Santa Barbara County is filled with an amazing array of vintners and winemakers. The styles of wine and the varieties that they work with are as varied as the winemakers themselves. The great thing about this area is that they are all easy going and approachable and you a very likely to have the opportunity to meet many of these winemakers while you are in the area and learn first hand what makes each of their wines special. As we approach the Annual Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, here is just a sampling of the incredible winemakers you could end up meeting.
Winemaker, Fiddlehead Cellars
Kathy Joseph is the self proclaimed Grape Herder and Head Fiddle at Fiddlehead Cellars. She started Fiddlehead in 1989 and her focus is Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The winery is in the Lompoc “Wine Ghetto” and their estate vineyard, Fiddlestix, sits on Santa Rosa Road, at Mile marker 728, just across the road from Sanford & Benedict. She is a pioneer among women winemakers and is an enchanting hostess (and a great cook). An opportunity to attend an event at the Lompoc Winery, taste her wine, her food and enjoy some conversation with this vivacious icon, shouldn’t be missed.
Fiddlehead Cellars Tasting Room
1597 E Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc
(805) 742-0204 | (800) 251-1225
Open Friday 12pm-5pm, Saturday 11am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-4pm & alternate days by advance appointment
Winemaker, Kaena Wine
Mikael is known by many as “The Grenache King”. He produces Rhone varieties for his Kaena Wine Company, sourcing from Larner and Tierra Alta in Ballard Canyon, as well as Vie Caprice in the Santa Ynez Valley. He was raised on Oahu and was most influenced in life by his “Tutu” (grandmother). He has strong beliefs in biodynamics and I had a fascinating conversation about fruit vs root days for tasting! He is also the winemaker for Beckmen Vineyards. He has a beautiful tasting room in Los Olivos, where he often stops by to pour and speak with visitors. This place is full of “Aloha”. It is warm and inviting, just like Mikael.
Kaena Tasting Room
2890 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos
Open Monday – Thursday 12pm – 5pm, Friday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
Winemaker, Alma Rosa
Richard Sanford is a legend in the Sta. Rita Hills. He planted the first Pinot Noir in the Sta. Rita Hills at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1970 after scouring the climate and geological regions of California looking for the perfect spot. He and his wife Thekla started the Sanford Winery in 1981. In 2005 they left Sanford to begin Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards. This new venture was dedicated to being organic and sustainable. They have a tasting room in Buellton on Industrial Way that is graced with a beautiful olive tree named Olivia, bringing the outdoors in. Richard Sanford is a gentle and soft-spoken man, who seems charmingly unaware of his own greatness. If you find a opportunity to speak with him in his tasting room or at an event…relish it!
Alma Rosa Tasting Room
181 C Industrial Way, Buellton
Open Daily 11am – 4:30pm
Winemaker, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard
Karen Steinwachs started her career in the high-tech world and after 20 years there, thought she needed some fresh air. She started out working a harvest gig at Foley Estate and never looked back. She spent some time at Fiddlehead working as Kathy Joseph’s assistant winemaker and then went on to become the winemaker at Buttonwood Farm. No nonsense and to the point, she will give you great information without waxing poetic. A walk in the vineyard with Karen is educational and down to earth. Grape growing is farming after all, and the idea at Buttonwood is to be a self-sustaining system. Buttonwood has gardens, orchards, the vineyard as well as livestock. Their annual “All Farm Dinner” is an early sell out every year. Make sure to taste the “Zingy”, her bright and bold Sauvignon Blanc.
Buttonwood Tasting Room
1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang
Picnic Area Available
Open Daily 11am – 5pm
Winemaker, Larner Wine
Michael Larner came to the wine industry through his Parents. His father had fallen in love with wine while shooting a documentary on wines in Europe. He worked side by side with his father building the vineyard, his background in Geology coming in handy. Now he and his family continue the family legacy. He was instrumental in the founding of the Ballard Canyon AVA and continues to be a voice for this new AVA. Most of the Estate is planted in Syrah, which is the go to grape in Ballard Canyon. In addition he grows Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier and the Italian Malvasia Bianca. You will find his vineyard designation on many of the Rhones from this area as winemakers looking for the best Rhone grapes source his fruit.
Michael’s knowledge and love for this area are abundant and a conversation with him will give you an in-depth education on the region, it’s climates and soils in layman’s terms. While Syrah is his flagship, don’t miss his Mourvedre.
His tasting room in in Los Olivos next to the Los Olivos General Store, which he and his wife Christine also run. You can see Christine’s original artwork here. She creates beautiful watercolors with pigments from the concentrated colors from the grape varieties in their vineyard.
Larner Tasting Room
2900 Grand Ave, Los Olivos
Open Thursday – Monday, 11am – 5pm
Winemaker, Casa Dumetz
Sonja’s Casa Dumetz Tasting room in the little town of Los Olivos is perhaps the most welcoming tasting room I have ever been in. The room has the openness of a small town coffee shop and the commaradarie of a small town pub. You are greeted as you walk in the door and a friendly face finds you a spot at the bar to taste. The staff is knowledgeable and can fill you in on any detail of the wine, but more than anything, you feel at home, you feel like you have become one of the locals. Cultivating that feeling is no small feat, it is the genuineness of the place, the people and…the wine. Sonja’s background is in journalism. She had a wonderful show where she gathered winemakers to talk about their wines, called “The Wine Down”. Casa Dumetz has Friday night speaker series at the tasting room, where you can hear people speak on a “wide” variety of subjects from songwriting to rocket missions! She also owns BaBis Beer Emporium down the street if you need a break from wine. Oh and in addition to creating a wonderful place…she makes great wine.
Casa Dumetz Tasting Room
388 Bell Street, Los Alamos
Open Thursday 12pm-7pm, Friday & Saturday 11am – 7pm, Sunday 11am – 6pm
And that’s not all!
Keep in mind this is just a sampling. There are so many other wonderful winemakers in this area, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe, Rick Longoria of Longoria, Ken Brown of Ken Brown, Sashi Moorman of Sandhi, Morgen Clendenen of Cold Heaven, Larry Schaefer of Tercero, Ernst Storm of Storm, Dieter Cronje of Presqu’ile…my list could go on and on. The bottom line is, you should make time to get to Santa Barbara, taste the wines and meet the people. I have a feeling that this somewhat undiscovered area is not going to stay undiscovered much longer!
If you are lucky enough to be in town during the Spring Vintner’s Festival, coming up April 24th through 26th, you will have the opportunity at the Grand Tasting to have meet many of these winemakers and have them pour their wines for you. Get all the details on at Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend.
For more information on this amazing area visit Santa Barbara Vintners.
Check out our coverage of last years event at Santa Barbara, Vintners Spring Weekend 2014 The Grand Tasting