Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend

Santa Barbara Vintners Weekend


The vineyards are seeing bud break, it’s spring and we are all ready to burst outdoors and enjoy the new season.  It’s a beautiful time of year to visit Santa Barbara and enjoy a weekend with the vintners!

Beginning  Thursday April 10th and running to Sunday April 13th, the Vintners Weekend is filled with a variety of events.

Thursday there is the Vintners Festival Golf Tournament and the Sta. Rita Hills AVA Dinner & Wine Pairing.

Friday during the day there is a Vintners Wine Education Seminar Series happening as well as vineyard hikes at Beckman, Buttonwood Farm, Baehner Fournier, Hilliard Bruce and Refugio Ranch.  That evening you can choose between a Barrel Toasting Seminar with Barrel Tasting or a 90+ Points Top Rated Wine & Dine Event.  Other events happening that day include a blind tasting and seminar on Cabernet at Brander Vineyard, a Wine and Cheese Pairing at Brewer-Clifton and a Flying Goat Winemaker Dinner at the La Purisima Mission.

Saturday is the big event with the Vintners Festival Grand Tasting.  There will be over 100 wineries and over 50 varieties of wines represented.  In addition there are Open houses and other events at many wineries including: Melville, Zaca Mesa, Pence Ranch, Lafond, Alta Maria, Longoria, Brander, Lucas & Lewellen, Foxen & Cottonwood Canyon.

Sunday wraps up with a Farm-to-Table Picnic & Concert.  Plus lots of vineyards and wineries will be having open houses, brunches and receptions.

This is the perfect opportunity to explore all the wines of Santa Barbara County, meet the vintners and have a really extraordinary weekend.

Santa Barbara Vintners Weekend

Santa Barbara Vintners Weekend

Baked Salmon recipe Paired with Chardonnay or Pinot Noir?

Herb crusted Salmon

Herb crusted Salmon

Salmon is a glorious fish that can pair with either red or white wine.  So tonight we did a taste test and pulled out 2 stunning bottles of wine from Santa Barbara County.

This was also another incredibly quick meal to make!  I did an Israeli Cous Cous, an herb green salad and then baked a big fillet of salmon.  I searched the web for how to best cook my salmon and found a basic method that I got to add the finishing touches to.  First…take your salmon out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you plan to prepare it, so that it gets closer to room temperature.  Next, preheat the oven to 475.  Get your baking dish set with a couple tablespoons of butter and a little olive oil and stick it in the oven to preheat.  Meanwhile get your herbs ready.  I had thyme, lemon thyme and parsley that I coated the salmon with on the non-skin side.  Once the butter has melted and the pan is hot, pull it out of the oven and put the fish in skin side up (so herbed side down) and stick it in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Then pull it out and peel the skin off.  The skin should come off easily, if it doesn’t stick it back in for a minute or two.  Once the skin is off, season with salt and pepper and flip it over.  Then season your herbed side also and throw it back in for another 3 or 4 minutes.  I admit, I saved the skin and toasted it up the rest of the way later and it accompanied the rest of the salmon for lunch today.

Here’s what it looked like right out of the oven.

Now for the wines.  I pulled out two wines that I have been wanting to get into. The Chardonnay is a 2010 from Hilliard Bruce.  We had the great pleasure to visit them on our last trip to Santa Barbara.  This Chardonnay is stunning. It is crisp with great acid, but still has that wonderful yeast on the nose.  You get a bit of oakiness in the mouth, but the acid beautifully balances it out.   It is aged in 100% French Oak, 30% of which is new and Christine does barrel fermentation with Montrachet yeast with full malolactic fermentation.   It is aged on the lees for 16 months.

Hilliard Bruce 2010 Chardonnay

Hilliard Bruce 2010 Chardonnay

The second wine, our Pinot Noir comes to us from Carhartt Vineyards another of our favorite places in Santa Barbara County.  The Carhartt 2012 Pinot Noir is from Riverbench Vineyards in Santa Maria Valley.  This is a young bold Pinot Noir and it was suggested to go with grilled planked salmon.  Lots of smoke and baking spice on the nose and very savory with lots of depth.

Carhartt 2012 Pinot Noir

Carhartt 2012 Pinot Noir

So, which paired better?  Both were good, but the Chardonnay really knocked it out of the park..  Keep in mind, Carhartt suggested a grilled planked salmon which would have had lots of smoke flavor.  Had we prepared the salmon that way I think it would have been the winner.  But, as it was the herbs paired beautifully with the Chardonnay, the acid cut through the fat in the salmon and it was amazing bite after bite.

