So you are heading to Santa Barbara and want to know where to taste wine…

Sunset Au Bon Climat

I was asked recently about insights into visiting Santa Barbara. My brain goes a little crazy then, filled with all the wonderful options. It’s no secret that I love this area and it’s people. As I set out to jot down some notes, it occurred to me that I am asked this quite often. And while Crushed Grape Chronicles has loads of information on Santa Barbara, I do not have one concise blog post that details the highlights as I see them today. So here I am, putting together my SBC highlight reel. Keep in mind that there will be omissions. Some because there is only so much room in a highlight reel and some because I have yet to discover them. So if you come across one of these omissions, please feel free to add your SBC favs in the comments section!

When you say Santa Barbara, the first thing that comes to mind is the beach, and the city of Santa Barbara. So we will start there. Just know that Santa Barbara is so much more than that.

The City of Santa Barbara

Stearns Wharf and the Beach

Evening view from the Conway Family Vineyards Deep Sea Tasting Room on the pier in Santa Barbara

 

 

Go straight to the beach. You know you want to. You can head out onto Sterns Wharf where there are restaurants and a tasting room. The Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting room is a great place to start. They have a variety of wines that they source from coastal vineyards and you can’t beat the ocean view, I mean you are ON the ocean, not just on the beach looking at it! And a meal at The Santa Barbara Shellfish Company is perfect, especially on a cloudy day. If you can manage to pack into this tiny place at the far end of the wharf you will indulge in some soul warming seafood.

The perfect place for a quick overview: The Valley Project

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

But the city beckons and I suggest your first stop be to the The Valley Project– AVA Santa Barbara
This project started by Seth Kunin will give you an overview of Santa Barbara County. This county contains multiple AVA’s (American viticulture Areas), which differentiate climate and soils within wine growing areas. The beautiful Elkpen chalk mural that spans the entire wall behind the tasting room bar will give you an overview and the pourers are there to discuss the differences in the wines and areas with you. Expect them to pull out soil samples to show you.

Super quick tutorial on Santa Barbara County

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 led 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. Read more about it in The varied and amazing wines and wineries of Santa Barbara County

The Funk Zone and Urban Wine Trail

So now that you are armed with a little background, you can decide where to go next. The Funk Zone is home to lots of little urban tasting rooms. If you are looking to just hang and drink wine and enjoy the sunset in a set of board shorts barefoot, you can march right down to Municipal Winemakers . The funky laid back atmosphere here is ultra relaxing. If this is your style, you can check out our article Municipal Winemakers and the “Funk Zone” wineries

Wine Collection of El Paseo

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If you are not in your board shorts there is the El Paseo further up State Street. Here you will find the tasting room for one of the grand daddies of Santa Barbara Wine Au Bon Climat (ABC to those in the know, which now you are!). Margerum Wine Company  is located here also, along with Doug Margerum’s restaurants the Wine Cask and the Intermezzo Wine Bar. Grassini, known for Happy Canyon Bordeaux style reds and gorgeous Sav Blancs is also here as well as  Jamie Sloane Wines, where you will often find Jamie himself behind the tasting bar pouring.   There are a few more tasting rooms here that I have yet to visit.

You can read more about the El Paseo in our post Santa Barbara’s Wine Collection of El Paseo

Into Wine Country

While you found tasting rooms, I bet you didn’t see any vineyards here in town. That’s because you have to drive inland to get to wine country. You have two options, you can take the 101 and head to Buellton or you can take the 154. The 101 will stick to the coast line until Gaviota State Park and then head north to Buellton. The 154 takes you up into the hills above the City of Santa Barbara and along Lake Cachuma bringing you out in Happy Canyon. From there you can choose to head to Solvang (the little Danish town, that is very quaint and contains most of the areas hotels) or to Los Olivos, a town of tasting rooms. Both are pretty drives, the 154 is quieter (and faster and my favorite).

Places to Taste:

Regulations in Santa Barbara are still quite strict in many areas, so you will find many tasting rooms in towns like Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Solvang, Buellton & Lompoc, some of these are wine makers sourcing fruit and some are vineyards and wineries, who according to current regulations are not allowed to have a tasting room at their vineyards. Below is a short list of some of my favorites in each of the areas. As I mentioned before, I have yet to drink through all 300 wine tasting rooms in the valley, so please add your suggestions in the comments section below!

Quick note on tastings:

Many of the places listed below are not open 7 days a week, in fact some are only open on weekends. I have provided links to their websites so you can check on the days and hours before you go as they typically change seasonally. And, always be responsible. Drink lots of water, limit the number of tastings you do in a day (4 is really max) and spend some time in each tasting room. Michael and I typically share a tasting, we make sure we have snacks along the way (pack something!) and don’t be afraid to use the spit bucket! They are there for you to use. You can swish and spit or if that is uncomfortable, you can use it to empty your glass after you have “tasted”. If you walk into a tasting room and find the spit bucket is a tip bucket? You have come to the wrong place, and you should turn and find the door.

Los Olivos

The main drag of this small town circles around it’s flagpole. The streets are lined with tasting rooms as well as shops and some restaurants. If you are looking to stroll from tasting to tasting, this is the place I suggest.

 

Larner

Larner Tasting Room

Larner Tasting Room

Michael and Christina Larner are some of our favorite people in Santa Barbara. Michael championed the Ballard Canyon AVA and he is the founder of the Buellton Bodegas a Wine Cooperative space where wine makers have their individual space but can share some of the big wine making equipment. Their tasting room is on the corner by the flagpole (behind the antique gas station) next to the Los Olivos General Store, a gift shop that Christina runs. During the day you can grab a sandwich from Panino next door and get a glass of wine from the Larner tasting room and enjoy lunch on the patio. Michael has a background in Geology and as such he is an expert on soils. You will find a long list of interviews on many fascinating wine related subjects here we have discussed with him here Larner Vineyard

 

Tercero

tercero Wines Tasting Room

Larry Schaffer loves making wine and talking about wine. He especially loves Rhones. Typically you will find Maeapple pouring in the tasting room (she is a joy to chat with), but sometimes Larry will roll in from a busy day going in a million directions and will hold court in the tasting room. He is active in the Rhone Rangers, a passionate supporter of screw caps and footstomps his grapes.  Oh and he loves baking bread, so if you are exceptionally lucky, you might come in on a day when there is a loaf being shared in tasting room.  (the ultimate breaking bread!)
https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/video/tercero-wines-larry-schaffer/

Blair Fox

Blair is the Winemaker at Fess Parker. But here he makes his own wines and they are spectacular, with many single vineyard wines. His tasting room staff is well versed in the wines and the local vineyards.  We had an exceptional tasting here, talking with the staff as well as several other guests in the tasting room.  One guest had a special reserve bottle and busted it open to share tastings of.  Yep, it’s that kind of atmosphere here. They mostly produce Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Vermentino and Viognier. Alright…Vermentino & Viognier?  That makes me very happy.

