The age-old adage "less is more" rings true for local winemaker Jessica Gasca, at least in terms of her modestly described "tiny operation," Story of Soil in Los Olivos.
"Larger wineries always seemed to lack that soul," Gasca said on why she prefers to own and operate a relatively small-scale winery that promotes gentle processing techniques and minimal human interference.
One of Gasca's secrets to maintaining said "soul" in her winemaking is the freedom to experiment, which ideally results in more complex and interesting wines. For example: By keeping her batches of wine small, Gasca has ample room for experimentation, while wineries that use large ones can rarely risk spoiling the batch.
A mission statement on the Story of Soil website begins with: "As a small winery, we can put more time, attention, and care into our wines (than the larger wineries can afford to, really)."
- Photo Courtesy Of Story Of Soil
- BOTTLE THROTTLE Story of Soil offers wine by the bottle and three different packages for wine club members to choose from (packages of three, six, or 12 bottles, each received three times a year).
While Gasca's tasting room is located in Los Olivos, she collaborates with vineyards all over Santa Barbara County to create her unique wines. She described the region as "a wellspring of riches for grape growing," which few can confidently debate.
Vineyards that Gasca uses include Duvarita Vineyard in Lompoc, Larner Vineyard in Ballard, Mirabella Vineyard in Los Olivos, and Gold Coast Vineyard in Santa Maria. The latter of which is where she kicked off her winemaking career, during an internship from 2009 to 2010.
Gasca can vividly remember one of her first experiences picking and sorting pinot noir grapes at Gold Coast Vineyard, just before sunrise one morning.
"There was a certain level of extreme fulfillment I experienced when I worked that harvest," Gasca said. "It was overwhelmingly beautiful."
- Courtesy Photo By Lauren Mauve
- BEHIND THE WINES As for her current offerings at Story of Soil, winemaker Jessica Gasca (pictured) doesn't have a definitive personal favorite wine, but she said she's currently enjoying her Martian Ranch Vineyard gamay noir and Fiddlestix Vineyard grüner veltliner.
Gasca felt in those initial moments as if she was connected to the Earth and its soil, which she defines as "a mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and countless organisms that together support life on Earth."
That profound feeling of interconnection would repeat itself throughout her career and inspire the name of her own company.
"Being in the vineyard and creating with nature is remarkable; a feeling of passion, yes, but more important, a feeling of life purpose," Gasca said.
Born in Lake Arrowhead and raised mostly around Southern California, Gasca's introduction to the Central Coast was not wine related, but it was the wine that kept her there.
"Initially I began coming to the Central Coast as my great-grandmother lived up in the Pismo Beach area, so we would come up and visit regularly," Gasca said.
After her internship at Gold Coast ended in 2010, Gasca apprenticed at Sanguis Winery in Santa Barbara for about three and a half years. She described the experience as helping her appreciate even the most meticulous details of winemaking.
- Photo Courtesy Of Acacia Productions
- MOBILE CLINIC Jessica Gasca is also president of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, a nonprofit that recently prioritized helping local vineyard workers obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to a mobile vaccination program offered by the Community Health Centers of the Central Coast.
"Every decision and action, no matter how small they seemed, were of extreme importance to the outcome of the wine," Gasca wrote in her bio on the Story of Soil website. "Even the stacking and lining up of barrels became a meditation of sorts. And although times like coiling the hose over and over again might have seemed silly, it helped train me. I learned intention."
During her time at Sanguis she saved enough money to buy her own grapes and create her first vintage in 2012. Less than a decade later, Gasca isn't only the winemaker behind Story of Soil, she's also the president of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association. The nonprofit was founded in 1983 to promote the county as a world-class wine producing and grape growing region.
One of the association's current priorities is making sure local vineyard workers have the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine in a convenient and timely manner, Gasca explained, thanks to a mobile vaccination program offered by the Community Health Centers of the Central Coast.
"They have a mobile medical unit that comes directly to our winery and vineyard sites to vaccinate," Gasca said. "It's a tricky program because we are beholden to the government for the number of vaccines that we receive. So far we have vaccinated about 700 vineyard workers, but we still have a long road ahead."
As for her own wines currently offered from Story of Soil, Gasca doesn't have a definitive personal favorite, but she can think of a few recommendations.
"I am currently digging our Martian Ranch Vineyard gamay noir and Fiddlestix Vineyard grüner veltliner," Gasca said.
Patrons can enjoy sampling those wines and several others at Gasca's tasting room, which is currently open for reservations and walk-ins every weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and private reservations during the week. Story of Soil also offers three different package options for wine club members: packages of three, six, or 12 bottles, each received three times a year.
As for in-person wine tasting at the moment, Gasca is feeling grateful for the hustle and bustle, especially in comparison to last year.
"I think people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Gasca said, referring to recent flows of steady business thanks to those comfortable enough to return to the world of wine tasting.
" was tough. It pushed my limits," she said. "I learned to have more patience, more compassion, and more grace. This wasn't just a personal lesson as a business owner, but also a lesson for me regarding everyone going through the same pandemic." Δ
Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood is starting to see the light too. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.