Downtown Santa Barbara is picturesque with the Spanish Colonial Architecture and the trailing bougainvillea. In the heart of the Presidio Neighborhood lies the Paseo de la Guerra or El Paseo. This beautiful complex with it’s interior courtyards and passageways is the restored home of Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, the Commandante of the Presidio.
This historic property was purchased in the 1920’s and through several owners was designed into the paseo that it is today. In addition to the Casa de la Guerra Museum housed within the property, there are Shops, Wine tasting rooms and restaurants. It is a beautiful place to step back a little in time and slow your pace. The tasting rooms have gathered as the Wine Collection of El Paseo. We strolled into the center of the interior courtyard entering from the State Street side and began our tasting at…
If you are a racing fan, you might know the name “Jamie Slone”. Jamie until recently, was a Formula Race Car Driver. When he would race in Indy Car weekend in Sonoma, the guys would always look to head out for a beer when there was time off. Jamie preferred to head into Sonoma and explore the wines. His fascination with wine led to the opening of Jamie Slone Wines. He works closely with his winemaker Doug Margerum, tasting blends and making suggestions, sometimes suggestions that are a little out of the norm..he has released a Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah blend and feels as if blends might be his new direction in the market.
When we walked into the beautiful tasting room we were greeted first by Sophie, their dog and then by Jamie himself. He is passionate and energetic and loves to share the experience of his wines. The tasting room he describes as an American Riviera Experience and it is both stunning and warm. His wife Kym joined us toward the end of our tasting in time for a photo.
The wines have depth and nuance. Jamie pulled out a bit of his 2013 Sauvignon Blanc for us to taste which is all but gone. We also tasted the 2011 BoRific Red blend. It is a blend of Merlot & Cab Franc and is named “BoRific” after Jamie’s nickname for Kym. We left with a bottle of the beautiful, 2013 Aloysius Chardonnay, named after Kym’s late father which is a balanced and elegant wine. He also has a lovely Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir and his 2012 Super Tuscan which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and just a hint of Malbec.
After a wonderful tasting, Jamie was kind enough to walk us down and introduce us at the MWC32 Tasting room.
Jamie introduced us to the Tasting Room manager Rani at the MWC32 Tasting Room. This tasting room is the Margerum Reserve tasting room. It is tucked inside the El Paseo as opposed to the flagship Margerum Tasting room on Anacapa Street. Rani set us up for a tasting and filled us in on much of the background of wine maker Doug Margerum.
Doug came from the restaurant industry and as such has a great love for wine and food. His parents originally purchased the Wine Cask restaurant which expanded to include a bistro and wine store. He sold the restaurant in 2007 to devote all his time to Margerum Wine, and then reopened it in 2009 with new partners. In addition to his own wines, he also makes wines for 2 other wineries in The Wine Collection of El Paseo, both Jamie Slone and Happy Canyon Vineyards.
We tasted the 2014 Riviera Rose, the 2013 Klickitat Pinot Gris (from the Margerum Ranch & Dampier Vineyards in Klickitat Washington), the 2011 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah (this is one of those wonderful Ballard Canyon Syrahs), the Black Oak Vineyard Syrah (from the Eastern side of the Los Alamos Valley), the M5 which is a Rhone Blend in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape style of Syrah, Grenach, Mourvedre, Counties and Consult. Mid tasting Hugh, Doug’s brother, who in addition to dealing with the website and wine club is also an accomplished artist, stopped by with a Riesling for us to taste. This came from the Kick-On Vineyard on the Western end of the Los Alamos Valley.
All the wines were beautiful and I am still dreaming about the Amaro which Doug started making 9 years ago, fortifying the wine with brandy and 40 different botanicals, roots, herbs, barks and orange peel…..this is amazing digestif, with many layers from the botanicals.
Lastly we revisted Grassini. The last time we were at the El Paseo, Katie Grassini had stopped by to greet us and we had a wonderful chat. The tasting room is done in deep dark woods. The tasting bar is made of refurbished wood from old Fir trees and there are big comfy leather arm chairs. Their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was just given a top score by Jancis Robinson. While their vineyards & winery are not open to the public, they are located out in Happy Canyon where they grow Bordeaux varieties.
There are multiple tasting room experiences here, including the Estate Tasting Flight of their Sauvignon Blanc, the Equipo Red Blend, the Articondo Bordeaux Blend (named for Katie’s great grandfather), and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. They also do a reserve tasting of their library wines, a new Sauvignon Blanc flight and a wine and truffle pairing.
The estate vineyard in the warmer Happy Canyon AVA is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc with bits of Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. I was told that one of the two small blocks of Cabernet Franc is on a hill so steep that they put up a net at the bottom during harvest. “To catch the grapes” I asked? “No, to catch the people”.
Their Equipo Red Wine is made by their team, “equip” being the spanish word for team. The team has full control over a portion of the vineyard and a portion of the profits from this wine goes right back to the team.
While we did not have time to stop by the Au Bon Climat Tasting room on this trip, we did stop in on a previous trip. Jim Clendenen is a legend in these parts. He has several labels including Au Bon Climat, Clendenen Family Vineyard, Ici/La-Bas, Barham Mendelsohn and Vita Note and you can taste many of these labels daily in his tasting room. There is a comfy couch and chairs, but I’m much more likely to be at the bar asking multiple questions of the knowledgeable people pouring the wine. You will find maps of the area vineyards laid out on tables in the tasting room which you can pour over to find each of the sourced vineyards. If you are familiar with the area, the names will be familiar beginning with the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, which is their primary vineyard source. In addition there is the Le Bon Climat Vineyard, tucked back into an valley in the upper part of the Santa Maria Valley. Twice annually they have an Open House here at the Winery, (it’s coming up this weekend!) If you are in the area, you should plan to go. Jim will be cooking! There is also the beautiful Rancho La Cuna vineyard in the Los Alamos Valley and the list goes on from their with famous names like Nielson, Sierra Madre, Talley, Sanford & Benedict and Los Alamos Vineyard.
This is the grand-daddy of them all.
Don’t miss this tasting room!
If you find yourself in Santa Barbara, you can make a day of it just exploring the El Paseo with history, wine and great food all within steps of each other.
You will also be able to find all of these wineries at the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Grand Tasting in Buellton this weekend on Saturday April 25th. Visit the Santa Barbara Vintners site for more details on all the wineries in the area.