Herb Crusted Salmon, Israeli Cous Cous, Salad, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.

Herb Crusted Salmon, Israeli Cous Cous, Salad, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.

 

Santa Barbara Wines- the Highlight Reel!

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural Central Coast Wine Country

We are back from our trip to Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles and I wanted to quickly get the highlights out and give some shout outs to people and places that made this an exceptional trip.

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro SB

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro SB

We started the trip in Santa Barbara, walking the beach, exploring the murals in the funk zone and then heading up to beautiful State Street for lunch and a flight at Wine Bistro Pierre Lafond.  This beautiful café has great sidewalk tables that let you take in the romance that is State Street while enjoying great food and wine.  There is great history here, more about that in a later blog.

 

Grassini Tasting Room

Grassini Tasting Room

Our next stop was Grassini Family Cellars.  This winery is located in Happy Canyon and they specialize in Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Their tasting room is located in the historic El Paseo shopping center near Au Bon Climat and Margerum.  This is a beautiful space and Katie Grassini stopped in while we were there and we had a wonderful conversation about their wines, the winery and the sustainable practices they are using there.

 

Carr SB Tasting Room

Carr SB Tasting Room

From there we headed off the beaten track a little to Carr and we tasted through their line up.  The space here is a converted Quonset hut giving it a feel of the inside of a barrel.  They also have wines available here on tap.

 

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

Now it was back into the Funk Zone proper to AVA Santa Barbara, previously known as Anacapa Vintners.  This beautiful tasting room features wines from each of the Santa Barbara AVA’s.  On the entire wall behind the tasting room bar you will find a huge Elkpen mural that shows the AVAs and describes the climates, soils and topography.  They have soil samples on the counter to look at and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable.  For wine geeks that get into the soil and climate this is heaven.

To finish our day we headed down to Stearns Wharf to Conway Family Wines Deep Sea Tasting Room.  This beautiful tasting room is on the 2nd level on the Wharf with beautiful views of the coast and the ocean.  Their Deep Sea Wines are made with coastal grapes.  Shout out to Lauren for a great tasting!

Conway's Deep Sea Winery

Conway’s Deep Sea Winery

 

We finished the day with some sunset shots followed by dinner on the end of the Wharf at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company…tiny and perfect!

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.

 

Just before bed I realized I had a message from Morgen McLauglin from the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, she had been searching to see if anyone was harvested so we could go get some harvest shots.  Well she found a small harvest happening at none other than Clos Pepe.  So we were up early the next morning to meet her at the vineyard at 5:45.

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

This unexpected boon turned out to be so much more than we expected.  Michael jumped in getting shots and Morgen and I chatted and she walked me down to meet Wes Hagen, the winemaker.  Wes handed us gloves, clippers, a bucket and a head lamp and directed us on the finer points of harvesting pinot noir.  The harvest was for a sparkling project that he was working on with another winery. We spent about 2 hours helping to harvest 2 rows of beautiful tight clusters of pinot noir and watching the sun come up.  And…we were lucky enough that Wes invited us to tag onto a tour and tasting he was doing later that day.

 

Vines at Carhartt

Vines at Carhartt

After a quick cleanup and breakfast at Succulent in Solvang, we headed to Carhartt for a winery tour with Joe the new Wine club manager.  We got to see all the new buildings the harvest prep and then head up to the ridge to see the vineyards as well as the newly planned vineyard site.

 

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons

We headed back into Los Olivos for a little wine and dessert!  “Enjoy Cupcakes” has cupcake flights available daily to pair with Saarloos and Sons tastings.  If you are here on a weekend, this is really something you shouldn’t miss.

We managed to have time for one more shared tasting at Presqu’ile.  This is a stunning tasting room that they unfortunately closed after Labor Day.  Don’t be too sad though, they have a tasting room open at their new winery in Santa Maria.  Everyone I have spoken to says the new winery is beautiful.  The wines here I found to have a unique flair which seems to come from their winemaker.  I look forward to stopping by the winery on our next trip.

At this point it was time to head back out to Clos Pepe.  I will have an entire post about our visit here.  Wes Hagen opens his mouth and fascinating facts fall out.  The wines were spectacular and the information and knowledge shared was beyond expectations.  If you are in the area and love wine, you should schedule a visit with Wes.

