By Laurie Jervis

Contributing Writer

Bill Mosby, founder and owner of one of Santa Barbara County’s most enduring wineries, died June 14. He was 89.

The well-known winemaker and viticulturist who specialized in Italian grape varietals is survived by his wife, Jeri; four children, Rick (Ricky), Gary, Kim and Mike; as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The family’s estate property, winery and tasting room are located on Santa Rosa Road just outside of Buellton.

While both Mosby and his late brother, John, were longtime dentists in the Lompoc Valley, Bill Mosby also made a career of his lifelong passion — winemaking. He retired from dentistry in the late 1990s.

Mosby’s interest in wine started during his college days at Oregon State College.

“I fermented anything I could get my hands on,” he told me during an interview in 2017. Mosby’s college-days fermentations were apples and berries, with a bathtub as his container. “I was — and still am — intrigued by the whole process. As much science as we know today — technology and all that — we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the alchemic nature of wine.”

Photo contributed

Bill, Jeri and Ricky moved from Washington to Lompoc in 1959, and later to Buellton. He met and befriended the region’s Portuguese and Italian farmers raising families and making wine at home.

“We made wine together for years,” Mosby told me, adding that, in the tradition of the Old World, the farmers would serve wine from gallon jugs to their farmhands during lunch and dinner.

Mosby’s first vineyard still exists along Highway 246 west of Buellton, and it’s named after the highway. He planted riesling wine grapes there in 1971, and in 1978, he produced his first commercial wine under the “Vega” label, which predated the Mosby Wines label. The 246 Vineyard has 16 planted acres.

In 1976, Bill and Jeri Mosby bought the historic Rancho de la Vega property and renovated the de la Cuesta adobe, built in 1853, for their home. The next year, the couple planted grapes on the land between their home and Santa Rosa Road, and named that site Vigna della Casa Vecchia, after the original adobe.

Mosby expanded that vineyard in 1991, and today it grows about 18 acres of Italian varietals, mostly sangiovese, pinot grigio, sagrantino and dolcetto.

A third estate vineyard — the Sori 101 — is made up of five acres of Nebbiolo that Mosby planted in 2002. The vineyard is visible from Highway 101 and grows on a hillside above the family home.

After travels to Italy to consult with that country’s winemakers and growers, Mosby became inspired by Italy’s grapes and decided to make a career focusing on Italian varietals.

More than 20 years ago, during one of his trips to Italy, Mosby met an Italian artist named Robert Scherer, who had traveled and studied worldwide. Over a meal and with the aid of an interpreter, Mosby and Scherer established a friendship that would last for decades. At that time, Scherer was best known for his murals and work in glass.

I met Scherer at the Mosby family home around 2008 when Mosby suggested that I learn the story behind his labels, which feature watercolors painted by Scherer. The first Mosby Wine to feature the Italian painter’s work was the 1999 Pinot Grigio.

While his son Gary has assisted with winemaking in recent years, Mosby kept his hand in nearly every aspect of viticulture and winemaking, from sorting freshly harvested grapes and moving barrels in the cellar to greeting guests in the estate tasting room.

In July 2013, Mosby’s older brother, John Mosby, died in a traffic accident in Oregon, where he owned a buffalo ranch.

John Mosby, 84 at the time of his death, owned a longtime Lompoc dental practice, according to published reports. He was a resident of Summerland at the time of his death.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at, tweets at @lauriejervisand can be reached via The opinions expressed are her own.