Zaca U: Talent Inc
There are organizations that have some sort of inherent ability and culture to foster talent development for an industry. Pick an industry, and you will find some bench-mark organization that feeds the industry talent pool. In Santa Barbara County wine-making, Zaca Mesa has helped considerably in the development of local wine-industry talent.
Shannon Essa wrote an article she titled “Zaca University”, which was published in the 2013 Spring Issue of Edible Magazine. In early 2013, Shannon attended a luncheon gathering of Zaca Mesa winemaking, enology, vineyard, and cellar alumni spanning over forty years. That gathering included Zaca Mesa’s first winemaker, Ken Brown, as well as Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist, Daniel Gehrs, Chuck Carlson, Adam Tolmach, Gale Sysock, Benjamin Silver, Lane Tanner, and Clay Brock.
Thus, the wines we know today from Byron, Ken Brown Winery, Au Bon Climat, Qupe, Daniel Gehrs Winery, Carlson Wines, Ojai Vineyards, Silver Wines, and Wild Horse had their beginning influenced by Zaca Mesa “University” alumni. Also at this luncheon were three people who continue the Zaca University tradition: Ruben Camacho, Zaca Mesa’s vineyard manager and employee since 1977; Agustin Robles, Zaca Mesa’s Cellar Master who started in 1981; and Eric Mohseni, who started as an enologist under Clay Brock in 2001, became winemaker in 2008, and is now the Director of Vineyard and Winemaking Operations at Zaca Mesa.
Effective January 1, 2016, Kristin Bryden was promoted from Associate Winemaker to Winemaker at Zaca Mesa. There is no doubt that Kristin not only earned this promotion, but she will soon be making a mark in the wine industry that will reach well beyond Santa Barbara County. Through hiring and developing Kristin Bryden’s talent, Eric Mohseni has followed the tradition of Zaca Mesa’s first winemaker, Ken Brown, bringing in the likes of Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist.
In the past few years, Zaca “U” has expanded its talent development to include the business operations and sales side of the house. Hiring the right people; discovering their talent; training and developing their skill sets in line with the business needs; and turning them loose to grow and succeed has expanded the Zaca Mesa “U” beyond wine-making.
Zaca Mesa may be known for producing world-class Rhone Varietals, but the biggest contribution to the industry has been the talented people who started their careers at Zaca Mesa.