Crawford Family Wines

Okay, I have yet to visit this tasting room, but I met Mark Horvath the winemaker and tasted his Sta. Rita Hills Syrah (cool climate Syrah) and really enjoyed it. Here he is on the Syrah panel this past spring speaking about this wine. Mark Horvath, Crawford Family Wines on Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

Saarloos & Sons 

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons

Follow their blog. This place is all about family and Keith Saarloos is a joy to read. The wines here sell out fast, so if you like something, better buy it while you are here.
AND they have cupcake pairings on the weekends! Check out the video here https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/video/saarloos-sons-paired-withenjoy-cupcakes/

Bien Nacido & Solomon Hills Estate Wines

Bien Nacido has been providing extremely sought after fruit for a while. Au Bon Climat & Qupe built their winery (that they share) on the property to be close to this fruit. If you have ever tasted a Bien Nacido Pinot, you will remember it and be able to pick out this fruit regardless of the winemaker using it. It is distinctive. And now, they not only grow this prize fruit but they have begun making their own wine with Winemaker Trey Fletcher. They also make Syrah. Here is Vineyard Manager Chris Hammel talking about their Syrah and Bob Lindquist’s Qupe Syrah from their vineyards. Syrah Seminar 2016 SB Vintners – Episode 3 Bien Nacido

Kaena

Beautiful Tree outside the Kaena Tasting room in Los Olivos

Mikael Sigouin is also the Winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards (notice a theme?) He is originally from Hawaii and is known as the Grenache King, so I guess you know what you will be drinking here!  His tasting room is full of Aloha, I always end up having great conversations with other guests there.  Last time, we met some folks from Hawaii tasting, who lived near where I did when I was there growing up.  They knew dear friends of ours from when we lived out Makaha way.  Small world syndrome at it’s finest.  We included Mikael in our Sampling of the Incredible Winemakers of Santa Barbara

 

J. Wilkes

This is another tasting room I have yet to visit, but it is on my list for our next trip. Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe is now the winemaker and brand ambassador.  He can wax poetic on many topics, and is fascinating.  I was able to pick Pinot with him during an early morning harvest a few years ago at Clos Pepe.  He has helped create an educational tasting room for J. Wilkes and quite honestly I can’t wait to see it! Typically just open on weekends, Wes posts on his and J. Wilkes facebook pages and on Twitter other times when he will be in for tasting and teaching. You can Make a Reservation on the website ahead of time also.

Carhartt

Los Olivos Carhartt

Los Olivos Carhartt

This is where you finish your day. It is the tiniest tasting room in the world they claim, with just 3 stools at a small bar. Luckily, the back patio opens up (and fills up) at the end of the day. The Carhartts, yes, they are those Carhartts, of work clothes fame, grow grapes and make wine as a family affair. This place is casual though, as handsome young men often pad around the back patio barefoot pouring wines. Here is a throwback piece from way back in 2011 when we first discovered them. https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/santa-barbara-and-los-olivos-part-2/

Buellton:

If you have seen Sideways, you will know Buellton. The restaurant Miles meets Maya in, is none other than The Hitching Post II. (They, by the way make their own Hitching Post wines). There are several tasting rooms in the area here are two of my favorites.

Cold Heaven

Coldheaven Winery

Coldheaven Winery

This is the place if you like cool climate Viognier. Morgan Clendenen (yes, you recognized the name, she used to be married to Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat) pioneered cool climate Viognier, and she also makes Pinot Noir. We had an extraordinary visit with them with  Cold Heaven Cellars – Rhone Scent-ual Experience

Alma Rosa

The Beautiful Tasting Room at Alma Rosa in Buellton

The Sta. Rita Hills wine growing region was pioneered by Richard Sanford. While he no longer owns and runs Sanford Winery, this legend in this area now has a new winery called Alma Rosa. The tasting room is conveniently located next to Industrial Eats, off of Industrial Way in Buellton. Get a little bit of his history here.

Lompoc:

This place looks as different from Wine Country as you can get.  When you drive out 246 toward the ocean and Vandenberg Air Force Base, the vines end and you run into an Industrial Park Area.  This is the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  The beautiful irony is that Lompoc was first founded as a Temperance Colony back in 1874.  The Ghetto has lots of wineries, but further into Lompoc you will find more wineries and tasting rooms.

Longoria

Longoria 2014 Albarino in the garden

Rick Longoria is quiet, soft-spoken and decidedly unpretentious. He quietly tries to blend in with the crowd at the Grand Tastings in Santa Barbara. A couple of years ago I had a lovely conversation with him at his table there.  And he is a joy to speak with.  He beams while telling you about his wines. His vineyard is Fe Ciega in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. In addition to his award-winning Pinot Noirs (Lovely Rita is one of my favorites…a wine that once you taste it, you long for), he also makes a wonderful Albarino sourced from Clover Creek Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley.
https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/little-longoria-albarino-shellfish/

Brewer-Clifton

Founded by Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton in 1995. Back then they were working at other wineries. In 2005 they started growing their own grapes and 2012 was their first estate vineyards vintage and their 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot was named the #8 Wine in Wine Spectator’s Topp 10 of 2014. Here you will taste Sta. Rita Hills Pinot & Chard. Ask about stem inclusion. You will find an older piece I wrote about a tasting we did at Brewer-Clifton here.

Transcendence

We met Kenneth “Joey” Gummere at an event at Sunstone Winery sponsored by the Santa Barabara Vintners. He and several other wine makers were there showing off some of their wines. He and his wife Sarah are dedicated to making cool-climate Syrah, Pinot and Chard. I had a fascinating conversation with him about temperature control with his wine making process. He’s a really nice human, who is a joy to speak with AND he makes great wine. I will admit that I have not been to the tasting room, but I look forward to getting there!

Sandhi & Piedrassi

It’s time to go ghetto, Wine Ghetto that is. In a semi-industrial area of Lompac on the road in from Sta. Rita Hills you will find warehouses with roll up doors housing wineries. The office space next to each warehouse becomes the tasting room. Sandhi and Piedrassi share a winemaker Sashi Moorman, who also is the head winemaker for Pence Ranch and Stolpman. Sashi’s wife Melissa makes bread which is available (and in demand) in the tasting room. Sandhi is a project he works on with Sommelier Rajat Parr and Charles Banks. You will need to make an appointment but it is worth it. While I have not tasted in this tasting room, I was blown away by the elegance of the Chardonnays that I tasted back when they had a tasting room tucked away behind Matteis Tavern in Los Olivos.

Stoplman

Stolpman's Little Red Cottage tasting room in Los Olivos

Stolpman’s Little Red Cottage tasting room in Los Olivos

Stolpman has their vineyards in Ballard Canyon, but they have a tasting room here in the Lompac Wine Ghetto as well as one in Los Olivos. Tom Stolpman founded Stolpman Vineyard in Ballard Canyon. His son Peter manages the vineyard. Sashi Moorman as I mentioned before, is their winemaker and the Grape Whisperer himself, Ruben Solorzano is their Vineyard Manager. This vineyard did a lot of the beta testing of grapes for Ballard Canyon. They planted everything and waited to see what worked. There’s a lot of patience that goes into that. They found Syrah was the perfect match and indeed Syrah has become the flagship wine for Ballard Canyon. They are not afraid to experiment and they have some huge concrete tanks that they use for wines. Give them a taste and ask for stories and make sure to taste “Ruben’s Block”. In this post on the Syrah Seminar, Peter speaks about the Estrella River Clone from the Zaca Mesa Black Bear Block that is used in the Stoplman’s 2013 Original Syrah.

Foxen Canyon & the Santa Maria Valley

When you hop on Foxen Canyon Road you get more than Foxen Canyon. This road takes you all the way up into some of the great vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley.

