“Take a trip up Happy Canyon”

Grassini Family Vineyard in Happy Canyon courtesy of Grassini Family
Westerly Vineyard Courtesy of SB Vintners

Westerly Vineyard
Photo Courtesy of SB Vintners

“Take a trip up Happy Canyon”  Yep, that’s how Happy Canyon got it’s name.  It was the place to sneak off to find a simple alcoholic beverage during Prohibition to “get Happy”, and the name stuck.

This AVA was established in 2009 and is the fourth to be established in Santa Barbara County.  It is on the eastern edge of the Santa Barbara region and being the furthest inland and warmest (average summer temps in the low nineties) it lends itself to Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah.

The soil here has a high mineral level and is loam and clay loam.  The lack of nutrients in the soil creates smaller vines with lower yields.

Happy Canyon AVA

Happy Canyon AVA

The AVA itself covers 23,941 acres and includes 6 major vineyards:  Crown Point, Dascomb, Dierberg & Star Lane Vineyards, Grassini Family Vineyards, Happy Canyon Vineyard and Westerly. This is the easternmost part of the Santa Ynez Valley and sits Northwest of Lake Cachuma.

The first planting was done in 1996 with the first vintage here in 2001.  The fruit here is limited but produce complexity and depth.  You get natural acidity as well as ripe fruit flavors creating balance.

So the alcoholic beverages from Happy Canyon are no longer simple as they were in the day when it got it’s name.  Now you will find complex and expressive wines.  Feel free to take a drive through the beautiful area and see the vineyards, but unfortunately, you will not find any tasting rooms here.  Never fear!  Many of these wineries have tasting rooms conveniently located in downtown Santa Barbara, Solvang or Sta. Rita Hills.

Grassini Tasting Room, Photo Courtesy of Grassini Family

Grassini Tasting Room, Photo Courtesy of Grassini Family

You can find Grassini Family Vineyards beautiful tasting room in Downtown Santa Barbara. Dascomb has a tasting room in Solvang.  Star Lane has it’s vineyards in Happy Canyon.  It’s sister Vineyard is Dierberg and you can taste Star Lane wines at their tasting room on their Sta. Rita Hills property on Drum Canyon Road.

 

As to the rest?  Well…the Grand Tasting at the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend will have them all available for tasting!  Or you can spoil yourself and plan to attend the Grassini Family Dinner Event with 6 wineries including Grassini, Sea Smoke, Margerum, Dierberg Estate, Kaena, Fiddlehead and Andrew Murray.

Grassini Family Vineyard Courtesy of Grassini Family

Grassini Family Vineyard, Photo Courtesy of Grassini Family

They have an incredible event planned for after the Grand Tasting on Saturday night with Dinner lakeside under the oaks out on their Happy Canyon Vineyard.  They will have passed hors d’oeuvres and a four-course meal and of course, wine!

Find out all the details about the Vintner’s weekend at http://www.sbvintnersweekend.com 

Grassini Family Vineyard Pond Courtesy of Grassini Family

Grassini Family Vineyard Pond, Photo Courtesy of Grassini Family

 

Or visit Santa Barbara Vintners for information on things happening year round in Santa Barbara’s Wine Country.

The varied and amazing wines and wineries of Santa Barbara County

It’s no secret, I’m in love with the Santa Barbara County Wine Region.  It is laid back with an incredible range of variety.  “Sideways” got it right.  This is the best up and coming wine area in our country.  Up and coming actually seems a little silly, the wineries and winemakers here have quite a history.  There are giants of winemaking here including: Richard Sanford, Jim Clenedenen, Bob Linquist, Richard Longoria & Bill Wathen. And the list of amazing winemakers continues to grow and the wines they are producing are varied and amazing.

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

Santa Barbara lies in a unique area that separated from the plates along the coast.  Over the past twelve million years this little section shifted and created a Transverse valley.  This means that the valley here runs east west as opposed to north south like all the other valleys on our coast.  The transverse valley and the microclimates within it lead to a place where you can grow an amazing variety of grapes in a relatively small area.  On the western edge the valley is cool and is perfect for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  As you move east the valley warms by a degree a mile!  This makes the middle section perfect for Rhone varieties like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Roussanne and as you continue to the east side where Happy Canyon lies you have enough heat to support those Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc.

So if you are a wine geek like me…this is a great place.  But if you are not a wine geek and want to avoid the intimidation of wine talk and just enjoy a glass…well this is the right place too.