We ended our day in the world’s tiniest tasting room at Carhartt’s which becomes quite the gathering spot at the end of the day.  They are open an hour later than the other tasting rooms and end up being quite the industry gathering spot. And then caught a light dinner at Avant in Buellton.

 

Hilliard Bruce

Hilliard Bruce

The next morning we were off to Hilliard Bruce.  As I was tweeting about our upcoming trip, I had a tweet from them saying, “If you can, you’ve got to see the canopy management at Hilliard Bruce Vineyards at least once before you die.”  Well with an offer like that…  So we went.  This is a mind bogglingly beautiful property.  John Hilliard and Christine Bruce are both Certified Master Gardeners and they love their plants.  The entire property is beautifully landscaped and truly, the canopy management is beyond anything you will see anywhere else.  Again, you will get an entire blog post on this exceptional property, but let me say that between the wine, the property and the people this was really an amazing visit.

Lots more fascinating details to come as well as photos and video!

A day in Los Olivos.

Los Olivos Carhartt Tasting Room Santa Barbara County

Day two of our trip will be in Los Olivos.   We are hoping to get some great sunrise shots probably near the Saarloos and Sons vineyards and up into Foxen Canyon to shoot the Vandenberg fog.

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons

Later we will do a cupcake pairing at Saarloos and SonsEnjoy Cupcakes is located in the Saarloos and Sons tasting room and they have cupcakes available for sale or pairings Thursdays thru Sundays.  With flavors like Chocolate Blackberry Syrah and Brown Butter Cowboy Cookie Dough, how can you go wrong?  On top of that you have the Saarloos and Sons wines.  I look forward to trying the latest vintage of Brielle that he makes with his daughter of the same name who just started 3rd grade.  This budding young winemaker is in control of the Sauvignon Blanc and decides when they are ready to harvest.  As the Sav Blanc is the first thing to harvest, she gets to kick off the whole season.  This place is all about family and making great wine to enjoy with family and friends.

We hope to make a stop out to Buttonwood and maybe get to meet their winemaker Karen Steinwachs.  Buttonwood Farm was founded in the 60’s by Betty Williams to be a working farm based on practices that were good for people, animals and the earth.  In 1983 they began planting vines and now they work as a winery and a farm with a Farm stand open in the summer.  This is a place that was designed early for sustainability.  Karen worked at Foley and Fiddlehead before coming to Buttonwood.  I look forward to a great discussion on sustainability and how the farms thoughts on this have changed or adapted since the 1960’s.

Alta Maria

Alta Maria

I have a list of other tasting rooms I would like to visit including Alta Maria where James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins are making wines inspired by old world France.  James is the descendent of Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, drove cattle across the Santa Maria River back in 1855, so there is a bit of history with his family here.  Their artwork on the label features hand-hewn iron nails.  This is the type that homesteaders used before the Industrial Revolution and it makes for stunning artwork.

Others on the list include: Andrew Murray, Byron, Stolpman, Dragonette, Consilience, Epiphany for their new tasting room, Fess Parker, Lincourt, Blackjack Ranch, Fontes & Phillips, Rideau & Presqu’ile.  There is never enough time to get to all the wineries in this area that we want to see.

Blair Fox Cellars ?…well if they happen to be open, I will find a way to stop in. They are typically only open on Fridays and Saturdays, but who knows, maybe I will get lucky.

Richard Longoria Wines

Richard Longoria Wines

And, I don’t see myself leaving without a stop at Longoria to see if there is any Lovely Rita left this year (there fantastic Pinot Noir), as well as a stop at the smallest tasting room on the planet (as well as one of my favorite places on the planet) Carhartt.  I never cease to be amazed by the incredible aromas that Brook gets in her wines.  I could smell them forever and possibly dab some behind each ear!

Dinner is planned at Avant with a possible breakfast or lunch stop at Succulent in Solvang.  So many places and so little time.

Next stop Paso Robles!

