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Alison Thomson with her wines at JCR Winery in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.

Following in the footsteps of her great grandfather, an Italian immigrant, Alison Breazeale Thomson produces small lot wines using locally grown Italian grape varietals.

Her label, Lepiane, (“Lay-Pee-on-ay”), translates to “the plain” in Italian, Thomson said.

Her winery honors her great grandfather, Luigi A. Lepiane, a native of Piane Crati in Calabria, Italy, who brought his family to California in search of a better life.

He put down roots in California’s Central Valley town of Hollister, where he founded a grocery and, in 1935, a winery, L.A. Lepiane, Thomson notes on her website. During his years as a vintner, Luigi Lepiane produced as many as 1,000 cases of wine each year, Thomson said.

After his death, Thomson’s relatives found blueprints for the construction of both grocery and winery, as well as letterhead for the winery, she said.

Thomson studied biology and Italian at UCSB, and spent a semester abroad in Siena, Italy, where “my love for Italian food and wines turned into a healthy obsession,” she notes on her website, https://lepianewines.com

After graduating from UCSB, Thomson worked at Sunstone Winery, and up in Napa at a tasting room.

From 2004 to 2007, she attended UC Davis to pursue a master’s degree in viticulture. During her studies, Thomson interned for a top winery in Barolo, Italy, further deepening her love of all things Italian.

In the ensuing years, back on the West Coast, Thomson married George, and in 2008 was hired as assistant winemaker at Palmina Wines in Lompoc, where she remained until 2011.

Thomson and her husband are parents to Julia and Mick.

Later in 2011, Thomson migrated to SAMsARA Wines for an assistant winemaking position, and honed her winemaking skills with owner/winemaker Chad Melville.

Italians endeavor to marry food and wine and conversation. It’s obvious speaking with Thomson that the years she’s spent focused on Italian varietals have influenced her winemaking style.

Thomson’s current and soon-to-be released wines.

In 2013, using Barbera grapes purchased from Palmina owner Steve Clifton, Thomson launched Lepiane Wines. Today, she produces small amounts of the Italian grape varietals Barbera and Nebbiolo, as well as grenache.

“Barbera is a great grape because of its acidity and versatility,” she noted.

She would like to pursue bottling an Italian white wine — with either Fiano or Greco grapes — as well, Thomson said.

“Santa Barbara County is great for growing these Italian varietals,” she added.

Her Barbera grapes hail from Walker Vineyard, located on Alamo Pintado Road across from Honea Vineyard, Thomson said. The grenache she sources from Black Oak Vineyard, and Nebbiolo from Sisquoc Vineyard.

Thomson’s 2013 Nebbiolo was bottled just last August; she plans to release it early this year. I found this wine to be an intriguing mix of rose and floral perfume notes, yet also very masculine on the palate.

With total production of less than 300 cases annually, Thomson can easily be considered the smallest of the small labels in Santa Barbara County.

She utilizes some whole cluster fermentation, neutral oak and only native yeasts in her production, she said.

Her wine barrels share the Lompoc Ghetto winery facility of Jalama Cañon Ranch Vineyard, where Thomson is also the vineyard manager and winemaker.

In addition, she oversees another vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, and winemaking for a client in Montecito.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for www.centralcoastwinepress.com