A Good Year

Posted online: September 2011

by KATRIN WANBERG photographs by CORAL VON ZUMWALT

Wrights_openerAfter a 20-year career in television—with stints on Loving, Guiding Light, and currently, General Hospital—and a recent first-time Daytime Emmy win for outstanding lead actress, Laura Wright is a success by any estimation. Throw in a 16-year marriage to her husband, John, two kids, a burgeoning boutique winery, and a menagerie of farm animals on their five-acre Ranchito de los Cerritos in Santa Ynez, and this plucky blonde takes things to a new level.

At the age of 20, while working at her dad’s gas station in Clinton, Maryland, Laura was approached to audition for one of her favorite soaps, Loving (later renamed The City). She landed the part, “And that was it,” she says. “My life changed.” In 2005, she got a call to head west to join the cast of General Hospital, so she and John—whom she has known since the age of 14, but “we kind of stumbled around each other for 10 years,” she says—along with their kids, Lauren, 10, and little John (nicknamed “L.J.”), 8, moved to California. “Our first year here, we came to Santa Ynez and just fell in love with the area,” says Laura. “This was the first house we looked at. It feels like home.”

FROM LEFT: Tasting straight from the barrel; John swirls and sips his latest vintage.

FROM LEFT: Tasting straight from the barrel; John swirls and sips his latest vintage.

Now, when Laura is not in Los Angeles filming, the Wrights while away dusty days by tending to their two goats, Stella and Spike; 12 chickens; four dogs; a couple of cats; a duck or two; and a flourishing landscape of grapevines, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, and more. After a few early mishaps (“now we know coyotes like chickens,” says John), the family has settled into life on the ranch.

A preservation architect by trade, John spent 20 years restoring 200-year-old farmhouses back east but says he didn’t want to “reinvent that” in California. Instead, he decided to start Standing Sun Wines. “When I saw the winery, I saw steel, wood, and all the things I’ve seen before,” he says. After working with a local winemaker to learn the ropes, John and Laura released 100 cases of Standing Sun in 2007. “We threw wine in a barrel to see what would happen,” says Laura. “It ended up being pretty good.” And apparently those who imbibed agreed—the Wrights have since upped the ante and now annually produce more than 2,000 cases of Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah, and Syrah in addition to their signature Rhône varietals. This year also marks the first season the family can harvest grapes from the vineyard they planted on their property three years ago. “The great thing about John is there’s nothing he can’t do,” says Laura. “I don’t think we had been here more than five minutes when he said, ‘I want a vineyard.’”

Wright FamilyThe speedy success of Standing Sun gives thanks, in part, to Laura’s loyal followers. “Our label exploded because of my General Hospital fans,” she says.

John chimes in: “Laura has a great fan base, and now people are buying [our product] because of the wine and not just a signed bottle.”

The family’s latest undertaking is their new tasting room, plunked in the center of their industrial winemaking facility. “We want you to see the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Laura says of the tasting room’s locale. “We’re winemakers now, and I have to say, we’ve had fantastic support in the valley.”

“We enjoy the realness of making wine—and it’s a mess,” says John. “We celebrate the process and not just the finished product.”

Wrights

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22 Comments


  1. Angela Jones

    Great article. You have a beautiful family. Good luck to your future. BTW, you are by far THE best Carly. :)

    September 8th, 2011 at 4:58 am (Reply)


  2. rachel collins

    I love all your Pictures.
    You have a Beautiful family Laura.
    And General Hospital is the BEST SHOW on Television.
    :) <3 <3

    September 8th, 2011 at 6:46 am (Reply)


  3. Judy

    Great article really enjoyed reading this!!

    September 8th, 2011 at 11:20 am (Reply)


  4. shannon harrelson

    What a wonderful article and such great pictures! Congratulations Laura and JW

    September 8th, 2011 at 12:03 pm (Reply)


  5. VioletsCrossing

    Wonderful story Laura! I miss living in near the Napa Valley area but love Amish hometown in NE Ohio!

    September 8th, 2011 at 1:09 pm (Reply)


  6. Betty Sisk

    Absolutely awesome photos!!!Wonderful write up.

    September 8th, 2011 at 1:41 pm (Reply)


  7. JOE

    Fantastic article….Congrats on all of your success. What a beautiful balance to your hectic life in the industry. What a gift to have your kids grow up in such a beautiful environment.