Springtime in Wine Country – Santa Barbara to Paso Robles

Santa Barbara
Stearn Wharf Sign

Stearn Wharf Sign

Drawn to the coast we began on the beach in Santa Barbara wandering Stearns wharf and then tasting at Municipal Winemakers on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail in “The Funk Zone”.  Au Bon Climat called and we strolled up the beautiful State Street with bougainvillea petals blowing on the breeze to taste there. Jim Clendenen’s wines lived up to the hype in my book. Then it was just a beautiful drive up 154 to Los Olivos past Lake Cachuma to taste at Qupe/Verdad/Ethan in Los Olivos see some of the amazing wines Bob Lindquist creates.  A relaxing tasting on the back patio at Carhartt slowed our pace and had us waxing poetic on the glorious fragrances of Brooke Carhartt’s wines.  Dinner of small plates and a wine wall where I could enjoy tastings or a glass at Avant Tapas and Wine ended a perfect day one.

In the morning we caught the marine layer drifting through as we headed north into Foxen Canyon stopping for a great tasting at Zaca Mesa.  The property here is beautiful.  This is the winery that turned out both Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist as well as numerous other amazing winemakers.  After our tasting here, we headed North to Arroyo Grande and enjoyed a tour at Talley.  As we toured the winemaker Eric Johnson stopped by on a couple of occasions to say hello and answer questions.  Now it was on to our final destination of Paso Robles.  We tasted at Booker which is off of 46 West and were greeted by the winery dog who is the spittin’ image of our dear Mojo from Miramonte!

Day 3 began at Bella Luna, a tiny winery south-east of Paso, where Sherman, the winemaker was pouring their Italian style wines. Staying on the East Side we drove on to Sculpterra with their amazing sculpture garden live accordion music and lovely wines.  We made our way back to the West side of the 101 to Vines on the Marycrest where they were hosting a “Songwriters at Play” event.  The sun filtered through the tasting room windows and the music filtered in from the patio while we enjoyed a great tasting and conversation with Jennifer while Vic the winemaker and a sound engineer busily took care of cables, mic stands and making sure the sound system in the tasting room gave us the best mix.  Our day ended strolling downtown where they were having a wine and art event.  We were drawn into the Parrish Family Vineyards elegant tasting room where enjoyed tasting the Parrish Family wines with a cheese pairing from Vivant cheeses and I was treated to a wonderful conversation with winemaker David Parrish regarding yeast!

Another beautiful morning saw us enjoying a drive in on Vineyard Drive from the south. Shale Oak is a newer winery in Paso and I had been lucky enough to stumble across them on Cellar Pass.  The peacefulness of this spot in the morning with its stunning architecture topped by it’s eco friendly stance made for a beautiful start to the day.  We added a little adrenaline to the morning with a drive out Peachy Canyon Road.  The twists and turns put this West Virginia girl right at home.  We stopped at a small winery called Stacked Stone.  Winery owner and winemaker Donald Thiessen saw us pull in and came out to open the tasting room to pour for us.  The property is in a lovely wooded area landscaped with “stacked stones”.  Back up Peachy Canyon we headed toward one of the highest limestone plateaus on the West side of Paso Robles 1200 feet above the Salina Valley.  Here at Lloyd’s Lookout sits the Calcareous Winery and tasting room.  The views are amazing.  We enjoyed a tasting followed by a lunch pairing with food by Thomas Hill Organics.

Mid day saw us heading North and East to San Miguel and tasting at family owned and run Locatelli.  Raynette Gregory the co-proprietor poured for us.

From this small family owned winery, we headed further east to the big new tasting room on this block, Nigel Lithgoe’s Villa San Juliette.  The drive out is lovely with expansive views of the East side hills and the property itself is impressive.  Photo’s to come!  From here we were a little wined out…so time for a little pacific coast palate cleanser.  We headed to the coast and dinner at Moonstone beach.  We finished dinner and drove partway back to Paso to pull off and wait to watch sunset.

Our final day started with tour at Tablas Creek.  We are loyal members here and took a tour before our tasting.  The place has grown so much since our last trip here.  We saw Bob Haas arriving for the day, and while we did not see winemaker Neil Collins, we did get to hang with his dog Millie!  From here we had a little time before our tour at neighboring Halter Ranch and made a stop at Adelaida to taste the wines, the almonds, see the sheep and alpacas and meet Addy the vineyard cat.  We headed back to Halter Ranch to do our tour and tasting, and fell in love with the place.  The new winery here is state of the art and stunning.  We ended our trip here on a high note.

So that is the quick view, watch for detailed posts and pictures from these amazing wineries over the next few weeks.