Zaca Mesa

Zaca Mesa pathway

Zaca Mesa pathway

Before Au Bon Climat, before Qupe and so many others, there was Zaca Mesa. Many of the greats in Santa Barbara Wines did a stint here before opening their own wineries.  You can see more about that  in Zaca Mesa University” Santa Barbara Wine Seminar Spring 2015 – The Highlight Reel

Zaca Mesa is beautiful early in the day. When the fog weaves through the big coastal oaks it’s either ethereal or creepy (I vote for ethereal, cause after all, they have wine!)
They are dog and kid friendly and on Saturdays they have baguettes. There is a giant Chess set in the courtyard to play.
What to expect to taste: Roussane, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Syrah (the Syrah from the Black Bear Block is highly sought after and well respected), Grenache, Mourvedre…yep, are you sensing a Rhone theme? And they do have a Pinot.

Foxen & 7200

The valley side of Foxen 7200 “The Shack”

This is the same winery, just with two tasting rooms, steps from each other. 7200 also known as “The Shack” is in an old blacksmith shop and was the wineries original tasting room. Foxen is at the top of the hill, their solar powered tasting room, where you will find their Rhone & Burgundian style wines. “The Shack” is the place to go for atmosphere. You are open to the elements and often can see the resident bobcat prowling the hill outside. Bill Wathen and Dick Dore founded this winery back in 1985.

Riverbench

The Vines we watched being planted at Riverbench are getting bigger!

Riverbench is on Foxen Canyon Road in the Santa Maria Valley. They grown Pinot and Chardonnay Pinot Meunier and a little Albarino for Kenneth Volk, who is just a stones throw away. Clarissa Nagy is their winemaker. In addition to Pinot and Chard they craft sparkling wines. We spent a morning at Riverbench doing a vineyard tour with Vineyard Manager Rawley Hermreck and learned how to hand dip bottles for the wax cap, which Rawley does mostly himself. We also watched a new block of vines put in out front and have been able to continue to watch these grown. You can read about our tour here https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/riverbench-vineyards-winery-tour/ They also have a tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.

Presqu’ile

The Presqu’ile Tasting Room

Presqu’ile Winery has grown to be one of our favorite spots in the Santa Marie Valley. The winery sits up on a hill and is a gravity flow winery.  The view here is stunning, on a clear day you can see the ocean, and this place does hospitality right. If you have an electric car that needs charging, never fear, there are two charging stations. And they have a wonderful light food menu with truly spectacular cheese and charcuterie boards to enjoy with the wine. We spent a morning here for an event which brought together 4 winemakers all making wine from fruit from these vineyards. The event was held on the crush pad at the top of the winery (remember gravity flow). We again attended the Big Bottle Bash at the winery during the 2014 Vintners Spring Weekend in Santa Barbara.

Santa Rita Hills:

This is the Western part of the area, where the climate is cooler and Pinot and Chardonnay thrive.  You will find vineyards on both sides of the 246, but for a more complete look at this area, make sure to take a drive on Santa Rosa Road, where the first vineyard in this area Sanford & Benedict was planted.

Sanford WinerySanford Winery

I spoke about Richard Sanford earlier with Alma Rosa. Here is an opportunity to see the amazing winery he built before Alma Rosa. Now owned by the Terlato Family, the winery retains the beautiful buildings and exceptional vineyards that Richard Sanford built. The tasting room is in the middle of the La Riconada Vineyard on Santa Rosa Rd. Made to be sustainable the walls are adobe bricks and are 30 inches thick to keep the interior temperature cool. The lumber is from recycled timber.
Just down the way you will find the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard. The vines here grow some of the most prized fruit in these hills. Sanford & Benedict Vineyard was first planted in 1971 and is home to some of the oldest Pinot Vines in Santa Barbara County.

Hilliard Bruce

The new Hilliard Bruce Winery in the Sta. Rita Hills of Santa Barbara

This stunning tasting room is appointment only, but it is well worth it. John Hilliard and Christine Bruce beautiful wines (John handles the Pinot Noir & Christine the Chardonnay). Be in touch a few days in advance. We had a wonderful visit with them before the winery was even built. The start of the series is here

Santa Ynez Valley/Los Olivos District:

The Santa Ynez Valley, actually covers quite a bit of space!  The AVA itself encompasses the entire lower section of Santa Barbara County.  Within this AVA you will find the Sta. Rita Hill AVA, Ballard Canyon AVA, Happy Canyon AVA and the newly approved Los Olivos District AVA.  The 3 wineries listed below are actually within the Los Olivos District.

Buttonwood:

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard

Buttonwood is not just a vineyard, it is a farm. They have a farmstand with seasonal fruits and vegetables next to the tasting room. Michael spent a day on a winery & vineyard tour with winemaker Karen Steinwach, followed by chef demo and lunch with Chef Pascale Beale.
Buttonwood Farm, a Hidden Gem in Santa Barbara County

Beckmen

Beckmen Tasting Room

Beckmen Tasting Room

We did a vineyard walk with Steve Beckmen at the Purisima Mountain Vineyard. The event walk us through the vineyard with a bit of education on soil & vine thinning. I was lucky enough to have a great conversation with Steve as we hiked up to the high point. He gave me a run for my money, he is obviously used to climbing these hills! You can see an overview of the hike here, but there are additional videos with Steve speaking on the soils and shoot thinning also.

Sunstone Winery

Wine Dinner Sunstone

Wine Dinner Sunstone

This is a stunning (no…REALLY stunning) property. I mentioned earlier our visit to this winery when we met Joey Gummere at an event here. This was a Santa Barbara Vintners event for WBC14, with multiple wine makers. We were given a tour by Bion Rice, the wineries President and CEO, of the stunning Villa at Sunstone, which is built from reclaimed materials from villages in Marseille and Provence. We then gathered in the garden to sample wines and speak with the wine makers followed by a family style dinner. This is a premium place for Weddings and the location is stunning (did I say that before?)

Los Alamos:

Michael and I were lucky enough to spend a weekend in the Los Alamos Valley. That gorgeous photo on our homepage and as the feature image on this page, we took from the top of the Rancho La Cuna Vineyard.

Casa Dumetz

Casa Dumetz Winery

I first learned of Sonja Madjevski when she I came across “The Wine Down” a video series on The Lip.tv where she would have conversations with wine makers and farmers and other interesting Industry people. I loved the show. Sadly, it is no more, but go look it up, there are plenty of old episodes that are fascinating! She is the owner and winemaker at Casa Dumetz Wines as well as running Babi’s Beer Emporium here in Los Alamos.  She does a wonderful “Words to Live By” speaker series on Friday’s nights at her tasting room. I have had a few opportunities to speak with her, most recently at the Larner Fete in April (she sources grapes from Michael Larner). Her tasting room is a wonderful welcoming place.

Municipal Winemakers

(Yep you can find a location here too, if you didn’t already visit them in the Funk Zone, or if you just need more of their wine)

Places to Eat:

We published this article in April of 2014 and it is a great reference.
9 Great Places to eat in Santa Barbara County
Since then we have enjoyed a few more spots so I’ll include them below. Also, sadly Matteis Tavern is closed and is only available as an event venue.

Buellton:

The Hitching Post II

The Old School Steakhouse that you got to know in Sideways is here putting out classic steak dinners. You are likely to see Frank Ostini the owner and chef and a local personality in his pith helmet.