So…make your first stop in the Funk Zone near the beach in Santa Barbara on the Urban Wine trail.  Stop into one of the many great tasting rooms there.  Maybe hit Municipal Winemakers first and soak up some of the funky atmosphere.  Sit down at the picnic table and enjoy a glass of rose.

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

Then if you are feeling like learning a little about where these wines come from head up the street to AVA Santa Barbara. Here you can taste wines from all the different regions in Santa Barbara County.  The entire wall over the tasting bar is a huge chalk mural by Elkpen that  shows the regions soils, microclimates and topography. The wines, by Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines are lovely and deliberately varied to feature the microclimates in this incredible area.

Au Bon Climate, Grassini, Margerum

If you head further North into downtown, you will find Grassini, Au Bon Climat & Margerum to choose between for a tasting.

Bistro Dining and Sunset Tasting at Deep Sea

Bistro Dining and Sunset Tasting at Deep Sea

Head back through the downtown shopping district and stop at  Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro for lunch.  Then take a stroll on the beach and finally enjoy a nice glass of wine at Conway Family Wines – Deep Sea Tasting room on the Santa Barbara Pier while you enjoy the sunset.

 

Saarloos & Sons & Cupcakes

Saarloos & Sons & Cupcakes

Oh, but my friend, you are just getting started in Santa Barbara County.  Tomorrow drive into Solvang, the adorable little Danish town and get some aebleskivers for breakfast at the Solvang Restaurant.  You can then stroll this town and taste at several tasting rooms that you can walk to, or drive a little further into Los Olivos where you will find over 35 tasting rooms to choose from!  And…I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a great place to dine at Side’s Hardware & Shoes.  Don’t miss Saarloos and Sons for a pairing with cupcakes from Enjoy Cupcakes.

Carhartt Patio Tasting Area

Carhartt Patio Tasting Area

They are there Thursday thru Sunday from 11-5 (or until they run out of cupcakes, so go early!) and one of my favorite tasting rooms, the tiniest one on the planet is across the street from Saarloos and Sons at Carhartt.  Carhartt stays open an hour later than the others and this often becomes quite the gathering spot on the beautiful but tiny back patio.

Are you overwhelmed yet?  There is more…I highly recommend Terrravant Winery Restaurant in Buellton for dinner and pairings.  They have an Enomatic wine dispensing system set up so you can try small tastes of many of the amazing local wines.  And the now World Famous Hitching Post II is also here in Buellton, made famous by the movie “Sideways”.

Avante Front Entrance

Avante Tapas & Wine Bar Front Entrance

Tomorrow morning you have more wine country to explore!  There are amazing wineries outside of Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley like Buttonwood Farms & Beckman.  Or travel up to Santa Maria through Foxen Canyon and enjoy the morning Vandenberg Fog.  Stop at Zaca Mesa and try their Rhones.  This place has been around a while and popped out some pretty amazing winemakers!  Further up the road, you can’t miss stopping at “The Shack” at Foxen.

Zaca Mesa chess set

Zaca Mesa Patio with the oversized chess set

And…then there is the Sta. Rita Hills. If you love Pinot or good Chard you want to drive through here.  Make an appointment and stop by Clos Pepe.  Wes Hagen has more vineyard and wine knowledge than you can imagine and a tasting with him is amazing!  Just past Clos Pepe is Hilliard Bruce.  John and Christine have an incredibly beautiful landscaped property and their vineyard management is state of the art.

Clos Pepe and Hilliard Bruce

Clos Pepe and Hilliard Bruce

Keep driving down 246 to Lompoc and top into the Wine Ghetto.  Filled with small wineries working out of an industrial park you will find Flying Goat Cellars, Fiddlehead & Palmina as well as a host of others.  Check the hours though, because they are often just open on weekends for tastings.  Further into Lompoc you will find Brewer-Clifton, which again brought out my geeky side as we talked about stem inclusion and how they thin the vines to ripen the stems!

Lompac Wine Ghetto

Lompac Wine Ghetto

Have I covered it all?  Not even close.  There is so much exploring I look forward to going back to do.  But…if you are short on time…The Grand Tasting at the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend will have all of these great wineries and winemakers in one place on April 12th.

Or at anytime for information visit Santa Barbara Vintners

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Shale Oak – a holistic sense of sustainability

Shale OAK Winery

In researching for our trip to Paso, I came across CellarPass.  Cellar Pass provides online reservations for tastings at wineries.  I found Shale Oak through them and scheduled a 10 am tasting.

