Jessica Gasca’s journey to winemaker started out in unfamiliar territory. She is a native Californian but had ventured out to New York to explore her options. She worked in a French restaurant there and learned from their onsite sommelier who offered regular classes on wine. Jessica fell in love with everything about wine but she did not love the New York weather so she came back to California and continued her education. She read everything she could get her hands on, did tons of research and when she felt she was ready she reached out to her uncle Gary Burk who founded Costa De Oro Winery. She interned for him at the winery during harvest. Jessica loved the magic around harvest. She continued to learn everything she could, hands on and in the dirt.
She began saving all her pennies to buy one ton of Pinot and two tons of Syrah and in 2012 she made her first wines: a Gold Coast Vineyard Pinot and Larner Vineyard Syrah. These were released in 2015 making her one of the only female Latina winemakers in Santa Barbara. She now sources most of her wines from all over Santa Barbara County including Ballard, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria and Happy Canyon. She believes that wine is about the place it’s grown and the land it’s grown on. Thus, her winery name Story of Soil.
When asked what skills a winemaker should cultivate, Jessica said flexibility and patience. She endeavors to keep her wine in its truest form possible without additives. The result is a beautiful and delicious wine.
I asked her who influenced her along her journey and she said her Uncle was her mentor. She was also inspired and influenced by Jim Clendenen who helped her with her initial process and Amy Christine who is a Master of Wine and a wealth of knowledge. She advises that if you would like to get into the wine business, that you should reach out to your known sources and ask questions, get involved, taste more and most importantly don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith and follow your gut. When asked what the most rewarding thing about being a winemaker was she said it was being outside in nature every day. “The vineyard is my church”!
Prior to our interview I had been reviewing the Story of Soil Facebook page and noted that the team at Story of Soil starts every day with a motivational quote. I asked her which one meant the most to her. She answered, “Having a kind smile can go a long way.” She honestly believes that to be graceful in all things is important. You do not know what someone else is going through so smile, you might just turn their day around.
Jessica’s second passion is the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation. As current President she is trying to help get a healthcare program together for vineyard workers. In 2021 she and the foundation helped get 1,000 vineyard workers vaccinated. They have also helped open Los Alamos Health Centers. To find out more about the foundation go to: http://www.sbvf.org/home.html
I have been to Story of Soil numerous times and I make sure to keep their pinot in my wine fridge. If you haven’t gone out to the Los Olivos area, be sure to add it to your next wine tasting trip. Story of Soil is located at 2928 San Marcos Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441.