Friday, August 12, 2016



James can trace his California roots back to 1781, when Josef Ontiveros rode on horseback into Alta California and the family became the recipient of a Mexican land grant. At one time, the Ontiveros Family owned over 36,000 acres in modern-day Orange county. They then sold El Cajon de Santa Ana and Los Coyotes and moved to Santa Barbara county. The 1837 Rancho Tepusquet grant – nearly 9,000 acres bordered by the Sisquoc and Cuyama Rivers – was passed to Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, who constructed the Ontiveros Adobe on the property in 1856. He and his wife raised horses, cattle, sheep, several grain crops and grapes.

Over the eight generations that came before him, this cattle and farm land was divided and passed down until the mid-nineteenth century, at which point it had been completely sold off and none of the original land grant remained in their name.

Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard, one of the vineyard sources for Alta Maria, was not inherited; it has been built over the last 20 years. Mark and Louise, James' mother and father, worked to buy the ranch in 1986 with a wistful view of the original property of Rancho Tepusquet that once had been their own. James was the first in his family to go to college and became interesed in viticulture and winemaking while at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

James grew up ranching, but the wine business was fast becoming James' new love. The irony was that his family were cattle people with a little bit of a farming background; they were cowboys, not winemakers; over time that has changed.

James attendeed California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo working on dual degrees in Fruit Science and Crop Science. While in college in 1997 James planted 8 acres of Pinot Noir at Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard.

James has worked with Kendall-Jackson as a Field Supervisor throughout the Central Coast, with Gallo-Sonoma in grower relations in the North Coast and vineyard manager in Sonoma Coast and the Russian River. Most importantly for Alta Maria’s evolution, James took a position with the Miller family as Director of Sales and Marketing for 10 years which included over-seeing the Bien Nacido Vineyard, Solomon Hills, French Camp, CCWS and Paso Robles wine services. This was the property where his great, great, great, great grandfather Juan Pacifico Ontiveros had built the adobe on their original land grant.

With the 2004 vintage, James joined forces with Paul Wilkins, winemaker and long-time college friend, to start Alta Maria focusing on important sites for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from only the Santa Maria Valley AVA. They wanted to make genuine, honest and authentic wines that were inspired by the old world wines they loved. Much like James’ family history in California, Alta Maria reflects the heritage when times were simpler, people worked with the earth and were fulfilled personally and professionally by hard work.

Since 2005, Paul and James Ontiveros have been making Alta Maria Vineyards wines and in 2011 opened a much-anticipated joint tasting room for Alta Maria Vineyards and Native9 in Los Olivos, California. Alta Maria wines are sold in over a dozen states and export markets.

Alta Maria is a small, artisan winery focusing on producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the cold and oceanic Santa Maria Valley appellation in Santa Barbara County. Founded by 9th Generation California James Ontiveros, and Winemaker and long-time college friend Paul Wilkins, Alta Maria’s wines are inspired by the old world regions of France and are classic examples of purity, balance and complexity. We strive to make the best wines possible in a very conscientious manner and employ organic and sustainable practices leaving no indelible mark on the people and places around us.
The name “Alta Maria” refers to the upper Santa Maria River, which James’ ancestor, Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros crossed on Saint Mary’s Day, 1855, as he drove cattle from Southern California to his new home at Rancho Tepusquet – now home to some of the globe’s most renowned vines. The picturesque river flowing through the valley was the force responsible for sustaining ranch life in those early days.

The artwork for Alta Maria Vineyards features hand-hewn iron nails used by homesteaders in Santa Maria before the Industrial Revolution introduced mass-produced, machine-cut nails. Despite its lowly function, each nail is unique from the next according to the conditions in which it was made and the expertise of the craftsman.

