Winemaker – Beckmen Vineyards
Steve Beckmen is a leader in Santa Barbara County farming and winemaking, with over 25 years of experience running his family’s winery. He founded Beckmen Vineyards in 1994 with his parents, Tom and Judy Beckmen, and has since worked tirelessly in every role at the winery, committed to making wines that embrace the soul of the family’s biodynamically-farmed Ballard Canyon and Los Olivos vineyards. As a self-taught winemaker, Steve’s hands-on approach and thirst for knowledge led him to become an early authority on the farming and production of Rhone varietals in the Santa Ynez Valley, as well as techniques that were once deemed experimental, such as biodynamic farming and whole cluster fermentation.
A native of Los Angeles, Steve studied anthropology and archaeology at the University of California Santa Cruz, a focus partially inspired by a childhood infatuation with Indiana Jones. While there, one of his close friends began working with Randall Graham, the eccentric and forward-thinking founder of Bonny Doon Vineyards. Bonny Doon’s focus on Rhône varietals grown in California sparked Steve’s passion for Syrah and Grenache, though he had no idea at the time it would become the focus of his life’s work.
Upon graduation in 1991, Steve spent a year traveling and working on archaeological digs in Hawaii and California. While he enjoyed the work, he soon had an opportunity to work with his father, Tom Beckmen, in technical support and sales at Roland Corporation U.S.A., a sales and distribution company his parents co-founded in 1978 with the Japanese manufacturer of cutting-edge musical instruments.
In 1993, the Beckmens sold their ownership in Roland and began looking for their next endeavor, one that would return them to their mid-western agricultural roots, and one that they could share with their youngest son, Steve. Since Steve and Tom loved wine, they began searching for property in the Santa Ynez Valley, just a short commute from Los Angeles. They quickly fell in love with the rolling green hills of the region and purchased a 40-acre vineyard and working winery in Los Olivos, subsequently founding Beckmen Vineyards. From day one, Steve led the winery and its day-to-day operations, initially working with top vineyard and winemaking consultants to get started. “We started working with Rhône varieties in 1995 and have been hooked on them ever since. They are the most consistent, high-quality varieties we grow and that was evident from the beginning,” says Steve.
In 1996, the Beckmens made a move that would position them as a leader in the region with the purchase of 365 acres of virgin land in the Purisima Hills, now part of the Ballard Canyon AVA. They turned heads by choosing to plant 130 acres to Rhône varietals and farm it biodynamically, which they did because Steve felt the process gave the wine more energy, lift, clarity of expression and sense of place.
More than 25 years since the winery’s founding, Steve continues to explore the vast world of possibilities when it comes to farming and winemaking, be it figuring out how to best attract beneficial insects to his vineyards, to exploring Old-World traditions such as making wine in amphora. He also feels it is important to connect with tasting room visitors and can be found pouring wine in the tasting room several times a week.
In his limited free time Steve enjoys skiing, spending time in the mountains, traveling the world, and cheering on the LA Rams with is two college-age children.