Rich experience, scientific outlook, artistic insight and continued growth.
In every field and craft, there are practitioners, those who follow the lead of others, and visionaries, those who always seek to push their craft and knowledge to the next horizon. Winemaking is no different, and in this field, Ken Bernards is widely acknowledged to be one of California's visionaries. Since his first harvest in 1986, Ken has remained on the leading edge of winemaking technique in California, using scientific experimentation in the vineyards and in the winery, while at the same time adhering to traditional, small-scale methods of winemaking, always seeking to allow the vineyard's character to speak through the wines. This exemplifies his winemaking philosophy: a delicate and ever-changing balancing act between traditional wisdom, scientific assessment, and artistic insight.
From the start, Ken demonstrated a tenacity for empirical analysis and scientific methods of questioning. During his first harvest (at Domaine Chandon), Ken focused on tracking grape maturity, and later published a paper outlining methods for harvest date forecasting. Upon completing his degree, Ken accepted a position with Domaine Chandon as a research enologist, or experimental winemaker. He was able to design and perform his own experiments in every area of viticulture and enology. During these years, Ken honed his scientific reasoning, learning to isolate cause and effect in the vineyard, in the winery, and, ultimately, in the glass.
Ultimately, though, Ken's passion called for more than just experimentation. He had come to value the importance of being scientific about decisions in the vineyard and in the winery, but a visit to Burgundy spoke to his artistic side, awaking a desire to make his own finished wines full of mystery and nuance, wines that express the individuality of each vineyard. In 1992, Ken made his first five barrels of Ancien Carneros Pinot Noir, marking the beginning an ongoing quest for great Pinot Noirs. He pursued his desire to work on a smaller scale, hand-crafting single-vineyard wines as the winemaker for Truchard Vineyards from 1993-1997.
From 1998 on, Ken has been making his own wines under the Ancien label. At Ancien he works exclusively with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. This search for great Pinot Noir vineyards has led him to work with fruit from Oregon to Santa Rita Hills, and even from Morey-St-Denis, in the Burgundy region of France.
This same insatiable curiosity continues to lead him to seek out new and challenging opportunities, beyond those presented in his own winery. He has been a pioneer in the Coombsville/Mt. George area in the southeast corner of the greater Napa Valley AVA, and continues to be involved with winemaking, winery design and vineyard planning in regions as diverse as Oregon, California, North Carolina and Chile. All part of his ongoing quest to discover more and more about the science and art of making timeless and expressive wines.
Country born: United States
Years in the wine industry: 20-30 years