Foxen Canyon & Los Olivos

Foxen Canyon Road

Saarloos & Sons Vineyard

After breakfast at the hotel it was still early so we decided to drive through Foxen Canyon.  We started on 154 and headed north on Zaca Mesa past the Saarloos & Sons vineyards.  Right about where you get to Firestone the road meets with Foxen Canyon Road.  We drove north watching the marine layer rise finally turning around at River Bench.  River Bench sits just past the road that takes you out to the famous Bien Nacido Vineyards.  We enjoyed the drive back down Foxen Canyon and pulled in a few minutes before 11 to Foxen 7600 the Pinot House.

 

Foxen 

A little fancier than “the shack” down the road now known as Foxen 7200, which is still perfection to me.  None the less this tasting room with their production facilities was open and the ladies in the tasting room were very welcoming.  2 of them were actually the pourers who we had met last year at the shack and they remembered us! We tasted Chardonnay and Pinot and had a great conversation finding out about “Bob” the bobcat that we had been watching when we were at the shack.  He evidently has moved on to tastier grounds these days.

 

Saarloos and Sons

Saarloos & Sons Tasting Room

 

Okay I have been a little enamored with this winery since seeing Keith Saarloos speak on the Wine Down.  This is a family vineyard and the whole family works it.  Bradley was pouring in the tasting room when we got there and was full of great and passionate information about the family the wine and the vineyards.  The wines are named for someone in the family each year and all wines are individual to the vintage and are not meant to ever be recreated.  The names include “Brielle” a  fantastic Savignon Blanc named for Keith’s daughter; Hers a grenache blanc; His a Cabernet, Humble Harv a 100% grenache named for Keith’s dad and Big Larr a 100% syrah named for Bradley’s dad.  194d8 is a wine that is made new every year.  The first year it was called 1945 for Keith’s grandparents anniversary.  Each year they make a new blend and honor another year of their grandparents being together with a label complete with a photo of the happy couple from that year.  The last wine we tasted was the Creed a 100% Petite Sirah.  Oh…and did I mention that on Thursday through Sunday “Enjoy Cupcakes” is in the house with great cupcakes and a $10 pairing menu to go with the wines!  Yeah!  Totally Rocks!  So I’ll try to remember the pairings.  A Ginger Lime Chardonnay cupcake with the Brielle, (chardonnay cake, buttery ginger crust filled with a lime curd and topped with a lime frosting and sugared lime zest).  I remember that the “His” went with the Chocolate Malt Milkshake with “fries” (chocolate cake filled with malt pudding topped with chocolate frosting and “fries”- that is shoestring style).  Okay I can’t remember the rest…but…can you picture getting a little box with 6 miniature cupcakes and then walking over the to tasting bar and having them pour something to taste with each!?  IT IS THE BEST!  So Keith was not there but Bradley was amazing handling 8 guests at the tasting bar with ease and keeping us all informed and entertained!  Larr came in while we were tasting and we all said hello.  This is a very warm and welcoming tasting room.  And after hearing the stories about the wines and the family you feel very much a part before leaving.

 

 

Artiste

Bradley suggested Artiste which is on a side street just off of Grand.  The place is covered with art, as are the wine bottles.  “Art Inspired Wine”.  The fabulous idea is that you can taste the art in the glass.  The first wine we tasted was called “Windy Beach”  The art on the label is of ocean beach and sea grass blowing.  The wine is a blend of 60% Sav Blanc, 25% Chard and 14% Pinot Grigio.  I tasted before knowing what the blend was (that seemed to be the idea!), and it tasted like the shore on a windy day, one  that is crisp (that would be the sav blanc).  Crazy…but you even get a bit of salinity to it.  Could be my imagination, but then again, who cares!  We went on to taste the Lilium with a label that was colorful and abstract.  It reminded me of a summer field of flowers.  It was a Cote du Rhone style blend with 81% Grenache, 18% Syrah and 1% Viognier.  Next was a Bordeaux style blend called Midtown with a label filled with deep rich colors of the city on a black background.  This blend was 80% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc, rich and bold.  The Skyline with a similar painting that was a little lighter a little more of a view than the other was another Bordeaux style blend of 60% cab franc, 20% Cab Sav and 20% Merlot.  I enjoyed the depth of this wine (I do love Cab Franc).  Last we tasted Daybreak with a sensual painting of a dark haired woman in a white nightgown sitting on a bed as daylight starts to break into a room.  This Super-Barbaresco style blend was sensual and warm and is made of 60% Nebbiolo, 20% Barbera, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.