“Native9 is the fulfillment of my own American story two centuries in the making. Tracing my roots back to the first men and women who settled in the Santa Maria Valley, I worked for hourly wages along with my parents to buy a small plot of land our ancestors’ 8,900-acre Mexican land grant: a modest cattle ranch where I planted my 8-acre vineyard and a panoramic view of the land that had once been our own. Planted in 1997 by my own two hands with the help of friends and family while I attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard is now considered one of the finest sites for Pinot Noir in California. As a natural extension of my deeply personal vision for this vineyard,Native9 is made in small lots with a nod to bothOld World sensibilities and New World stylistic freedom with the help of my longtime friend and vetted winemaker, Paul Wilkins. Though I wasn’t born into the wine industry by traditional means, I have vine-growing and farming in my blood. The name Native9 reflects my gratitude to the generations of California farmers and ranchers who came before me.”



Famous for his flamboyant personality and his fantastical style, the Burgundy born Boisset brought his signature French flair to the Napa Valley with the purchases of De Loach, Raymond Vineyards and Buena Vista Winery, the oldest premium winery in California. As proprietor of Boisset Family Estates, he has incorporated innovative winemaking techniques and sustainable practices across the estate’s 22 wineries in France and California. He is married to Gina Gallo of E&J Gallo, the largest wine producer in the world.

About Boisset Collection
Boisset is a family-owned collection of historic and unique wineries bound together by a common cause: authentic, terroir-driven wines in harmony with their history, their future and the land and people essential to their existence.  With more than twenty historical and prestigious wineries in the world’s preeminent terroirs, including the Côte d’Or, Beaujolais, Rhône Valley, California’s Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley, and the Napa Valley. To learn more about the Boisset Collection, please visit

About JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset 
Created by Jean-Charles Boisset, JCB embraces and represents a new height of luxury, uniting the worlds of wine and fashion in luxurious tasting locations and experiences that transcend terroir, reaching beyond the traditional confines of wine to embody style and sophistication. JCB is also a collection of rare numbered wines that unite centuries of Burgundian family tradition with the graceful exploration of sophisticated terroir.  Dedicated to capturing style within a bottle, JCB wines embody an uncompromising personality that transcends the traditional confines of wine and is audacious, unique and mysterious.  St. Helena   ·   Russian River Valley   ·   San Francisco   ·   Yountville     For more information, please visit  

About Raymond Vineyards 
Raymond Vineyards, founded in 1970, comprises more than 330 acres in Rutherford, St. Helena and Jameson Canyon. Five generations of the Raymond family created a Napa icon, with an enduring reputation for elegant wines with a beautiful balance of finesse, power and complexity. Today, guided by the vision of Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset, Winemaker Stephanie Putnam, and Winegrower Eric Pooler, Raymond Vineyards is one of the wine world’s most dynamic winery destinations. Blending phenomenal wines with guest experiences that unite education, passion and entertainment, the winery offers diverse opportunities to explore wine, leading it to be named Sunset’s “Best Tasting Room – Experience Beyond Tasting” in 2011, 2012 American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast, and one of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2013 for the 95-point rated 2010 Generations Cabernet Sauvignon. Raymond’s estate vineyards are certified organic and Biodynamic, the Napa Green certified winery generates 100% of its energy needs from on-site solar panels, and is additionally certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. To learn more, please visit:

About Buena Vista Winery 
Buena Vista Winery is California’s first premium winery; it was founded in 1857 by Hungarian immigrant Agoston Haraszthy, the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista.” Possessing a deep regard for the significance of Buena Vista’s place in California wine history, Jean-Charles Boisset purchased Buena Vista in April, 2011 and added the winery to the Boisset Collection.  Today, Boisset has returned Buena Vista Winery to its original glory with the complete restoration and re-opening of the historic property.  The wines are achieving new heights under Winemaker Brian Maloney and Consulting Winemaker David Ramey. Buena Vista Winery is located at 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, CA. For more information, please visit

About Wattle Creek Winery 
Since 1994, Wattle Creek Winery has been sharing a passion for wine and life… creating great Sonoma wines, as well as exceptional moments and events, while having a fantastic sense of family, loyalty, and community born from a shared love of wine.  Wattle Creek’s unique style of wines from Alexander Valley is refreshing and inspiring – a new approach that beautifully complements our collection of wineries in Sonoma, Napa and France. To learn more about Wattle Creek Winery, please visit

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