Rob DaFoe: Winemaker

Rob DaFoe: Winemaker

Rob DaFoe has been a Milden family friend since the 1990s. The Mildens first met Rob on the slopes of Bear Mountain in Big Bear, California. Back in 1993, we took the remaining funds our folks had set aside for college and founded theMovement Snowboards. The company was noted as one of the first independent and art-oriented snowboard brands. In October 1997, DaFoe, a professional snowboarder, snagged the cover of Transworld Snowboarding Magazine on a Movement snowboard. It was the only TWS cover theMovement received. 

Twenty years later, we reconnected with DaFoe in our hometown of Santa Barbara, California. DaFoe was born and raised in Santa Barbara wine country, and his connection to this land was tested by a need to explore and travel. After many years of traveling the world snowboarding, the beauty of the central coast of California drew him back to Santa Barbara and then to the Santa Ynez Valley. “In the end, wine, friends, the ocean and the love of my beautiful woman make it worth staying,” he says. 

With DaFoe’s return to the California coast, the pro snowboarder-turned-winemaker worked his way up in the local wine industry. He earned acclaim with a film about making wine, Ground to Glass, which premiered at the Santa Barbara Film festival in 2006. A few years later DaFoe collaborated with Jeff Tanner to launch the Tanner DaFoe label in 2009; the four vintages of Tanner DaFoe wines – 2009 through 2012 – have garnered between 90 and 93 points from Wine Spectator, among the highest for any Bordeaux wines from Santa Barbara. 

Despite seeing success with Tanner DaFoe, his interest in making rosé and experimenting with different varieties led DaFoe to launch a new side project with his wife, Emily. With this in mind, he secured access to the four-acre Destiny Vineyard in Los Alamos, a 50-50 planting of pinot and chardonnay. “The soils are very clay-like, with a fair amount of sea fossils – perfectly suited for Burgundian grapes,” says the winemaker. And so, in 2013 Rake Wine was born. Poignantly, the term “rake’” refers to a rebel or hellraiser that spends his money on wine, but the label’s name was inspired by a Townes Van Zandt song of the same name. DaFoe found the lyrics both haunting and beautiful, and the name stuck. 

Today, DaFoe is winemaker at Brick Barn Wine Estate. The new winery is situated in Buellton, just outside of the Santa Rita Hills AVA. A 50-acre wine estate located on a 1,100-acre former horse and cattle ranch, Brick Barn Wine Estate is named for the property’s original brick barn, built by an Italian mason and formerly used as an Arabian horse breeding facility dating back to the 1970s. The vineyards on this sustainably farmed estate possess changing textures and diverse soils. Combined with the unique microclimate of its location just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, this allows the winery to create elegant, aromatic wines from nine distinct varietals.