Introducing Catalina Island's First Vineyard

Longtime Santa Ynez vintners plant the first vines on Catalina Island

Los Angeles day-trippers know Catalina Island, that 21-mile strip of land off the coast of Southern California, as a respite from the smog and chaos of city life. Families spend the day splashing through water sports, golfing, and dining at their leisure before heading back to the Monday grind.

Sounds like the perfect place for a wine scene.

Geoff Rusack and Alison Wrigley Rusack certainly thought so. That’s why the owners of Santa Ynez’s Rusack Vineyards spent the past five years nursing the first-ever vineyard on the slopes of this sun-soaked island.

Back in 2007, they planted 60 vines of zinfandel, chardonnay, and pinot noir on three backcountry vineyard blocks that had previously been horse pastures. Wrigley Rusack inherited the property from her great-grandfather, chewing gum tycoon William Wrigley Jr.

For their first harvest in 2009, the grapes were airlifted for processing at Rusack Vineyards. The first release will be sold by mailing list only, but the husband-and-wife team is confident that once the tasting room — with its panoramic ocean views and picnic areas — is complete, wine lovers will flock to this undiscovered part of Catalina Island, and a new wine destination will be born.

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