Our History

The Vineyard

Our Team

Kristin Bryden

Winemaker

Originally from Redding, California, Kristin first came to the Central Coast to attend California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, graduating with a degree in Food Science. Her first taste of the wine industry was in 2002, when she joined the harvest team at Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards as a production technician. Kristin quickly earned the title of Enologist and then Assistant Winemaker before moving to Paso Robles in 2007, to work as the Associate Winemaker for Lockwood Vineyard. It was while at Lockwood that she gained a profound respect for estate wine programs, furthering her belief that great wines are made in the vineyard.

Recognizing the importance of being able to observe the vines throughout the growing season to craft wines with a true sense of place, Kristin was drawn to Santa Barbara County to Zaca Mesa Winery and Vineyards’ estate program. She joined the team in 2011 as Assistant Winemaker and in 2013, was promoted to Associate Winemaker. Since 2016, Kristin has held the title of Head Winemaker for Zaca Mesa, bringing her passion, enthusiasm and keen palate to continuously deliver wines that reflect Zaca Mesa’s unique vineyard site.

Kristin is happy to call the Central Coast her home, where she enjoys hiking, water skiing, camping and spending as much time outdoors in her downtime as possible.

Randy Gardenhire

Assistant Winemaker

While living in Santa Barbara for several years, Randy Gardenhire spent a great deal of time tasting the wines throughout the Santa Ynez Valley. This was where his interest in wine began, and ultimately prompted him to return to his hometown of Fresno to study Enology.

Randy graduated from Fresno State after obtaining a degree in Enology with a minor in Chemistry. While going to school, he worked as the Assistant Winemaker at Ramos Torres Winery in Kingsburg, CA. Here he gained experience in the cellar and an understanding of Rhône varietals. When given the opportunity to work with Zaca Mesa, Randy returned to Santa Barbara County and began his position at the winery as our Production Enologist in early 2016.

As the Assistant Winemaker, Randy is responsible for operations of the cellar and the laboratory. This includes everything having to do with the chemistry and biology of the wine, while ensuring the health of the wines throughout their development and into the bottle. Rhône varietals have always intrigued Randy. Zaca Mesa’s focus on these varieties has given Randy a deeper appreciation of their complexities and nuances. His current obsession is with Zaca Mesa Mourvèdre, but Syrah will always have his affection.

While away from the winery, Randy spends his time with his wife Rebecca, his son, and their two dogs, Tuskyn and Veda. They are often out tasting wine and enjoying our beautiful region.

Agustin Robles

Cellar Master

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Agustin grew up learning the family business: commercial farming. He gained an appreciation for how the land and seasons affect the growing and harvesting of corn, chilies, tomatoes, beans, and garbanzos.

In 1981, at just 17 years old, he moved to the Santa Ynez Valley, and got his very first job with Zaca Mesa Winery. His first years were spent working in the vineyard with Ruben Camacho. After learning the ropes of the vineyard for a few years, he moved inside the winery to work with the wine, not the vines, and became Cellar Master in 1988.

Agustin Robles has been working at Zaca Mesa for over half his life. He loves wine and it has become part of him. He has been making some of his own since 2001, experimenting with different varietals – Syrah and Pinot Noir, and a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “I have learned a lot from all the Zaca Mesa winemakers,” Agustin says. “They all made very different wines.”

Agustin and his wife Teresa live in Los Alamos and on Sundays, you can find him at his favorite place to eat, Los Alamos’ legendary Full of Life Flatbread restaurant. He loves the beach, weekend trips to San Francisco, playing all sports, and BBQing.

Ruben Camacho

Vineyard Manager

Ruben Camacho Sr. came to the US in 1975. He came to Zaca Mesa looking for work in 1977 and was hired as a tractor driver. Not knowing anything about grapes, Cayo Palomo, the previous vineyard manager, taught Ruben everything from pruning the vines, to all the diseases they could encounter. After seven years of hard vineyard work, Ruben was promoted to Vineyard Manager and has held tight to that position ever since.

Over 30 years of experience has made Ruben probably the most important person in Zaca Mesa’s history with his knowledge of the land, fountain of information, support and great spirit.

Zaca Mesa’s Black Bear Syrah, was named after his experience in the vineyard planted back in 1978. While in the Mesa H block of the Zaca Mesa Vineyard, he noticed a black bear eating the soon to be famous Syrah grapes. His dogs, Bingo and Chispa, bravely protected the grapes and chased the black bear up a tree. That section of the vineyard was renamed the Black Bear Block and has been producing amazing grapes ever since.

Cellar Crew

The cellar crew is the heart and soul of the Zaca Mesa winemaking team. Angel, José, and Agustin combine for over 80 years of winemaking experience.

José Aguiniga has over three decades of experience in the cellar at Zaca Mesa and has worked with every single Zaca Mesa winemaker. José brings a quiet, consistent, and hard-working mentality to the cellar team.