Industrial Eats

Industrial Eats in Buellton

Industrial Eats in Buellton

Jeff and Janet Olsson own New West Catering Company and they have been a stable for farm to table catering in the area for a while. Industrial Eats is their fast casual restaurant where they write the daily menu on the butcher paper hanging from a spool on the wall. The menu changes daily depending on what is fresh and available. It’s great for lunch (and it’s right next to Alma Rosa if you want to do a tasting there!) For a sampling of some of the amazing catering they do, check out the Sta. Rita Hills AVA Dinner that was set here.

Los Olivos:

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe

Great spot in the center of town for lunch or dinner and you can always pick up a few bottles of local wine. You are very likely to see wine makers here with friends or family. It’s elegant without being stuffy.  The patio is covered in wisteria and they do have outdoor seating available.  Inside is a wall of wine, a beautiful U shaped bar and fireplace.  They serve California/Mediterranean cuisine.  They also have a blog where they do interviews with local wine makers that you can find here.

Sides Hardware & Shoes

This building was previously a hardware and shoe store owned by Milburn Sides. The Nichols Brothers opened this restaurant with a made from scratch local menu.  They cure their own bacon here.  You can sit inside or on the front or back patios. They are open for lunch or dinner, but plan ahead, because it gets crowded.  The do have a larger restaurant in Santa Ynez called The Red Barn.

Santa Ynez:

Trattorio Grappolo

Michael tasted a bite of food from this restaurant at the Grand Tasting one year and we decided to head there for dinner. We were not disappointed. They do great Italian dishes. Skip the table and sit at the bar where you can watch the kitchen bustle! These guys make hustle in the most beautifully choreographed manner around the small kitchen.

SY Kitchen

Dinner at SY Kitchen with parpadelle and scallops and Gnocchi with sausage

A newer restaurant, having opened in April of 2013, SY Kitchen serves modern Italian in a beautiful farmhouse.  You can dine in the Front room, the porch or the Dining Room of the house. They also have an outdoor Courtyard which is great for cocktails.  Executive Chef Luca Crestanelli was born and raised in Verona Italy. His dishes take the inspiration from Italy and compose them from local fresh ingredients.  Ask the servers for wine pairings, they will be happy to assist.  In addition to lots of local wines, they have an innovative cocktail program and a great selection of dessert wines.

Ballard Inn and Restaurant

Ballard Inn

Ballard Inn & Restaurant

Well, it’s really in the lower part of Ballard Canyon, but that is considered the Santa Ynez Valley. This is the place for a special occasion dinner. We enjoyed the first annual Larner Winemakers Dinner here with Chef Budi creating dishes to perfectly pair with each wine. Again a place you will find tons of local wines.

Solvang:

CHOMP

A great place for burgers, fries and shakes. All-American, kid friendly and locally owned (you will probably see the owner out managing the plethora of teenage staff he teaches and employs as wait staff.)

Los Alamos:

Full of Life Flatbread

Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos, where you are bound to run into a winemaker

This bakery becomes a Restaurant on the weekends, and is a frequent gathering place for wine makers. You will find lots of local wines here.

On Crushed Grape Chronicles you will find information on the area and wineries as well as interviews with Winemakers. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

See some of the Video’s we have made on Santa Barbara here.

The Santa Barbara Vintners website is the ultimate comprehensive place for information on the areas wineries. http://www.sbcountywines.com/

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Syrah Seminar 2016 SB Vintners – Episode 3 Bien Nacido

Syrah Panel Santa Barbara Vintners 2016

Chris Hammell of Bien Nacido

Chris Hammell is the Vineyard Manager for Bien Nacido Vineyards. Bien Nacido is located in the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County. This vineyard is distinctive.   Once you have tasted a Pinot Noir from grapes made from Bien Nacido, you don’t forget it, and forever more you will be able to pick out a Pinot made from these grapes. But…during this episode we will be talking about Syrah from this renowned vineyard.

Chris Hammel

Chris Hammel

Bien Nacido is a little magical. When you drive out there, you find little to let you know that, that is where you are. If you happen to get the secret directions to one of the bi-annual BBQ’s at Au Bon Climat, you will drive out through part of the vineyard. Au Bon Climat & Qupe have their shared winery on the vineyard.

qupewineryBien Nacido is owned by the Millers, who have been growing grapes here since the 70’s. They primarily grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Syrah. But its history goes back much further. It was part of a Spanish land grant back in 1837, given to Tomas Olivera. He sold it in 1855 to Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, who was his son in law. Ontiveros raised horses, cattle, sheep, grew grains AND grapes for wine. The vineyard is 900 acres of the over 3000 acres of Ranch, and as Wendy mentions below “It is considered the most “vineyard designated” vineyard in the world”.

Chris spoke on two wines made from Bien Nacido Grapes. The first is a 2012 Bien Nacido Syrah made by their winemaker Trey Fletcher, who joined them to start the wine making side of the business in 2011. Before that, Bien Nacido was a vineyard that did not make wine, but sold their amazing fruit to some of the most distinguished wineries and winemakers in California, including; Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Adam Tolmach, Gary Farrell, Paul Lato, Sine Qua Non and Bob Lindquist of Qupe.

Episode 3 Part 1: Chris Hammel,

Vineyard Manager Bien Nacido Vineyards speaking on the Bien Nacido 2012 Syrah

Qupe 2011 Bien Nacido Hillside Syrah

Bob Lindquist has been making Syrah from Bien Nacido for 30 years. We heard him speak at last years Seminar – Zaca Mesa University. Here is the video from the segment with Bob and Jim Clendenen. http://wp.me/p2UhpO-2cQ which includes the story of how Jim got Bob fired and hired over the Kinks. Bob Lindquist is a Syrah legend in Santa Barbara.

Chris had the 2011 Qupe Bien Nacido Hillside Syrah. This was Bob’s 30th consecutive bottling of Syrah and the coolest vintage he had ever seen.

Episode 3 Part 2: Chris Hammel

Vineyard Manager Bien Nacido Vineyards speaking on Bob Lindquist and the Qupe 2011 Bien Nacido Hillside Syrah

Be sure to try to get to the next seminar! The Santa Barbara Vintners will have one during the Celebration of Harvest Festival, which happens October 7-10. Here’s a link to more information. http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/

You can see more about Bien Nacido at their site http://biennacidoestate.com/

And check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on our visit to Santa Barbara.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

The Transcript (with a little more than the video)

Wendy Thies Sell (WTS): We are now going to move to the north. The northernmost AVA in Santa Barbara County is the Santa Maria Valley home to the renowned Bien Nacido Vineyards, first planted more than 40 years ago. In 1993 and 94 Bien Nacido planted the “Z” Block which is where all Bien Nacido’s Syrah is sourced as well as Qupe’s Hillside Vineyards, Paul Lato’s Syrahs, Sine Qua Non sourced fruit there and other big names. And we are happy to have with us today acclaimed vineyard manager, Chris Hammell of Bien Nacido, where he custom farms more than 600 acres for dozens of wineries. It is considered the most “vineyard designated” vineyard in the world, meaning, Chris masterfully juggles a huge customer base (Pete Stolpman: For the next 5 minutes Chris Hammell will juggle) He has the muscles to do it, right.

Today we taste two wines made from fruit grown at Bien Nacido. We will start with the 2012 Bien Nacido Syrah made by the Estates winemaker Trey Fletcher. Chris works hand in hand with Trey. I don’t know if they actually “hold hands”. Chris, tell us about the grape growing and the winemaking philosophy at Bien Nacido.