This stunning tasting room is off of 46W on Oakdale road. The winery released it’s inaugural vintage in May of 2011, and opened their tasting room later that year.  This winery was built to be sustainable and the building is LEED certified.  At least 1/3 of the wineries energy needs are supplied by the solar photovoltaic panels on the building. The redwood used on the building is 100 year old reclaimed wood from Vandenburg.  All the items in their gift shop are repurposed items.

The owner Al Good was raised in Virginia and is an entrepreneurial farmer.  He has developed a holistic approach to the agriculture business.  The sense of land stewardship is what drives Shale Oak.  Their winemaker Curtis Hascall is in his early 30’s and grew up in Watford England.  He graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in food-science.  He worked with Consulting winemaker Kevin Patrick Riley before coming on board with Shale Oak.  Consultant winemaker Kevin Riley is well know in Paso and consults for several wineries as well as owning and running Proulx with his wife Genoa. His adventure style shows in the wines.

Before we began our tasting our pourer got us each a small glass of a palate cleanser called evo that was developed by a couple for their senior project at Cal Poly.  The pH is the same as wine, so it is better than crackers or water.  Our tasting began with the 2011 Sui.  Sui is the second element in Japanese philosophy and represents water, fluidity, magnetism and suppleness.  This blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Albarino, Pinot Grigio is bright and clear with honeydew melon and a nice minerality.  We next moved on to the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I know…Cabernet as the first red on a menu?  Seems a little out of order doesn’t it?  But this is  a lovely approachable soft cab with just a little petite Verdot.  The Cab has a very interesting nose.  It is deep rich and smoky.  On the palate it is lighter bodied almost with a Pinot Noir mouth feel, but still a very deep nose.

The 2009 Syrah had berries on the nose and was meaty and smoky on the palate.  This is a fruit forward new world style wine.

The 2009 Petite Sirah has a sense of caramel, this is a bigger wine, but very approachable.  You get violets on the nose.  Unlike many Petite Sirahs this is not heavy or inky.  It has great aromas and flavors but is lighter on the palate.  They once did a pairing of this with an ice cream with a caramel ribbon (yum).

The 2009 Petit Verdot is dry but not as dry as a typical Petit Verdot.  You get a burst of raisin with this.  This one sits at 16% alcohol but is not hot.

The Cabernet and all of their whites are grown on their Pleasant Valley Vineyard on the East side. Here on the property by the winery they grow Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel.  The Zin is young and not producing much yet so they supplement their Zin by buying fruit from Willow Creek Farms right down the road.  Willow Creek is owned by Kevin Riley.

Their white wines are aged in stainless, and the reds in oak.  Their 2012 Zin is currently aging in New Oak.

The tasting room is stunning with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows on the front, clean lines and a sense of peacefulness.

They have a beautiful patio where they have music on the last Sunday of each month.  They sell wine by the glass and encourage people to bring their lunch and enjoy the patio.

Really this place is stunning and the wines were really wonderful.

If you need a little Zen time, this is the place to come.  Bring a snack, get a glass of one of their wines and relax and rejuvenate on the serene patio with the beautiful water features.

Reflection Tasting in Vertical from Wiens Family Cellars

Wiens Family Cellars was having a Vertical tasting of their Reflections red blends and we couldn’t go…so we put together a vertical of our own.  We had the 2008, 2010 and the 2011.  These are of course blends, so they are all a little different, so this a little different from a typical vertical.  Typically you would have a single variety of grape or a fairly set blend that you would be comparing from year to year.  You would get the differences in the climate and season that affect each year’s harvest.  You would also be able to see how the wine ages.  We were able to do those things, but the field for comparison was a bit more wide open.  Let me take a minute to give you the breakdown on these three vintages.

  • 2008 Reflection is 30% Sangiovese, 28% Barbera, 28% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot  with Alcohol 15.1  and Residual sugar .6%
  • 2010 Reflection is 63% Sangiovese, 14% Cabernet, 14% Syrah, 9% Zinfandel with 14.5 Alcohol and .5 % residual sugar.
  • 2011 Reflection is 42% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 14% Zinfandel, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Primitivo, 2% Montepulciano, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Dolcetto with 12.5 Alcohol! and .2 residual sugar