    Huge GH fan………You kill it as Carly.

    September 8th, 2011 at 1:45 pm (Reply)


  8. Laurie McRae

    Thank you, Santa Barbara Magazine, for the WONDERFUL article about the Laura Wright & family & Standing Sun Wines! Laura is my favorite GH actress ever & I couldn’t be happier for she & John that their winemaking “hobby” has blossomed into a booming business! They seem like a genuinely happy family & really cool people & a great representation of what the Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez Valley lifestyle is all about!

    September 8th, 2011 at 9:02 pm (Reply)


  9. Debbie

    Laura congrats for being recognized in your hard work as an actress and businesswoman and mom!! I admire all you do! I need to try your wine! It is always sold out! I am a big GH fan for 33 yrs. You have been the best Carly!!

    September 8th, 2011 at 9:22 pm (Reply)


  10. Lataya

    Great article.Beautiful family May God bless yall GH is my favorite you are wonderful actress!

    September 8th, 2011 at 9:39 pm (Reply)


  11. Kristin License

    Such a beautiful article..and a beautiful family and absolutely FABULOUS wine!! Made me a red wine lover for life!! Congrats to the Wrights and Standing Sun!

    September 8th, 2011 at 11:04 pm (Reply)


  12. Lucas Pindam

    OMG I wanaa be there so bad, the wine looks so good and so do you Laura!

    September 9th, 2011 at 12:37 am (Reply)


  13. LIBBY EUBANKS

    CONGRATS!!! GREAT ARTICLE ON A BEAUTIFUL FAMILY.

    September 9th, 2011 at 12:48 am (Reply)


  14. Darlene Lautermilch

    I enjoyed reading this article very much Laura, you are truly my favourite female actress on GH. You so rightly deserved your emmy this year, I have been a faithful GH watcher for about 15 years now. My mother got me hooked on the show, she was always bragging about how much she loved the show and Steve Burton’s character “Jason”. I also believe Steve Burton is awesome to, and easy on the eyes. God Bless you and your beautiful family!

    September 9th, 2011 at 1:36 am (Reply)


  15. Bonnie

    What a lovely family and home you have made for yourself. I hope one day to taste the wines from your vineyard.

    I am a fan and really enjoy your work! Much success with this family venture!

    September 9th, 2011 at 2:08 am (Reply)


  16. susie

    cute article. ur family is beautiful. i love gh. ur by far the best carly. didnt care for the other carlys. i so would love to have a autograph picture of you.

    September 9th, 2011 at 3:13 pm (Reply)


  17. cheryl

    Great article and beautiful family! Congrats!!

    September 10th, 2011 at 12:37 am (Reply)


  18. Lisa

    Miss you Cuz. Glad to see you all are so happy and healthy. The show is wonderful and you are doing such a great job. Love you.

    September 10th, 2011 at 11:11 pm (Reply)


  19. Carli

    Laura – I loved the article and pictures of you and your beautiful family. You have always been my favorite actress since I first saw you on “Loving” followed you through “The City” loved Cassie on “Guiding Light” and now Carly on GH.
    You are by far the best. Love your wine also.
    I’ve tried most of them.

    September 11th, 2011 at 9:39 pm (Reply)


  20. Jessica @Jessica_GH_xoxo

    WOW,beautiful pictures and article.
    As a BIG OBSESSED GH fan,and Laura’s BIG OBSESSED fan I wish the Wright Standing Sun family lots of success with the wine making and selling ? ? Jessica
    p.s YOU ROCK ? :)

    September 16th, 2011 at 7:23 pm (Reply)


  21. Erta

    Laura: you are the best Carly ever. I have watched GH since it started in 1963. I am a fan, you could say. You are great and have a wonderful family. I have to go and check out, if I can get your wine in our area. I am European and come from Germany which is a great wine country. The Mosel and Rhine wines are great, the Frebch wines are even better.
    Na ja, in any case best wishes to you and your family. I hope they give you soon a great love intrest again on GH. Carly needs somebody to defy. I live in the Pila. area.
    Good luck in all you do.

    September 26th, 2011 at 11:29 pm (Reply)


  22. Gregg Boehmer

    Congratulations to you both! John, it does not seem 30 + years has gone by since hanging out at the pool…..gb

    March 16th, 2012 at 1:49 pm (Reply)

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