 

Chris Hammell: Well first of all, I would like to say that it’s really nice to be up here, with you guys and with these panelist. Santa Maria is kind of a unique spot, a little on the cooler side. I applaud what these guys are doing in Ballard Canyon and although I have kind of a love hate relationship with the AVA concept and system, I kinda don’t want it there unless it’s pure and like my AVA, I say mine because they don’t let me off the farm very often, the Santa Maria Valley, you can see these strange straight lines that are like arbitrarily drawn by county divisions going up and down hills that really leave one somewhat disillusioned if you’re a purist. I’ve been a tremendous fan of the Ballard Canyon area, the people and the wines and quite particularly the Syrah coming off of there. That’s AVA done right. And I’m a huge fan of White Hawk. Also of the region where Chad is, where he and his family have Melville right down here off of the 246. So pretty sweet for me to be up here. I love these wines and I love Syrah and to see them in a line up like this is a big honor. Back in the late 2000’s Nicolas Miller part of the family who I work for, that owns Bien Nacido, he decided he wanted, for whatever reason, to do an estate project. He recruited this guy named Trey Fletcher, an up and coming younger wine maker, full of talent and vision and we converted an old dairy barn, in the middle of the vineyard to be the winery. He gets free run to do what he wants with Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay and Syrah. So this is his 2012. I don’t know how techie we should get and as Wendy said I’m the vineyard manager so I’m just basically farming these two wines and they are kind enough to let me present them. Unlike, Michael who kind of does for his project he kind of sees both sides. But I’m around enough to know, and I pay attention enough to know, kind of what these guys are up to. Trey’s philosophy would be since he doesn’t have to really pay for the grapes, he drops them to like a ton per acre. That just stays between us, okay? (to Michael filming in the back) You’re a good editor right? He drops them really low, because we think, especially in climates like Bien Nacido for example, which is sometimes, in some years, especially in 2011, pushing the limits as far as getting the variety of Syrah to a ripeness, to potential alcohol ripeness and phenolic ripeness. And so we typically see yields that are very low, either from nature or from us going in there and basically lowering the crop down to make sure that we can achieve the ripeness that in most years that the winemakers are looking for. So he’s the guy that will shoot for maybe 13%, which as Pete was mentioning, that kind of coincides with this trend that I’m seeing of a little more elegance a little more what people would call arbitrarily balance. Basically a shift from, how ripe can we go to, stylistically what really turns these winemakers on. Who are some of their fans, that they are trying to emulate throughout the world. In 2012, 13, 14 and pretty much 15, we had the luxury of basically choosing ripeness. So Trey is pretty much a Pinot & Chardonnay guy, pretty much a second shot at doing Syrah, where he is fully in control. You see a wine that is probably about 13.1, probably 30% whole cluster, probably about 30% new oak, and this is something that we’ve seen him in the last few years change to a larger format barrels for whatever reason, but these would all be in the standard burgundy 228 liter, normal barrels that we all see everywhere. This would have been in barrel for about 18 months. Pumpovers, punchdowns both and his big thing in fermentation other than managing it responsibly, has to do with tannin, especially at the end. He is going, I can’t speak to how he does it, but he’s obsessed with tannin management. Whether he gets it right, you guys can be the judge. That’s his big thing. He loves making Syrah, he considers personally, Bien Nacido to be a better Syrah vineyard than Pinot. He thinks the magic is Syrah and Chardonnay for him and for the styles that he likes to do. I’m not supposed to go on record with that either. (Michael LarnerS: that’s why they don’t let him off the ranch very often) Why did I get smaller pours than everybody else? It’s like a conspiracy theory. He’s pulling out all the stops to do what he can. He’s super inspired by Northern Rhone, Cornas which is pretty in vogue these days. His Sommelier buddies like it. I think he’s doing an awesome job and I’ve learned alot from him, both in the vineyard and in the winery. I love the wine. Santa Maria wine is super distinct. Not always so user friendly right off the bat. Especially they don’t show so much fruit, they show herbs and spice and hopefully everything else nice. I don’t know why I have two wines too.

 

WTS: We are staying with Chris here, but I wanted to mention that Bien Nacido has a tasting room in Los Olivos. Larner has a tasting room in the Los Olivos General Store, I forgot to mention that earlier. Our next wine #4, we are sticking with Chris here, because he also farms the Hillside Syrah at Bien Nacido for Qupe. The next wine is the 2011 Qupe Bien Nacido Vineyard Hillside Syrah. This vintage has special meaning for Qupe’s winemaker Bob Lindquist. 2011 was his 30th vintage and his 30th consecutive bottling of Syrah. He told me 2011 was an extremely cool vintage, one of the coolest on record and probably one of the coolest Bob had seen in 37 years of making wine on the central coast. It was a very small crop 1.3 tons an acre in Z block where this Syrah comes from. Harvest was late. Bob remembers taking his son trick or treating Halloween night and then picking this Syrah the next morning November 1st. And Chris was out there picking this Syrah that you are about to taste. (Chris: All by myself) Single handedly. Chris tell us what is it like to work with Bob and you probably, after all these years know exactly what he wants, right?

 

Chris Hammell: Yeah, more and more. First of all if I start talking so much and then Larry Schaffer starts mad doggin’ me, just give me some kind of sign, cause I can’t really see him. You guys know what I’m talking about. Bob is a true pioneer it’s interesting, Syrah is still kind of finding it’s place and is still kind of young in a sense. With Pinot and Chardonnay we had all these people, an amazing kind of group of winemakers, more or less the same age coming from the same philosophy and it was amazing. We didn’t have that as much with Syrah. You had Bob Lindquist and probably a couple others. You see on this panel, myself excluded, a second wave of pioneers. All of us look up to Bob a lot. I’m not a name dropping guy, but I went to France and we got, for some reason, invited to go see Jean-Louis Chave, who’s like the most famous Syrah guy in the whole world, by everyone’s admission pretty much. He’s a really nice guy and we’re in the cellar throwin’ it up with Jean-Louis Chave the 22nd. Honestly, he’s like the 22nd Jean-Louis. And he says, he speaks perfect English almost without any accent, “Hi Chris, thanks for coming. How’s Bob Lindquist? I love Bob Lindquist.” And then half the conversation was about Bob and not Chave and the amazing legacy that they’ve produced. He’s a legend and this is the second time, interestingly enough that I’ve been able to talk about his wines in front of a group. I spoke with him on the way down and he’s the most gracious wonderful person that one could meet. Many of you probably know him and if you don’t, seek him out today and get a chance to spend time around a real legend, who makes fantastic long lived wonderful wines. He’s never really changed his approach. It’s an honor for me. What he was telling Dayna and I on the way down was, reminding us of this strange vintage that was 2011, which despite the extremely low yields, Is Larry doing…is he..okay, (WTS: He’s good). We had to pick on November 1st because of the rain. I think it was like 22 and a half brix, and he’s kind of a low 23’s guy. There can be differences, so you taste some notes that are leaner and this and that. Interestingly enough, what Bob does and he was fine that I shared this with you, that’s kind of unusual, is he’ll take let’s say 10% right off the bat of the juice before it’s started to ferment and he’ll put it in brand new Francois Frere heavy toast barrels and make it like a rose, but that’s after cold soak so it has some extraction already. And then he’ll take all or a portion of that at first racking which is about a year later, and blend that back into the wine. It’s like a style thing, which I think is pretty cool. He’s done it all along and still does.   Also, this wine, even in a lean year like that, for whatever reason, he has about 35% full cluster, of that 90% that he did ferment on the skin. And then the whole Cuvee ended up being, because of the short crop and probably he had a lot of new barrels, who knows, about 65% new Francois Frere heavy toast. Bien Nacido’s, probably all these wines frankly, it seems most years to be able to withstand, that’s a bad word, it makes it seem like using oak is not good, but everybody talks like that for some reason. But, it can integrate and it can be pleasant. As Pete was saying, these wines can be extraordinarily interesting with age. Because we’re friends with Bob and his winery is on the vineyard where we live, we’ve been able to try countless numbers of old Qupe Syrahs and whites, frankly and they can be just extraordinary. It’s fascinating, but the best years of this wine are probably in the future. Thank you guys.