 

Artiste also reminded us of what a small and connected world we live in.  The pourer, who had just started that day was in school studying scenic design so we got talking and found that Michael knew her uncle.  6 degrees…

 

Panino

By now we were hungry again (the cupcakes had worn off) and we headed to Panino for a bit of lunch.  Panino is a Santa Barbara chain for sandwiches and Salads with 4 locations in the area.  I had a Harvest Salad and Michael had a sandwich and while we ordered to go, a table opened up as we were walking out, so we sat and enjoyed our lunch.  We did a little walk around town on Almo Pintado I had to wonder into J. Woeste.  The gardens are filled with herbs and plants for sale and all kinds of wonderful nick nacks for the garden.  It was enchanting.  They have some wonderful tubular chimes out front that were just glorious. I was intrigued by Coghlan Vineyard and Jewelers…(Vineyards and Jewelers?) So I wandered across the street to check it out.  They had a collection of artists set up in the beautiful side yard and I needed a new pair of earrings!  I indeed found a pair I liked, although they were in turquoise and I really wanted something in green…The artist suggested swapping out the stones and we did!  Gorgeous sterling silver earrings with Periodot that I love!  Now we were ready for a nap.  Time to reserve our energy for the evenings big event, the Carhartt Winemakers Dinner.  More on that later…..

Santa Barbara County Wine Getaway

Welcome to Santa Maria!  Allegiant Airlines has new low budget flights from Vegas to Santa Maria!  No frills but short.  The flight was 48 minutes and then a 30 minute drive south to Los Olivos and the Santa Barbara Wine Country.  Of course the selection for flights is slim.  They fly on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  San Luis Obispo is just 30 minutes North and then another hour to Paso Robles.  We flew out on a mid day flight leaving Vegas at 1:45 and we were pulling out of the parking lot with our rental car by 3!  A short drive down the 101 and we were in Los Olivos for tastings!  Of course even closer you can hit the Santa Maria Wineries and take the back roads south through Foxen Canyon, or head straight to the coast and taste in Lompac.  We arrived at the small but nicely appointed airport and exited down the ramp to the tarmac to the sounds of an airshow!  Bi planes doing death spirals greeted us.  The drive was short and lovely.  Exit at 146 onto Rt 254 and pass the Saarloos and Sons property on the left then continue to Los Olivos (o LEE vos  who knows how long I had been pronouncing it incorrectly before someone filled me in) and take a right onto Grand Avenue with around 30 tasting rooms lining the street.  During the weekends the town can be very busy in the summer.  Our trip brought us out for the Carhartt Winemakers dinner on Saturday night.  On our last trip we tasted at the tiny and adorable Carhartt tasting room where we fell in love with their style and wines.

One of the things I learned more about on this trip to Santa Barbara County was the location of different vineyards in the area.  I had not put together that Happy Canyon was so close and the infamous Bien Nacido vineyard is just up the road from Foxen Canyon.  Time to get out the maps! This area is much less about estate vineyards and more about sourced grapes from small specially tended vineyards.  Sea Smoke is located in the Santa Rita Hills and this prime real estate they keep to themselves only selling grapes to Brewer-Clifton (their Chardonnay) and to Foxen (their Pinot Noir).  Exclusive deals like this with winemakers, wineries and growers are typical in this area and the respect for the grapes, growers and the differences with the micro climates and soils show in the wines.

 

3CV Cimarone tasting room

3CV & Cimarone

This tiny tasting room is in Los Olivos right next to Carhartt.  It is the first winery from Happy Canyon to open a tasting room in Los Olivos.  Our tasting began with some great approachable wines at $20 and under.  They went straight to the distributors to get the 3CV (three creek vineyard) name out there.  From there they began developing higher end wines under the Cimarone name. They are working with Bordeaux & Rhone varieties as well as a Sangiovese.  All the wines were delicious and approachable. The tasting room is open Thursday – Sunday from 11-5.