Agustin Robles (a.k.a. Auggie) began his career with Zaca Mesa as a bright-eyed 17-year-old kid. His role as Cellar Master ensures that his leadership, attention to detail, and passion for winemaking rub off on the rest of the crew.

Angel Vasquez (a.k.a Tocayo) has roamed the Zaca Mesa cellar for almost two decades. He has the mentality that no challenge is too great. Angel’s dedication and team player attitude ensures things get done in the cellar.

PJ Schooter

Wine Club Manager

PJ was born and raised in Santa Barbara and moved to the Santa Ynez Valley to start a family with her husband Pat. PJ has worked in the hospitality industry for over 35 years throughout Santa Barbara County. Here at Zaca Mesa, she works tirelessly to ensure all wine orders are processed smoothly. She has also grown to appreciate wine more and learned that wine becomes even better when you pair it with the right foods.

While away from the winery, PJ spends time with her family, the beach, and hiking in the Los Padres National Forest.

 

Garrett Black

Brand Ambassador, Tasting Room Manager, & Certified Sommelier

Garrett was born in Santa Cruz, but he has lived on the Central Coast for more than 20 years. While attending Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, he worked in hospitality and sales for 7 years. After graduating with a Hospitality Management Certificate from Cuesta in 2010, he joined the wine industry with Presqu’ile Winery.

Garrett started with Zaca Mesa as a Lead Supervisor and Brand Ambassador, and now we are lucky to have him as the Tasting Room Manager as well. He is also our Certified Sommelier. He wished to continue to expand his knowledge of wines and regions all over the world.

Garrett lives in Orcutt, California with his wife and daughters. When he is not working he enjoys playing basketball, traveling, and of course, evaluating wines along the way.

Marlisa Herrera

Tasting Room Supervisor

Marlisa was born and raised in Santa Maria, CA. She loves everything to do with wine. Marlisa was our Harvest Intern in 2019, and after she began working as our Tasting Room Assistant Manager.

That is not her only experience with wine. Marlisa studied Viticulture and Enology at Allen Hancock. And she worked her first Harvest in 2017 with Foxen. Marlisa loves to be in the Tasting Room and meeting new people as well.

When Marlisa is not at Zaca, she is enjoying the central coast with her husband and her 9-year-old daughter! They love the beach, climbing, and other fun activities!

Kailey Hackett

Market Representative

Kailey Hackett was born and raised in Orange County, CA. Kailey attended University of California, Santa Barbara to play Division I soccer, where she graduated with a degree in Sociology.

While Kailey has always had an interest in wine, she never expected to work in the wine industry. Her competitive nature and outgoing personality have been the perfect combination for a sales position at Zaca Mesa.

When Kailey isn’t at the winery, she is enjoying the Santa Barbara lifestyle to the fullest. You may find her on the beach or hiking in the hills with her friends. Even though she strives to live a healthy lifestyle, she lets loose almost every night and indulges on a pint of McConnell’s ice cream.

Paul Pease

General Manager

Paul graduated from Purdue University where he earned a Mechanical Engineering B.S in 1977.

Shortly after moving to California, he transitioned into a sales career. For 20 years, he sold over $75 million in industrial and manufacturing automation projects. In the late 90’s he transitioned into business sales organization consulting and taught Entrepreneurship and New Venture Formation online at the UCLA Business Extension. During this time, Paul wrote and published 5 books, including co-author with Three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser (Winners Are Driven, Wiley, 2003).

November 1, 2012, Paul became General Manager of Zaca Mesa Winery.

Paul likes to grill, play golf, and go hiking with his wife. His favorite wine is whatever pairs right with whatever he is eating.

 

Mark Rosenberg

Chief Financial Officer

Mark was born and raised in the west of England. There he studied Accounting, and after receiving his diploma, he worked with major accounting firms in England, West Africa, and Germany.

Mark moved to California to escape the European weather and has held many financial management and executive positions. The attractions of the wine business, particularly Zaca Mesa are the setting of the workplace and the small, but diverse team environment. As our Chief Financial Officer at Zaca Mesa, Mark is responsible for all aspects of accounting, reporting, regulatory and tax compliance, and systems maintenance.

Awilda Mercado

Accounting Assistant

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Awilda attended college there and received a degree in Accounting and Business Administration. When she was 25, she moved to Norfolk, Virginia. Shortly after moved to California, where she resides with her two children.

Since receiving her degree, Awilda has held a variety of jobs in Santa Barbara County as an accountant. She worked for Mentor Corporation for 5 years before coming here to Zaca Mesa, where she has been for over 10 years as the Accounting Assistant.

Although Awilda is not much of a wine drinker herself, she has a passion for food. When she is not at the winery, she enjoys tasting her way through different ethnic foods and trying new restaurants. Her favorite type of food is Indian or Middle Eastern.

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