In 1977, David Graves and Richard Ward met for the first time in a oenology class at UC Davis. Both Pinot Noir lovers, they decided to start bottling their own. By 1981 they had released their first vintage, 2000 cases from purchased Carneros grapes. Naming their winery Saintsbury, after George Saintsbury, the eccentric British man of letters and oenophile (his highly amusing Notes on a Cellar can be found on Amazon), Graves and Ward decided to focus strictly on Carneros, the appellation's climate being uniquely suited to Burgundian varieties.
Within a few years of their first vintage, Graves and Ward planted roughly 13 acres of vineyards (in 1986 they were one of the first wineries to plant the Pommard clone) in the vicinity of their laidback barn-style winery. In 1992, they bought the nearby Brown Ranch Vineyard, planting 23 acres to various Pinot Noir clones and 8 acres to Chardonnay. By this time, Saintsbury was producing 35,000 cases annually, carving out spots on restaurant wine lists throughout the county and garnering an enthusiastic following among California Pinot collectors.
Over the years, Saintsbury's consistently good, fairly priced Pinot Noir lineup has generally included a Garnet Pinot Noir, Carneros Pinot Noir, a Reserve bottling and the Brown Ranch Vineyard bottling (since 1996). They've also released a Carneros Chardonnay and often a Reserve Chardonnay. In 2004, however, Saintsbury shifted gears, bringing on Jerome Chery as winemaker to replace the departed Brian Kosuge. Chery, who trained under Ted Lemon, is an advocate of vineyard-specific, terroir-driven Pinot Noir and since his arrival, Saintsbury has been headed steadily in this direction, discontinuing the Reserve bottling and releasing a bevy of single vineyard Pinots.
Today, along with its Carneros Pinots and Chardonnays, Saintsbury releases a Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, a peppery Sawi Vineyards, Sonoma Valley Syrah, as well as a Vin Gris.