Purchased in 1972 by John Cushman and five friends, the first vines were planted a year later in 1973. Only the third winery in Santa Barbara County at that time, Zaca Mesa became a Santa Barbara County “vineyard wildcatter”- experimenting with many varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay to see what would work. After several years of trial and error, Syrah was planted in 1978. Unbeknownst to the early winemaking team at the time, this block would become what is today the renown Black Bear Block, the oldest Syrah block in the Central Coast.
As a vineyard and winery pioneer in the Santa Barbara County, Zaca Mesa also became the training ground for many great winemakers. Ken Brown was Zaca Mesa’s first winemaker who later started Byron in Santa Maria Valley. Adam Tolmach, Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist worked at Zaca Mesa before venturing out on their own to start Ojai, Au Bon Climat and Qupé, respectively. The number of winemakers that got their start at Zaca Mesa helped create what is now known as Zaca University.