So as you can see this blend is Sangiovese based, but that’s about where the similarities end.  This makes for a brilliantly exciting tasting!  At the winery they are doing “Reflections of the Decades” and they are tasting 6 of these wines, 2006-2011. We somehow can’t find the 2009 so I must have already enjoyed it!  At the winery they are doing a decade theme starting with the 60’s for the 2006.  I perused their pairings and then went back to the suggestions with the wines. We picked up some Spanish meats and cheeses (yes I know, I could have picked up Italian!).  We did a tasting upon opening and then let them breathe for a bit and tasted each with the meats and cheeses.  For the pairings we went a little out of order and cooked them for each course.  I know it sounds tough, but…we have Trader Joes.  So here’s the run down for the pairings:

  • 2010 Reflection with a goat cheese and basil pizza, to which we added a little sage and thyme.
  • 2008 Reflection with Eggplant Parmesan
  • 2011 Reflection with meat lasagna and a spinach salad.

Then we had chocolate cake for dessert and tasted it with all 3.

 

We found that the wines opened up quite a bit over the course of the evening.  I had e-mailed the winery to ask decanting recommendations.  Bob was kind enough to get back to me and suggested decanting the 2010 and 2011 straight down into a decanter on the counter top to add as much oxygen as possible.  For the 2008 he suggested carefully pouring it down the side of a tilted decanter to give it some space to gently open up.   Thanks Bob!  Unfortunately, I do not yet own a nice decanter.  So…we took the advice the best that we could.  We opened up the 2008 and gently poured into glasses and let it air.  The other two we got the aerator out and poured them through to add oxygen.  On to the tasting!

 

Chapin Family Vineyards – Incredible service with a smile and a story

Chapin barrels on Porch

 

It’s always a joy to walk into a tasting room, for a wine tasting, be warmly welcomed and find that you have someone pouring for you that loves to talk about his or her winery and obviously loves the wines.  Such was the case when we arrived early on a Friday morning to the Chapin Family Vineyards tasting room.  We were the first to arrive that morning and as we walked in Leroy greeted us and offered us a spot at the tasting bar.

The Chapin Family Vineyard is the furthest Winery and Vineyard on Rancho California Road.  Located next to Doffo, the winery property is filled with palm trees, the owner Steve’s first love.

While they do not grow grapes for white wines here at this point, they do work with a winery in Marche, Italy where they import their Passerina white wine.  This wine has a golden color and is dry with mineral notes as well as floral notes, apricot and peach with a small hint of spice.

As we tasted the 2009 Syrah, Leroy filled us in on the history of the winery.  The Chapin Family (Steve’s parents) bough the property here and the property across the street where Doffo now stands in 1980.  It was 15 years later as they watched vineyards pop up all over the valley when they decided to plant some grapes.  They now grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Montepulciano, Petite Verdot and Viognier.  (Yes I know Viognier is a white wine and I said they didn’t grow those.  They only grow enough Viognier to add to their red blends). The Montepulciano is scattered throughout the vineyard.  You will notice blue tags on vines indicating that is it is this variety.  The Syrah borders the vineyards.

As we tasted the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is delicious with fruit and chocolate, decidedly low tannins and very approachable, Leroy filled us in on vineyard techniques.  They use a single cordon method here to intensify the flavors.  Leroy asked us to think of the vine as the trunk, as it grows it sends out a branch, which in double cordon growing would spread out to the opposite side of the original trunk.  Here they clip that branch working only with the trunk itself.  They do all hand picking here and carefully destem all fruit.

The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon was 75% Cabernet, 10% Petite Verdot for some color (inking they call this) and 15% Zin for zing. This is lighter and leaner than the 2009 and slightly less complex.  2008 was a wet year with less sun on the grapes and the grapes were juicier and less intense.  They think of this wine as a more Bordeaux style wine.

The 2010 Merlot had just been release a month before and was still young but you can see the potential.  This is only the 2nd Merlot they have done.  It is spicy with red fruit and cedar, medium tannins and a little mocha.  This wine was made from sourced fruit, as they do not yet grow Merlot.

Their 2010 Zinfandel is medium bodied with bright spice and light tannins.  You get big fruit up front, no heat (which is great for a Zin) and it has a shorter finish.

The 2009 Chapin Family Summit is a Cabernet based blend with Montepulciano and Merlot.  There is a lovely little bit of barnyard on the nose and a slight herbal quality.  The tannins are deeper and the wine has tartness.

While we were there, two wine club members arrived and Leroy set them up with a glass of wine out on the patio.  They carry Boars Head products in their deli and they picked something out and he plated it for them and took it to them on the patio.  Now that is service!  So many places have a deli and you end up eating out of a plastic container.  Leroy wants you to enjoy your experience, so he takes great care of the people who come in.  They offer to do your tasting on the patio if you prefer.

