This is Yolo: Great Bear Vineyards

This is Yolo: Great Bear Vineyards

Great Bear Vineyards in Yolo County is a California dream come true for Marcus and Jenny Meadows-Smith. The co-owners, who share a passion for quality wine, purchased the property in 2013, planted a vineyard in 2014 and have been receiving local and national accolades ever since.

Yolo County: The Ideal Location

After speaking with Marcus Meadows-Smith, the proud co-owner of Great Bear Vineyards,we learned how a passion turned into a second career in his ideal community. Marcus grew up in England where he said, “many dream of living in California.” His journey led him to Yolo County, where the complex soils and sunny days and nights cooled by the delta breeze provide the perfect environment for grapes filled with intense flavors.

It’s also the perfect environment for knowledge of the science and art of winemaking. Co-owner and chemist Jenny attended winemaking classes at nearby UC Davis and became “a very fabulous winemaker in a very short period of time,” said Marcus.

Taste the Unique Notes of Great Bear Wines

Having traveled to wineries in Europe, Australia and South Africa, she has developed her individual flair and style that is evident in all of the Great Bear wines. 

That individual flair has helped Great Bear Vineyards wines earn a 91-point score from Wine Enthusiast, in addition to Silver, Gold and Double Gold medals at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Locals love the mission-style winery tasting experience too. Great Bear Vineyards was awarded Best Local Winery by the readers of Sacramento Magazine.

Great Bear Vineyard Wine

Sustainability At Its Finest

When asked about how the environment affects the quality of the wines, Marcus replied, “We are passionate about making great wines and pairing it with foods and giving people a great time when they come out here, but equally important to us is the environment and the way we grow our grapes and that we do it in a sustainable way.”

Marcus is clearly passionate about sustainability and how all of those efforts, such as making sure the grapes don’t move more than a few hundred feet, come out in the bottles of wine. “We make small lots, only one to two-thousand cases a year so that we can take meticulous care of the batches of wine and produce a really premium product,” he said. Production is limited to under 1,500 cases with several of their varietals produced in lots of 100 cases.

Harmony with the environment is another key factor. “We encourage wildlife to live on the farm, so we don’t use rodenticides. We have a vibrant community of jackrabbits and squirrels that feed on birds that prey and owls.” Additionally, they grow a cover crop in the vine rows to draw water away from vines. This reduces vigor and creates a habitat for wildlife.

Marcus also tells us “we have small berries on the grapes, so they have intense flavors which are also beneficial for the environment. We’re not over-watering. We actually stress the vines to make those berries small and intense with flavor. We’ve trained the vines to put down very deep roots.”

All of these efforts lead to more manpower and more walking of the vineyards to make sure that they are keeping that delicate balance with nature.

Marcus at Great Bear Vineyards

Calling Yolo County Home

Marcus and Jenny know a lot about strong roots, including their own decision to make Yolo County their home. “We love the food scene here. There are great local chefs, other great wineries and the countryside is beautiful any time of year. It’s an amazing place. You’ve got the University, the Arboretum, agriculture and wine culture, but what’s special is the people,” said Marcus. He and Jenny love it so much that they want to spend one of their next getaways at home here in Yolo County – a staycation. “We haven’t done enough holidays and there are great places to stay here. We still want to cycle from Davis to Winters and stay at Hotel Winters.”

When asked to share a local insider tip, Marcus suggested visiting the artisan bakeries, exploring the area with a Yolo County Wine Pass and, of course, a day of lavender picking and wine tasting at Great Bear Vineyards. 

The wines at Great Bear Vineyards are beautifully styled and well-made with respect to their environment, retaining freshness and brightness no matter the grape variety.

The vineyards are currently open on Friday and Saturday evenings offering a socially-distanced and safe retreat for wine lovers. Wine tastings take place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and you can find pairing events as well, where Marcus brings in local food makers, cheese makers or chocolate experts.

“For us, it’s a passion of good living, good wine and good food and putting it together in a wonderful location.”

To learn more about Great Bear Vineyards visit their website or check out their Facebook page for upcoming events. Don’t forget about the Yolo County Tasting Pass, which offers you the opportunity to plan a wine tasting jaunt to either three or six Yolo County wineries for a sweet price. 


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