 

WTS: Thank you Chris.

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Zaca Mesa University – Part 4 Eric Mohseni

Zaca Mesa Winery

Welcome to part 4 of our coverage of the Santa Barbara Vintners Wine Seminar from the Vintners Spring Weekend 2015. The theme of the seminar was “Zaca Mesa University” based on a wonderful article in Edible Santa Barbara from Spring of 2013 about all of the winemakers who have come through Zaca Mesa Winery. This panel featured Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Eric Mohseni the current winemaker at Zaca Mesa. The Seminar was moderated by Sommelier Christopher Sawyer.

Part 4 features Eric Mohseni.  Eric has a degree in food science from California State University.  He spent a bit of time as a wine buyer before stepping into the vineyard during harvest in 1997 at Edna Valley Vineyards in SLO Wine Country.  After a little time in New Zealand at Esk Valley Estate he returned to California and joined the Zaca Mesa team as the enologist.  He became Zaca Mesa’s winemaker in 2008.

 

 

 

 

For more conversations with winemakers and wineries visit Crushed Grape Chronicles – From Dirt to Glass

 

 

Zaca Mesa University Jim Clendenen & Bob Lindquist

Zaca Mesa Winery

Welcome to part 3 of our coverage of the Santa Barbara Vintners Wine Seminar from the Vintners Spring Weekend 2015. The theme of the seminar was “Zaca Mesa University” based on a wonderful article in Edible Santa Barbara from Spring of 2013 about all of the winemakers who have come through Zaca Mesa Winery. This panel featured Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Eric Mohseni the current winemaker at Zaca Mesa. The Seminar was moderated by Sommelier Christopher Sawyer. Part 3 features Jim Clendenen & Bob Lindquist.

Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat

Jim is the Winemaker at Au Bon Climat, the Santa Barbara winery he founded with his friend Adam Tolmach back in 1982. Both he and Adam, came through Zaca Mesa.   Jim tells us how he saved the world from another mediocre lawyer, by instead going into wine. He is quintessentially Californian with shoulder length grey hair and typically sporting a Hawaiian shirt.   His wines however show the restraint and balance of the Old World wines of Burgundy.

Bob Lindquist of Qupe

Bob Lindquist is the Winemaker at Qupe.  Qupe pronouced “kyoo-pay” is the Chumash word for “poppy”.  The Chumash Indians are the indigenous people of the Central Coast.  A man who bleeds “Dodger” blue, he is a baseball lover who became a wine enthusiast while attending UC Irvine.  He is known for his love of Rhones as well as Chardonnay.  He and Jim share a winery they built in 1989 on the famous Bien Nacido Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley.

Jim & Bob’s time at Zaca Mesa University

In this segment the comedy shines through as Jim tells us how he came to Zaca Mesa in 1978 to run the bottling line. He had more experience than any other applicants with a total of 6 hrs on the Brander bottling line bottling Fred Branders 1976 Gewurztraminer. He talks about their 1st Chard that won top honors in both Orange County and LA County with it’s accidental residual sugar and how they learned to stop that sweetness (and stop winning both top honors). We hear about the differences he found in winemaking techniques in Australia, California and France and the pluses and minuses of getting a salaried job at harvest.

Bob & Jim are friends from way back and Bob tells the very funny story of how Jim helped him get fired and hired thanks to a Kinks concert. He goes on to tell his story at Zaca Mesa after Jim left and how he opened his own winery Qupe in 1982 with the help of both Ken Brown and Marshall Reams. He also talks about making Syrah first from grapes from Gary Eberle in Paso and discovering that cool climate Syrah was the direction to go. He also brought a beautiful 10 year old Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard that we were able to taste.

 

 

 

There is more to come. Our next segment will feature Eric Mohseni the current wine maker at Zaca Mesa which will be released on June 10th.

For more conversations with winemakers and wineries visit Crushed Grape Chronicles – From Dirt to Glass

Zaca Mesa University Part 2 – Ken Brown

Zaca Mesa Winery

This is part 2 of our coverage of the Santa Barbara Vintners Wine Seminar from April of 2015.  The theme of the seminar was “Zaca Mesa University” with a panel of wine makers all of whom had come through the Zaca Mesa Winery.  Sommelier, Christopher Sawyer introduced the first of these winemakers Ken Brown.

Ken Brown or Byron Kent Brown started his career working for IBM, never dreaming that he would end up a winemaker.  He later got into real estate development with his father, who had a friend with a family vineyard in Lodi.  He got to know some people in the wine industry, fell in love with it and went back to school to become a winemaker.  When Marshall Reams decided to build a winery, he called Ken to help purchase the equipment and set the place up.  Ken became Zaca Mesa‘s first winemaker.  While there, he hired Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist who each went on to found Au Bon Climat and Qupe respectively.  After a bit as Zaca Mesa’s winemaker, Ken found he wanted to start making his own wines.  He founded Byron Winery in 1984 and built a winery where he not only made his own wines, but could also make the overflow wines for Zaca Mesa, when they ran out of room.  So basically he got his own winery, subsidized by Zaca Mesa, while still serving as their head winemaker.  Pretty good gig!  In 1990 Mondavi bought Byron.  He stayed on for 14 years before leaving to start Ken Brown Wines in 2003. They do small lot wines in an unassuming little tasting room in Buellton with a range of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  But here…let’s let Ken tell it.

The next segment featuring Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat will be released on June 3rd 2015.

For more conversations with winemakers and wineries visit Crushed Grape Chronicles – From Dirt to Glass

Zaca Mesa University, With Christopher Sawyer

Zaca Mesa Winery

The Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend featured a Wine Seminar called “Zaca Mesa University”.  Zaca Mesa Winery has a long history of turning out amazing winemakers and this seminar brought 4 of them together.  Morgen McLaughlin, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Vintners introduced the seminar and then introduced our Moderator.  Christopher Sawyer is and internationally known sommelier, who is notorious for his pairings of wine with movies as well as wine with pop culture music.  Having attended UC Davis, Christopher followed the early winemakers in Santa Barbara.  He took some time to give us the history of the Santa Barbara Wine region before introducing us to the panel for the day which included: Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe and Eric Mohseni, the current winemaker at Zaca Mesa.

See more on From Dirt to Glass

“Zaca Mesa University” Santa Barbara Wine Seminar Spring 2015 – The Highlight Reel

During the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend this April, the Wine Seminar topic was “Zaca Mesa University”.  Inspired by a Spring 2013 article in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine, this seminar featured winemakers who have played a part in the history of Zaca Mesa and indeed the entire Santa Barbara region.