We next tasted the Marche Rosso, which they bring in from Marche Italy.  A blend of 80% Montepulciano and 20% Syrah, is an example of the style of Montepulciano that they hope to produce.  It  had spice and leather and wet earth on the nose and quite and a bit of depth.  The tannins were tangy and the wine leaves your mouth watering for more.  There was also good tartness on the sides of my tongue.

The last wine we tasted was a Late Harvest Zin Tawny Port, put in port barrels in the sun and do them in a solera style.  You get caramel, but it is not too sweet.  With deep fragrances of hazelnut and brown sugar this was hot on my nose as it is fortified,  but was not hot on the palate.  This is one of the more approachable ports I have had.

Chapin Family Vineyards  a great place for a tasting or just a glass of wine.  Leroy makes you feel pampered making sure that you are comfortable and having a great experience.   The afternoon before the entire patio was filled, so word must be out.  If you are in Temecula Wine Country, don’t miss stopping here.

Frangipani, a piece of paradise on the De Portola Trail

Frangipani Winery

Frangipani…for me I immediately think of the musical “South Pacific”.  Frangipani is the word they use for plumeria the island flower that I grew up making leis with in Hawaii.  So…I envisioned a tropical paradise.  I thought, this winery must be owned by someone creating their own paradise.  Well…it’s a bit simpler than that.  The owner/winemaker is Don Frangipani.  He has however created his own piece of paradise here on the De Portola Wine trail.

We stopped by Frangipani on our final morning in Temecula on our last trip.  They had Sunday Brunch advertised on their website and it seemed like the perfect way to wrap up our trip.

Frangipani Dog Frannie

Frangipani Dog Frannie

We were greeting in the parking lot by “Franni” dog and greeter.  After getting a good scratch he led us to the door.  We were early (as usual) and it was pretty quiet when we arrived.  JoAnn Frangipani, Don’s wife set us up with Mango Mimosas with their house sparkling and pointed us to the buffet.  There were fresh muffins and pumpkin bread as well as bagels with lox. The cook made us fresh pulled pork benedicts and we enjoyed the granola fruit parfaits while we waited for that to finish.  Several groups came in while we were there.

Frangipani Patio

Frangipani Patio

They have an outdoor patio with a great view and bocce ball courts.  JoAnn says the patio stays pretty full in the summer.  We didn’t taste here as we were getting on the road to head home.  I look forward to coming back, tasting and enjoying the patio.  The atmosphere here is warm and friendly and JoAnn immediately makes you feel welcome and at home.

Frangipani View

Frangipani View

Don began working with wine in 1995 at Cilurzo Winery in Temecula.  He opened Frangipani in 2003.  He loves red wines and mixes classic French varieties of Petite Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with old world Italian styles.  They grow Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Sangiovese, Grenache and Petite Sirah on their estate.

Monte de Oro – “Vines, Wine, People”

Monte De Oro depcicted in oil

This Temecula Valley winery is impressive as you drive up toward the end of Rancho California Road. The building sits on a rise and is expansive and inviting. In the early mornings there are typically balloons taking off from here making for picture perfect morning shots with their vineyards out front.

Monte De Oro Tasting Room Window View

Tasting Room Window View

The Monte de Oro winery is owned by OGB (One Great Blend) Partners, which is a collection of 68 family owners from across America, South Africa and the UK.

The Vineyards are located around the valley. The first, Vista Del Monte was planted in 2002 with 18 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They added 18 acres at the DePortola vineyard and 23 acres at the Galway vineyard in 2003 planted with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Canelli.

In 2007 they broke ground on the winery and in 2008 planted their 4th vineyard at the winery growing Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo.

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Committed to sustainability the winery created a basement wine cave under the winery rather than building a barrel room above ground that would need to have a system for climate control. One of the most impressive sites in the building is walking across the glass floor that allows you to see down into the barrel room. They are also planning to build a gravity flow winery which reduces the energy needed to pump the wine as well as being gentler on the grapes, and they are looking to add solar panels to supply energy in the future.

The tasting room here is huge with beautiful views of the patio and beyond that the valley. They offer a variety of tours and private tastings that you can schedule in advance in addition to the Standard and Black Label Tastings available daily in the tasting room. Also open on the weekends is the MDO Bistro offering a Bistro menu Friday thru Sunday from 11-4.

