Winemaker James Sparks shows off his new Kings Carey tasting room
Santa Barbara County winemaker James Sparks has opened the doors to his new small-production winery and tasting space for his nearly-ten-year-old wine label, Kings Carey. Located in the Danish-rooted Santa Ynez Valley wine country town of Solvang, along the California Central Coast, Kings Carey’s industrial winery space houses portions of Sparks’ Kings Cary wine production and is open to wine tastings by appointment.
Sparks “keeps it simple” at Kings Carey with small-production, single varietal and single vineyard bottlings of minimal manipulation. (The name is an amalgam of the childhood hometowns of Sparks and his wife; Sparks was born and raised in Carey, Idaho. Wife Anna was raised in King Point, New York.) Varying from Liquid Farm, the label for which Sparks has been winemaker since 2013, the Kings Carey wines mantra of “single/single” contrasts the Liquid Farm wine program, where many of the bottlings are blends of multiple vineyards.
Originally a Grenache-focused project, Kings Carey officially launched as a brand in 2016 with the release of its first three wines: the 2014 Grenache (John Sebastiano Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley AVA); a 2015 Grenache (John Sebastiano Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills AVA); and a 2016 Rosé of Grenache from then-new Santa Ynez Valley AVA vineyard, Brick Barn, in Buellton.
At the release of his first three wines, Sparks was quoted as saying, “I’m trying to produce ‘untypical’ wines of typicity. It’s not that this region can’t produce these types of wines; it’s just that you don’t see it very often. These are not fruit bombs. These are clean expressions of the fruit at-hand.”
The brand’s varietal line-up has expanded over the years to include Sémillon, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc, and two different Chardonnay bottlings. Sparks is currently in the process of releasing a sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir, the first release of his sparkling program which will also include a blanc de noirs. Kings Carey will release a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sauvignon Blanc in 2024.
Famed illustrator and artist Hawk Krall designs the Kings Carey labels
Kings Carey is known for its whimsical labels. Sparks chose Philadelphia-based illustrator and artist Hawk Krall to “depict” the Kings Carey brand. Krall is well known for his food illustration and murals, as well as his humorous editorial illustration, gallery showings and installations. His work has appeared in massive street works, in the homes and businesses of private clients, and at many a restaurant, food shop, and beverage business in the form of custom work for posters, menus, packaging.
Kings Carey is located in the Danish-themed town of Solvang, in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Photo: Fran Miller
Kings Carey wines are available for purchase via the company’s website and in select wine and retail stores, wine bars, and restaurants, all listed on the site.
Wine tastings at the Kings Carey winery and tasting space are by appointment. Email [email protected] for reservations. Currently, the winery offers two different tastings comprising either four or six wines, the latter including Kings Carey’s sparkling wine(s).
Photos by Janelle S. Koch, unless otherwise noted