The design of Burbank Ranch began in 2007 with a meeting between Melody, Fred, and Jim Coffee Smoot, Jr., affectionately known in the Paso Robles vineyard community as "Smooter." Jim was a graduate of Fresno State University. He began his wine grape growing career in 1978 in Paso. He was a visionary who saw the potential for Paso to produce world-class, premium-quality wine grapes. When Jim walked Burbank Ranch, he said, "This land is just right for grapes; it speaks to me." He described constructing terraces on the "key" portion of the property to optimize grape production and to provide beauty to the drive into the center of the vineyard.
Jim was ill with lymphatic cancer at the time, but wanted to at least start the vineyard. He soon walked the property with a divining rod in search of the optimal location for an agriculture well site. When the rod tipped downward, he marked the spot with a rock. The Burbanks dug at that site and created a 200+gallon/hour well.
After Jim's death on January 14, 2008, vineyard planning stalled for a while, until a viticulture company with quality standards similar to Jim's could be identified.
In addition to starting the Burbanks off in the right vineyard direction, Jim introduced them to his golfing buddy, Mike Toohey, who became the vineyard development consultant for the ranch. Under Mike's watch, grading of the terraces for Blocks 4 and 5, ripping of the entire ranch, and construction of the vineyard's "green barn" were initiated and completed. His work was so fully in line with environmental concerns that when Donald J. Funk, Executive Director of the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resources Conservation District wrote his final review of Mike's work in April 2009, he said, "We took a number of photographs of your erosion control practices. We ask if we can use those photos as examples to show other landowners of the correct use of erosion control practices." The ranch has continued conservation practices to the present.