 

Longoria Tasting Room

Longoria

Before heading to Santa Barbara I downloaded Steve Heimoff’s book to my Kindle and I looked up winemakers in Santa Babara.  Richard Longoria has been making wine from the Santa Rita Hills since the 1970’s and has been making wines at Longoria since 1982.   This winery turns out around 3500 cases per year in small lots from 50 to 700.  They pull grapes from their Estate vineyard at Fe Ciega as well as from Bien Nacido and a blend of the 2 vineyards Pinot grapes which makes their Lovely Rita Pinot Noir which is simply delicious!  We tasted the Pinot Grigio and the Chardonnay both of which are amazingly well balanced.  They also had an Albarino this year which sold out very quickly. The tasting room is in one of the oldest buildings in Los Olivos and has charming metal siding.  Inside the tasting room the pourer was full of great information on the vineyards and microclimates, the soils and the difference in weather from vintage to vintage.  There is not a bad wine in the place.  Joyful tasting.

 

Sides Hardware and Shoes

Dinner was next!   When we were last in town we had dinner at Matteis tavern where the Brothers were cooking at the time and had a fantastic dinner.  They have since moved from the large tavern (which I hear there is rumor that it is being converted into a resort) and into the historic Sides Hardware and Shoes building on Alamo Pintado just off of Grand Avenue.  The location is quaint with 4 to 6 tables out on the patio on the sidewalk and maybe 20 tables inside.  We had an amazing dinner beginning with an ahi tuna appetizer.  Then Michael enjoyed the Salmon and I had Lamb with goat cheese gnocchi.  One of those meals where you close your eyes and savor each bite.  We paired with the Au Bon Climat 2010 Pinot Noir as we were in a Pinot mood and it was delicious.  For desert we had the special which was a corn ice cream with blueberry compote.  All in all a wonderful evening and a spectacular start to our weekend!

A little Sideways

Santa Barbara County is the setting for the movie Sideways. Downtown Solvang is the center of the area for places to stay although Miles stayed outside of Solvang in Buellton.  This charming Danish Village has tasting rooms and restaurants.  Breakfast at the Solvang Restaurant where trying the Aebleskivers is a must.  Our journey into this bit of wine country was slightly different than planned.  After a night at The Morgan (very nice) in San Simeon, we drove into San Luis Obispo.  I had never been through the town.  When we were touring, we played the college, which had no loading dock and I remember pushing road boxes through mud.  So, not fond memories.  The downtown is adorable.  While we just drove through it definitely looks worth returning to.  We drove through town and stopped at Edna Valley Vineyards.

Edna Valley Winery Demonstration Gardens

They have a lovely demonstration garden out front and the tasting room is beautiful with a great view of the vineyards.  The tasting room is the Jack Niven Hospitality Center although the Niven’s are no longer associated with this winery.

We tried to stop by Saucelito Canyon but the sign in the window said Closed.  They are known for their Zins.  We opted to drive south and stopped at  Laetitia.

Laetitia Vineyard Sign

Laetitia Vineyard and Winery in the Arroyo Grande Valley California

As they are a sparkling house I was anxious to taste, even though Michael is not a sparkling kind of guy.  Their tasting room was hopping on a Tuesday morning!  Lots of wine club pickups happening, with everybody tasting.  The tasting room staff were very knowledgeable.

From here we headed to Orcutt to lunch at Addamo Vineyards tasting room.  They have a cafe and it was hopping with local traffic.   Evidently it is the place for lunch.  The home style Italian food was very good.  From here we tried to go to Costa de Oro but got lost with the GPS and just hit the Foxen Canyon Trail.  Our next stop was Foxen.  “The Shack” as they call it was everything I hoped it would be.  We were warmly welcomed by the tasting room staff as we walked up “Hey we’ve been waiting for you!”  We were also treating to a spotting of the bobcat that visits daily.  The wines here were phenomenal.  They were kind enough to give us a copy of the UC Davis tasting wheel and shared lots of great stories.  A few years ago they made a Merlot and they are no longer making it, because they cannot source the grapes any longer.  People keep coming back and asking for it!  (More on that later!) We thoroughly enjoyed our tasting here.  “the Shack” is considered Foxen 7200 (the address).  A little further up the road you will find the new facilities where they taste their pinots and chardonnays.  We were happy with our experience at the shack and continued on to stop at Curtis and then into Solvang.  We spent the night at the Hotel Corque.  The room was stunning and the hotel is filled with beautiful natural artwork.  The whole town was lit up for Christmas, so we wondered the city on foot searching for dinner.  We made our way to the other end of the town and then settled on the Solvang Brewing Company for dinner.  I had an incredible Ahi burger!  Full and happy we made the trek back to the hotel, bundled up in the California cold.  Time for a nap and then to see what tomorrow would bring.