Zaca Mesa has turned out a plethora of amazing wine makers and Sommelier Christopher Sawyer led us through a discussion with 4 of the best.  Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines was the first paid winemaker at Zaca Mesa.  Ken went on to found Byron.  While at Zaca Mesa he hired both Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat) and Bob Lindquist (Qupe).  We enjoyed the stories of how each had come to Zaca Mesa; Ken coming in after helping to choose the equipment for the winery, Jim escaping a future in law to become the premiere bottling line employee in the valley and Bob getting fired from his wine shop job for going to a Kinks concert and being hired the same day by the wine shop owners father, who happened to be the owner at Zaca Mesa.  Eric Mohseni, the current winemaker at Zaca Mesa shares how being part of this legacy has influenced him.

This is the highlight reel.  We will start releasing the full seminar in segments for you to enjoy on May 20th on our From Dirt To Glass Video Page.  This will include the tasting with wine from each of these amazing winemakers.

Qupe, Verdad, Ethan & Bob Lindquist

Qupe Verdad Ethan Menu

We left ABC and hurried back to the car (it was a bit of a hike!) and headed on to Los Olivos to try to get to Qupe before the tasting room closed.  We had driven from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos before taking the 101, but this time Google routed me on 154 past Lake Cachuma.  It was a beautiful drive and saved us time!

We pulled into Los Olivos and Parked at the end of the street.  Saarloos & Sons was closed for the day, but were obviously busy with an event on the back patio!  We passed them and headed to Qupe apologizing for arriving so late!  The tasting room here is cozy and welcoming. There are 3 logos on the windows: Qupe is Bob Lindquist’s label; Verdad belongs to his wife and Ethan to his son.

Qupe Verdad Ethan Tasting Room

Qupe Verdad Ethan Tasting Room

Qupe (pronounced Kyoo-pay) is the Chumash Indian word for the California poppy.  The Chumash Indians are native to the Central coast and Bob wanted to honor these people.  Bob Lindquist moved to Southern California with his family in 1964 when he was just 11.  He got into the wine industry in the mid 70’s starting with a harvest at Fortino Winery.  From there he went to San Martin Winery to work in the tasting room and worked his way up to assistant manager.  He ran the San Martin tasting room in Ventura County and started frequenting the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley.   Here he felt his calling.  The story goes, that he worked in a wine shop in Los Olivos for the son of the co-owner of Zaca Mesa.  From there he met Jim Clendenen who was the assistant winemaker at Zaca Mesa at the time.  Here’s where rock-n-roll steps in…Bob got tickets to see the Kinks and got fired from the wine shop for attending the show (I’m assuming he skipped work for it). Jim Clendenen hooked Bob up with a job as Zaca Mesa’s first tour guide.  Without many tourists to guide, Bob spent most of his time in the cellar learning from Jim how to make wine.  In 1983 he left Zaca Mesa to work full time on his own label Qupe.  Bob & Jim share a winemaking facility to this day out at Bien Nacido.  Verdad is the label Bob partnered with his wife, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist to specialize in Spanish varieties. Verdad makes a Grenache based Rose, as well as Albarino and Tempranillo.  Total production is about 2000 cases.  Ethan is the small label of one of his older sons (Ethan!).  This label is small and produces Grenache, Sangiovese, Grenache Blanc and Syrah.

 

Qupe Wine Glass

Qupe Wine Glass

So on to the tasting!

 

  • Verdad 2011 Grenache Rose Sawyer Lindquist.   This wine was harvested in two lots.  Lot one was then de-stemmed and sat overnight to absorb color.  Lot 2 was whole cluster pressed.  This was stainless steel fermented with a long cool fermentation using native yeasts.  You get ripe strawberry and rose on the nose and then watermelon and strawberry on the palate with a little herbal quality. Really nice, and we took a bottle of this with us!

 

  • Verdad 2011 Albarino Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in the Edna Valley Acid, minerality. Done in stainless and whole cluster pressed.  Only 100 cases produced.  So different from everything else we had tasted that day.  This was the first stainless white of the day.

 

  • 2009 Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Reserve – Block 11  This wine is aged 18 months in French oak with 60% of that in new Francois Frères barrels. This wine is clean on the palate. While you get lots of oak on the nose, it is not over oaked and still has a bright acidity. This is a really nice Chard.  This wine is grown on a steep north-facing hillside, which softens the sun exposure.

 

  • 2008 Ethan Grenache, Edna Valley.  This wine would pair perfectly with pork.  It is a lighter red so good for warm weather drinking but with enough intensity of flavor to stand up to pulled or roasted pork.

 

  • 2009 Qupe Syrah Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. This is a spicy peppery cool climate Syrah. It is complex and well balanced with a depth of pepper on the nose.

 

This tiny little tasting room has some gems to taste and…if I get a hankerin’ for a Qupe wine…he has a high distribution Chardonnay that I can get right down the street at Fresh & Easy!  To bad they don’t carry that amazing Verdad Grenache Rose!

Zaca Mesa at 40

Zaca Mesa Sign

 

Zaca Mesa WIndmill foggy Morning

Zaca Mesa WIndmill foggy morning

This weekend Zaca Mesa Winery will celebrate it’s 40th birthday.  This winery has quite a bit of history.  The property was purchased by a group of friends in 1972 and the vineyard was planted in 1973 and they have been sustainably growing grapes in Santa Barbara ever since.  The winery itself was built in 1978 and expanded in 1981.  By the early 90’s they had determined that Rhone Varieties grew best on the property.  They were the first Central Coast winery to appear in Wine Spectator’s Top 10 back in 1995.  They are down to the last of their original owners and have been family owned for about 25 years.

Their first winemaker was Ken Brown who has since gone on to start the very successful Byron in Santa Maria.  The rest of the list of previous winemakers continues to look like a who’s who of Santa Barbara & Paso winemakers including: Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Bob Lindquist of Qupe, Daniel Gehrs of Daniel Gehrs Wines, Clay Brock of Wild Horse, Chuck Carlson of Curtis and Benjamin Silver of Silver Wines.

Their current winemaker is Eric Mohseni.  He started his career in wine retail then worked at Edna Valley Vineyards in 1997.  It was there that he got hooked on winemaking.  He started at Zaca Mesa in 2001 as the enologist worked up to Assistant Winemaker, then Associate Winemaker and finally took the reins in July of 2008.

All the wines here are estate bottled and grown.  They don’t buy or sell grapes.  They have about 750 acres of which 244 are planted with grapes.  20 acres are newly planted with Syrah.  They sit about 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Northern portion of the Santa Ynez AVA.  Soils here are mostly Chamise loam over gravelly beds of silk and clay so the soil is well drained.  Many of their vineyards are up on a high mesa at 1500 feet.  This gives them lower high and higher low temperatures.  The more consistent temps allow for slow consistent ripening.  The height also causes higher UV radiation, which makes the grapes smaller, and thicker-skinned giving them increased color and phenolic compounds, which can provide more flavor to the wine.

Zaca Mesa glass

Zaca Mesa glass

As to “sustainable” there is a “Code of Sustainable Winegrowing” developed by the California Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers.  It spells out “practices that are sensitive to the environment, responsive to the needs and interests of society-at-large, and economically feasible to implement and maintain.”  Zaca Mesa is sustainable using organic products, conserving energy and working efficiently to reduce waste.  They farm only one-third of the acreage leaving open space for wildlife and preserving ground water.

