this cool-‐climate appellation in the mid 1970’s. He was also the first winemaker to introduce the Syrah grape, as well as Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, to Santa Barbara County.
A third generation California native from Sacramento, Ken earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Linfield College in 1966. He pursued a career in sales with IBM and later in real estate development, but found his true passion to be wine and took steps to transform that passion into a career.
Ken enrolled in the graduate enology program at California State University at Fresno in 1974. Unlike many other students at the time, he took both viticulture and enology courses to gain a broader perspective of winegrowing. While at Fresno State, Ken led the research program in the school vineyard and winery. He was approached by several growers from Santa Barbara County to help determine the commercial viability of wine grapes in Santa Barbara County and made wine from some of the county’s earliest vineyards. Impressed and excited about the wine quality from these early plantings, Ken accepted an offer to become Zaca Mesa Winery’s first winemaker in 1977.