A veteran of over 30 years of winemaking, Stephan Bedford still gets a rush at harvest and enjoys the hands-on mechanics of winemaking using time-honored techniques to create wines with personality and depth. His wines are usually 100% varietal to allow for the full expression of the grape and the terroir.
In the Beginning…
After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from UCLA in food science in 1977, Stephan began his wine career in Santa Cruz working in an agricultural research lab which led to the cellars of Ridge Vineyards. Here he had the opportunity to work with Dave Bennion and Paul Draper, and observe their creative, resourceful techniques. From there came a two year stint as an oenologist for Felton-Empire Vineyards under the direction of Leo McCloskey increasing Stephan’s knowledge of winemaking and vineyard care. His first position as winemaker was in 1982 at Mt. Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains working with estate grown Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. His cool climate wine experiences primed him for his transition to Santa Barbara County.
In 1985 Stephan Bedford became winemaker at Rancho Sisquoc Winery located in the most easterly part of the Santa Maria Valley appellation. During his 11 year tenure, he increased production from 1,200 to 12,000 cases utilizing ten different estate grown varietals including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sylvaner, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Not only did the wines receive high acclaim, he was named Winemaker of the Year by the Central Coast Winegrowers Association. During his tenure, Stephan began consulting for other wineries including Beckmen Vineyards, Fess Parker Winery and Foxen Vineyard. He also started his own label in 1994 called Bedford Thompson Winery & Vineyards.
In 1996 Stephan left Sisquoc and took on the monumental task of guiding the transition of two existing Santa Barbara County wineries, each with a 15,000 case capacity and under the same new ownership, and restructuring them under one umbrella. As Winemaker, General Manager and Vice President, he refocused, reconfigured, repositioned, and upgraded all aspects of the operations, successfully laying the foundation for quality winemaking at Foley Estates and Lincourt Vineyards. After two years he left to concentrate full-time on his own venture.
A New Venture
Stephan formed a partnership with David Thompson in 1994 to establish Bedford Thompson Winery & Vineyard. David grew the grapes from his exceptional vineyard located in the hills of the Los Alamos Valley, and Stephan made them into wine. The first harvest from the vineyard coincided with their first vintage of 1994. The Syrah was an instant hit and has become the signature wine for Bedford Thompson. As the vineyard matured, production increased. In July of 2003, Stephan Bedford became sole proprietor of Bedford Thompson. And in late 2009 he officially renamed it Bedford Winery. He currently produces Chardonnay, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre, along with occasional releases of Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Tempranillo. Eclectic, off-beat, and forgotten varietals fuel his obsession and creativity.
Winemaking is just one of many interests for Stephan. He is an academic and a self proclaimed “bookaholic” with a particular fondness for history, science, cooking, baseball, and gardening (not necessarily in that order) that are well represented in his daunting library. The bounty of his one acre garden is often at the tasting room. He also enjoys sharing his interests through events ― from his Mushrooms Gone Wild! and Garlic Fest where he is head chef, to theatrical events featuring The Bedford Players, a versatile group of professional actors, writers, directors, musicians, costume designers, and puppeteers that have put on historical readings, original plays, to full productions of Shakespeare. See “Events” for a schedule of what is upcoming.