Zaca Mesa was the third stop in a little trilogy we were doing in Santa Barbara, the day before we had tasted at both Au Bon Climat and Qupe.  We rolled in early on a Friday morning and watched the coastal fog roll through the valley coming in from the North.  The property is beautiful with huge trees greeting you as you walk from the parking area to the tasting room.

It was the beginning of a busy weekend for them as they had their wine club pickup party happening the next day.  We rolled up and were the first guests in the tasting room.

Now onto the tasting!

  • 2010 Estate Viognier.  This wine received 91 Points and was the Editor’s Choice in Wine Enthusiast Magazine in the Feb 2013 issue.  The nose is very Viognier but on the palate it is dryer than expected and has lots of lemon lime.  It has the body of a Viognier but is crisper and brighter on the palate with a bit of minerality.  This wine starts out in stainless steel and then transfers to new oak after about 3 months.  $16
  •  Z Blanc.  This wine was not on the tasting menu but we managed a taste.  It is a blend of Grenache, Roussanne and a little Viognier.  The grapes for this were hand harvested, fermented and barrel aged for 10 months.  This had minerality and a little oak and would go great with shellfish.  This has great layer of flavor.
  • 2009 Estate Roussanne:  Michael does not normally like Roussanne.   There is some flavor in there that he usually finds off-putting.  This Roussanne has great weight and viscosity in your mouth. It is aged sur lee so it is mellower.  Michael didn’t mind this Roussanne.  Wine Enthusiast liked it and gave it 93 point in the February 2013 issue.  $25.
  • 2009 Estate Grenache Blanc:  A little brighter than the Z Blanc Blend with a bit more mineral, but less depth then the blend (obviously). $25
  • 2010 Estate Mourvedre:  This was smoky with a beautiful nose.  First I got smoke then blueberry.  It was cool on the palate and had a long finish.  I could have kept my nose in this glass all day.  $35.
  • 2008 Estate Z Cuvee: This GSM Blend is mostly Grenache (68%) with 18% Mourvedre and 14% Syrah. Lots of blackberry with big fruit on the nose.  This will cellar for another 7 years.  $20.
  • 2008 Estate Z-Three:  Another GSM with 51% Syrah, 37% Mourvedre and 12% Grenache.  This was a really wonderful blend (my favorite here) Loads of blackberry with a little blueberry from the Mourvedre and then a touch of raspberry from the Grenache.  This again will cellar for 5 or so more years.  Wine Enthusiast gave this 89 points in their February issue.  $42.
  • 2009 Estate Syrah:  I got blackberry, smoke, salted meat and a little bit of dried herbs.  Bigger tannins that lightly coat your palate and the roof of your mouth but not your teeth.  Warm on the back of the palate without being hot.  Yeah, this would be perfect with rack of lamp in rosemary and garlic.  This is great now and can cellar for up to 10 years, if you can keep from drinking it before then.  $25.

 

After our tasting we wandered up on the hill to where they have a small picnic area overlooking the winery and vineyards.  I could have strolled the grounds all day and maybe gotten Michael to play me a game of chess on the oversized chess board outside the tasting room, but….we had to press on to our next tasting! (Coming up next…Talley!)

ABC and a stroll up State Street

Au Bon Climat

So…we had lunch out on Stearns Wharf and enjoy the view and then do a tasting at the ever so kitschy Municipal Winemakers and now we decide to head to Au Bon Climat or ABC as they call it here.

Jim Clendenen is well known in the wine world.  He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in Pre-Law in 1976 and the world should be very grateful that he found another path.  A “junior year abroad” trip to France had him falling in love with wine.   He was the Assistant Winemaker at Zaca Mesa for 3 seasons beginning in 1978.  (We will get back to Zaca Mesa later!)  Mr. Clendenen has been at the forefront of putting Santa Barbara County on the map as a wine region.  His restrained manner of making wines has given him plenty of ups and downs with reviews as tastes changed, but he has persisted and continues to make beautiful balanced wines that age well.  He looks like a bit of a hippy with his shoulder length hair, beard and typically a Hawaiian style shirt.  He founded ABC in 1982.

Au Bon ClimatTo get there from “The Funk Zone” I figured we would walk State Street.  I was a little nervous about having to get to the other side of the freeway, but there is a gorgeous underpass with bougainvillea to get you there past the Reagan Ranch Center.  State Street is a lovely walk with great shops, restaurants, Café’s with sidewalk seating and beautiful older buildings.  It was a great walk but we were not prepared for it to be as long as it was!  We found the 2nd Starbucks (the one on your right, not your left as the pourer at Municipal directed) and turned left on De la Guerra St.  A right on Anacapa put us in front of Au Bon Climate and Margerum.  With only time for one tasting room, we went into Au Bon Climat and stepped up to the tasting bar.  The tasting room is lovely with two tasting bars and a table with chairs, which when we walked it was strewn with AVA and vineyard maps (got to love that!). We tasted through the regular menu that is far more than Au Bon Climat wines.  On this day it included 3 other labels: ICI/ La-Bas, Clendenen Family Vineyards and Il Podere Dell’ Olivos.

Au Bon Climat Bar

Au Bon Climat Bar

The Tastings:

  • 2011 Clendenen Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauvignon Blanc was grown at Mesa Verde in the Santa Ynez valley.   After whole cluster fermentation it settled in 500 liter Hungarian oak with racked lees to add a bright clean finish.  A really lovely Sav Blanc.
  • 2009 Au Bon Climat Hildegard white table wine. This wine is 50% Pinot Beurot (a burgundian clone of Pinot Gris), 30% Pinot Blanc grown at Bien Nacido and 20% Aligote.   It was predominantly fermented in new Francois Frères barrels with malolactic fermentation.
  • 2010 Au Bon Climat XXX anniversary Chardonnay. They believe that the structured winemaking style behind this wine should make this age until their 50th anniversary.  The blend is 44% Chardonnay from Le Bon Climat & 56% from the Bien Nacido K block.  It is aged 18 months in new Francois Frères barrels and then is bottled with no filtration.
  • 2008 Au Bon Climat Los Alamos Pinot Noir.  These vines were planted in 1972 and with warmer days and cooler nights the grapes are able to reach incredible concentration and balance.
  • 2009 ICI La-Bas Pinot Noir is grown in the Anderson Valley in the Elke Vineyard in northern California near Mendocino.  This is aged in 75% Francois Frères new oak barrels.
  • 2005 Clendenen Family Vineyards Syrah/Viognier.  Grown in the Clendenen organic ranch near Los Alamos.  This low alcohol wine is co-fermented.
  • 2005 Il Podere Dell’ Olivos Teroldego.  This is an extremely rare world-class wine grape that makes a wine that is rich and darkly colored.  The grape originated in the grape-growing region of Rotaliano located in northeastern Italy.  2005 vintage is blue black in color dense and well extracted with blackberry and plum notes.  It has a full inky texture complimented by silky finesse.

All of the wines were wonderful.  Each balanced and with it’s own character.  Our pourer was happy to give us details on the wines as we tasted. He also gave us his card for a 2 for 1 tasting at Qupe where we were dashing off to next.  Jim Clendenen and Qupe’s Bob Lindquist are old friends both coming out of Zaca Mesa (we had a great Zaca Mesa Chardonnay when we ate at The Poppy Den) and both celebrating 30 years in winemaking this year.  Realizing we were running short on time, we made the trek back in cut time!  I look forward to coming back to Santa Barbara and spending a few days so we have time to stroll from tasting room to tasting room enjoying the sites.

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.