Gary Burk is the owner and winemaker of Costa de Oro Winery. He is also a second-generation winegrower whose father, Ron Burk, co-founded Gold Coast Farms in the Santa Maria Valley. Costa De Oro Winery specializes in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other varietals that excel in the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Barbara County. The Costa De Oro tasting room opened in 2006 at the location of the original Gold Coast Farms strawberry stand near Highway 101 in Santa Maria. We recently caught up with Gary to discuss his background in local agriculture, as well as his thoughts on pairing wine with Santa Maria Style Barbecue:
What are your earliest personal memories of farming with your family in the Santa Maria Valley?
My earliest memories are from when I was a little boy. My father was an agronomist for Frank J. Olocco, a pest control company. I can remember going out to the fields on Saturdays with my dad when he had work to do. Later, my father and his friend Bob Espinola started growing hothouse tomatoes at Bob’s property in Nipomo, and I would work in the greenhouse and even sell some of the tomatoes around the neighborhood. When I was 15, my father and Bob started Gold Coast Farms on a leased property near the intersection of Stowell Road and Highway 101. I worked there, too, moving sprinkler pipe and driving tractors. When I was younger, I just viewed it as work. I didn’t necessarily see the big picture. It wasn’t until we planted grapes that I saw agriculture as a career path. The light bulb went off for me at that point, and I was really drawn to winemaking and grape growing.
How has the Santa Maria wine country evolved since you first started making wine?
Consumer awareness has really grown over the past 15 years. During some of my first sales trips, I would travel around the country and very few people knew where the Santa Maria Valley was located. Today, everyone seems to know about the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Barbara County. They recognize the valley as a place where great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown. Also, our own local community has become more aware of this gem right in our backyard—the vineyards and the world-class wines that they produce. It’s definitely a point of local pride and excitement.
What wine do you recommend pairing with Santa Maria BBQ?
I would say a rich Pinot Noir aged in French oak, because the toasty character of the barrel gives the wine a subtle smoky quality that pairs nicely with the tri-tip off the grill. Among our Costa de Oro wines, I would recommend the 2008 Dijon Selection Pinot Noir, which was aged in 50 percent new oak. This wine is rich and smoky, with a nice strawberry-raspberry quality, which all pairs beautifully with the savory, caramelized outer crust of the tri-tip.