Winery Supervisor John Belfy Dies

John Belfy of Buona Terra Farming Firm | Photograph: MacDuff Everton

Winery supervisor John Belfy, who based Buona Terra Farming in 1997 and planted a lot of Santa Barbara County’s prime vineyards, died on September 12. He was 72 years previous.

“We all the time had a terrific relationship and I actually considered him as ohana,” stated Mikael Sigouin of Kaena Wine, utilizing the Hawaiian phrase for “household.” Sigouin, who’s from Hawai’i, labored with Belfy at Tierra Alta Winery in Ballard Canyon for greater than 20 years. “He was actually a terrific grape grower and all the time put high quality over amount, which is why I’ve made so many nice wines from his farming,” stated Sigouin. “He was a straight shooter who all the time stood by his phrase. He was additionally a really beneficiant individual prepared to assist these in want.”

Throughout an interview in 2020 for my ebook, Vines & Imaginative and prescient: The Winemakers of Santa Barbara County, Belfy defined that, as a child rising up in Detroit, Michigan, he thought he’d take over his dad’s development enterprise, having labored for him each summer time. However then his dad retired at age 49, bought the enterprise, and left Belfy’s future huge open.

“I loaded my stuff in my automobile and took off for California,” recalled Belfy, who zig-zagged via Canada and the US for greater than two months earlier than touchdown in San Diego in 1970. Work on Central Coast farms and orchards adopted — kiwis and cauliflower in Cayucos, avocados and sheep alongside the Gaviota Coast — till he settled within the Santa Ynez Valley, supervising a ranch owned by Love Boat and Dynasty producer Douglas S. Cramer. (It’s the place Koehler Vineyard is in the present day.)

There was a winery on the property, and although vines weren’t but in his repertoire, Belfy was inspired to handle them by Dale Hampton, the area’s main viticulturist. “I actually had no background in vineyards, however I used to be actually observant and Dale noticed that in me,” stated Belfy, who took over the vines in 1984. “That was the beginning of my profession in wine grapes.”

He was quickly serving to the Fess Parker household plant their winery subsequent door, and finally lived on that ranch as effectively. “Fess was an actual good man to my spouse and my children,” recalled Belfy, who repeatedly advised that Parker purchase and plant the Camp 4 property till he lastly did so a few years later.

In 1997, Belfy began Buona Terra Farming as his personal winery consulting enterprise — the title (“good earth” in Italian) was Parker’s concept. “It simply took off,” stated Belfy, once more crediting referrals from Hampton. “Dale Hampton was one of the best assist ever. My telephone was ringing off the hook. He didn’t need to work with smaller locations.”

The Vogelzang Winery in Pleased Canyon was Belfy’s first full growth, and he then labored on such properties as Star Lane, Bridlewood, Nice Oaks, Estelle, Camp 4, and Pleased Canyon vineyards. “I used to be doing vineyards in all places,” stated Belfy. “It saved me actually busy.”

In the present day, the corporate handles about two dozen shoppers — together with a lot of olive-oil initiatives — with the assistance of about 90 workers, a lot of whom have labored for Buona Terra for greater than 30 years. Belfy’s spouse, Debbie, additionally labored for the enterprise and their son, Ivan, who graduated from Fresno State with a viticulture diploma, is now in cost.

Once we final spoke three years in the past, previous to being affected by Alzheimer’s, he was making ready to retire and looking out ahead to spending extra time with the traditional automobiles that he retains in his four-car storage in Orcutt. He was reflective about his profession, explaining, “There’s actually no one I don’t like within the grape enterprise.”