Crawford Family Wines: Passion is the key to their wines

Crawford Family Wines
Is it the key to opening the door or just pushing the door ajar?  In the case of Crawford Family Wines, it is both.  The key is the branding symbol of the winery, but it is also the key to an opportunity to taste some fantastic wines.  The door is something both Mark and Wendy Horvath, owners of Crawford Family Wines, are fascinated in, but it is evident by their wines that the entryway represents the exploration and future of their wines as one walks across the threshold.

Mark and Wendy Horvath by Dana DiCroce
Mark and Wendy Horvath. Photo by Dana DiCroce

As Wendy puts it, “What the key symbolizes, is that it opens the door for an experience much like opening a bottle of wine” and that it does.  On their honeymoon in the late 1990s, the Horvath’s traveled to Italy, Spain, and France, where they became fascinated with the unique styling of the doors.  It was also on this same trip while having lunch in Chateauneuf du Pape that they decided to pursue a career in the wine business.

The family is key to the Horvath’s, and the family of wines they produce is paramount to their success.

Although Crawford Family Wines is a newer winery, Mark Horvath has been in the business for quite some time.  Mark started his career in the wine industry in Sonoma, working at Carmenet.  During this time, he would take every wine class offered on Extension at UC Davis.  Here he met several winemakers from Santa Barbara County who ultimately became part of the driving force to bring the Horvath’s down to Santa Ynez Valley.  An opportunity availed itself, Assistant Winemaker at Babcock, and Mark jumped at it.  While working for Babcock, Mark partnered with Ken Gummere to start Kenneth Crawford Wines.  Currently, Mark is the winemaker for Tres Hermanas Winery.

Mark Horvath - Crawford Family Wines
Mark Horvath – Crawford Family Wines

I first met Wendy and Mark at the Sta. Rita Hills Wine and Fire event.  It is quite apparent when you meet them that they are passionate about their wines.  At this event, I was enthralled with their 2012 “22” Pinot Noir, which comes from the Bentrock Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills.

Every wine I tasted from Crawford Family Wines is excellent and distinguished by a nice balance and consistency.  The Horvath’s strive to produce wines from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA that let the character and essence of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape speak for themselves.

Crawford Family Wines

The 2012 Chardonnay, Tin Shack, Sta. Rita Hills comes from Rita’s Crown Vineyard.  It is a heavier more, intense Chardonnay with a nice balance of acidity and minerality.  There are hints of grapefruit and notes of sweetness on the finish.  The wine displays creaminess without being buttery.  Mark Horvath’s goal is to ensure that you taste and smell the chardonnay.   It ferments in stainless steel, the Chardonnay ages for eleven months.

In the 2011 Walk Slow Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills I found a complex wine with flavors of blueberries accented with cinnamon.  It combines Clone 115 from Babcock Vineyard with clone 667 from Radian Vineyard.  The wine is characterized as a heavy Pinot that is balanced full-bodied and very drinkable.  This outstanding wine was well deserving of the Gold Medal it received from the Sunset International Wine Competition in 2013.

The 2012 Pinot Noir, Zotovich Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills is a lighter Pinot compared to the others created by the Horvath’s.  The fragrance is sweet, and the wine is earthier.  I discovered a soft texture enhanced by the flavors of licorice, anise and, currants with hints of spice, especially that of clove.  This wine is 100% clone 777.

By far, the wine that continues to remain my favorite is the 2012 Pinot Noir 22, Sta. Rita Hills. The Pinot grapes clone 828 from block 22 of Bentrock Vineyards.  This wine is characterized by rich black cherry aromas and flavors with a bit of spice on the finish. The wine is a big, bold, full-bodied Pinot Noir with depth and power.

Tasting Room Visit

I visited the tasting room in Buellton and met with Mark.  Besides going through the line up of their currently released wines, we barrel sampled many of their upcoming vintages.  Starting with the Chardonnay, I could taste pears.  The wine really emanated the taste and smell of Chardonnay, which is precisely what Mark Horvath is after.

Mark and Wendy Horvath, Crawford Family Wines
Mark and Wendy Horvath in the Crawford Family Wines Tasting Room.

Moving to the reds, we began with the 2012 clone 115 Babcock, which is 1/3 whole clusters.  Next, we sampled the Bentrock Block 9 clone 828.  This wine is 100% destemmed.   We finished with the Bentrock Block 22.  I was amazed at the quality, fruitiness, and balance of each clone, especially block 22.  Crawford Family wines plan to blend and bottle their wines at the end of March.  I am very excited to taste the outcome of these barrel samples in their final format.  Fortunately, those attending the upcoming Garagiste Festival Southern Exposure in Solvang will have an opportunity to sample all the new releases.

It is well worth a trip to Buellton to visit the tasting room, especially if Mark Horvath is pouring.  In addition to his passion for making wine, Mark is personable and loves sharing his knowledge of every aspect of the winemaking process.

You will not regret taking the key and unlocking the door to an outstanding adventure with each bottle of wine from Crawford Family Wines.

For more information:

Crawford Family Wines

92 2nd Street, Suite G

Buellton, California 93427


Crawford Family Wines Tasting Room – 1661 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463