My roots in South Texas run deep. My grandfather, Cyrus Lucas Heard, was born in 1898 in Refugio, Texas. The Heard family came to Texas from Ireland in the late 1700’s and raised cattle on land obtained from original Spanish land grants. In South Texas-ese, Refugio is pronounced Re-few-rio. I wish I could tell you where they get the “r”, but honestly I haven’t a clue. This town of approximately 3,000 inhabitants is the seat of Refugio County, located in Southeastern Texas along the Gulf Coast. As one of the original Mexican municipalities, Refugio played a key role in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico. Cyrus’ grandfather, Captain James B. Wells, served in the Texas Navy and was appointed by General Sam Houston to head the Texas Naval Yard. So imagine my curiosity, when in 2012, I was walking along a quaint little street in Los Olivos, California, and happened upon this tasting room:
I dragged Hubby in there and started babbling about Re-few-rio, and I could only imagine they thought I was a madwoman. For, in Cali, it is a different Refugio, with a unique history and pronunciation. Some locals call it Rey-fuh-fee-ho (yes, with two “f”s), while others argue it is simply Rey-foo-he-o. A historical cattle ranch that originally was 18 miles long and 4 miles wide, Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio, has been subdivided many times over that last two centuries. A particularly beautiful 415 acres was purchased by Kevin and Niki Gleason in 2004. They hired the Napa Valley “dirt docs” (Ph.D soil scientists who perform soil analysis and vineyard design) who indicated the ranch had two distinct microclimates that were perfectly suited for growing Rhône varietals and Sauvignon Blanc. On 26 acres of vineyards and with one hundred percent estate grown grapes, the Gleasons launched the Refugio Ranch label in the Spring of 2011. The vineyards are not open to the public, but in 2012, the aforementioned Refugio Ranch tasting room opened in “downtown” Los Olivos. A year after we first stumbled upon the tasting room, Hubby, by chance, met Kevin Gleason at a Santa Barbara gym. Kevin invited us to tour the ranch, and with Chase Yost as our tour guide, we hopped aboard the ranch Polaris for a fun ride. It was a beautiful, sunny California afternoon as we sampled 8 Refugio Ranch wines from winemaker Ryan Devolet, noted for working with rockstar winemaker Paul Hobbs at Viña Cobos. Whether is was by chance, or by fate, I was nevertheless grateful for the opportunity to experience another Refugio. Salut!
Refugio Ranch Tasting Room
2990 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA 93441
All photos by Marci Symington for texaztaste.com.