Monte de Oro patio

Monte de Oro patio

When we visited the winery was busy and it was towards the end of the day. We tasted through a wide variety of their wines, most of which they produce about 250 cases each. All of the wines are very affordable running from $18 to $33 per bottle. watched a group head out for a tour while we were there and I would like to return to do a tour and learn a little more about their wines.

Foot Path Winery & farm

Footpath Winery

Foot Path is not your typical winery.  It’s off the beaten path on Glen Oaks Road.  The property and drive are marked by a banner.

Footpath Tasting

Footpath Tasting

This isn’t a shiny tasting room that you are driving into, it is a working organic farm.  Grapes are just part of what they do.  As you pull up you see the horses and then the metal warehouse that is the winery.  Stroll in and you find barrels on one side and a tasting bar set up in the center.

In all likelihood the person behind the bar is Deane Foote the owner and winemaker.  It’s $10 to try 5 of their wines and they are all reds.  Mr. Foote makes a small amount of white, but it is all for his wife!  This is a family run farm and winery and Deane’s daughter came in while we were there to bring her dad lunch.  Bandit one of the farm cats came in and wandered down the tasting bar.  They are dog friendly, but with the cats…you have to have your dog on a leash.  They do also sell produce from the farm and usually have that listed on the home page of their website so you can see what is in season.  They grow pomegranates figs tangelos lemons grapefruit limes orange.

The wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and a couple of blends.  You won’t find lots of oak or extra stuff in the wines.  The wines tend to be fruit forward, are unfiltered and are ready to drink now.  In September family comes in from all over to harvest. This place is not shiny and it makes for a lovely contrast to some of the larger corporate wineries.  It’s quieter, or maybe the noises are just different, horses munching on hay, cat meowing, the buzz of humming birds.  This is farm and family and Deane Foote is making wines that he likes.

Part of the Family at Doffo

Doffo Front

I love to research wine country.  Before a trip my planning stages can take more time than the trip itself.  I’m a bit obsessive about this.  Now don’t think that I’m also a control freak.  I tend to also build in multiple options and once we are in wine country I go with the flow.  Well in my research, one of the wineries that I have really wanted to stop by was Doffo. Last year when we were in Temecula they were only open for tastings on weekends, so they were a definite stop on my list this trip.

Doffo Tasting Room in Oil

Doffo Tasting Room in Oil

Doffo is a family owned winery that is almost the last winery as you head east on Rancho California Road in Temecula.  This is a newer winery that was founded in 1997 by Marcelo Doffo.  The family decends from Italians who immigrated to Argentina in the early 1900’s.  Marcelo grew up on his grandfather’s farm in Pampas Argentina.  In the 80’s he traveled to Italy to the northern part of Turin and found his great uncle still making estate wines.  In 1997 he bought the property in Temecula. The logo is an homage to the schoolhouse that used to be on the premises.  If there is one thing Marcelo loves as much as wine it is motocycles.  Be sure to stop by on weekend mornings to get to see the MotoDoffo exhibit in the barrel room.

Doffo Bottles behind Bar

Doffo Bottles behind Bar

We strolled the grounds a little when we arrived, they have a beautiful covered patio next to the tasting room and the residence.  The tasting room was busy and lively and just the right size.  It had a really warm feeling that is the essence of their motto “Visit us once and you are family forever.”  We did a basic tasting and look forward to going back for a reserve tasting.  All the wines here were beautiful and well balanced.  We tasted their beautiful 2011 Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc as well as the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Petite Verdot.

On the wall behind the tasting bar was a shelf filled with wines in gorgeous bottles.  These are the higher end reserve wines.  The Library reserve Zinfandel and the reserve Syrah both of which go for $150 per bottle. These were made it very small lots.  We also tasted some of their chimichurry sauce and left with a jar.

After our tasting I asked for a map for their self guided walking tour.  This lovely stroll around the property was relaxing and informative and is well worth the time.  The tour takes you out of the tasting room past the residence and patio where some of Marcelo’s motorcycles are on display.  You wind around and see the Doffo windmill some of the beautiful terracing they have done then stroll through the Malbec to the front of the property the original stairs to the old school house and the olive tree on the corner of the property before heading back up to the tasting room.  They also make olive oil and infused chocolates.

This beautiful tiny winery has terrific wines and a great atmosphere.  Next time you find yourself in Temecula be sure to stop by!


DOFFO WINERY, TEMECULA, CA from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.