Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail is unique. Follow it and you get to explore Santa Barbara from elegant State Street and the historic El Paseo shopping center where you will find Grassini, Au Bon Climat and Margerum, to the outskirts of the Funk Zone where Carr resides in it’s Quonsit hut making you feel like you’ve walked right into a barrel. Cross the train tracks and stop by AVA Santa Barbara where you can taste wines from all the AVA’s in the area and see the huge Elkpen mural mapping out the unique climate, soils and history of the AVA’s. Stroll down the block and stop at Santa Barbara Winery one of the very first in this area. Anacapa Street is teaming with tasting rooms like Oreana, Kunin and of course Municipal Winemakers which looks like a dive shop and has a wall of filing cabinets. As you stroll between the tasting rooms take in the Funk zone with it’s murals and small artist shops and galleries. The Santa Barbara Surf Museum is there as well as plenty of surfboard and dive shops. Keep walking and you will hit the beach. Grab a segway or a bike or just walk the beach. Head out on to the wharf and visit the Aquarium or just enjoy watching the fishermen. Stop by Conway Family Wines Deep Sea tasting room with a 2nd story patio to enjoy the view with a glass of wine. Don’t miss sunset at the end of the wharf and the parade of boats returning to the marina. It makes for a perfect day…although 2 would be even better.
Conway Family Wines
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Tasting rooms, they come in all shapes sizes and locales. If you are headed North from LA into wine country you might consider a stop for a day (or maybe two) in beautiful Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara County has become well-known for some amazing wines and winemakers, beautiful wine country and vineyards as well as beautiful shoreline and beaches and some terrific shopping in Santa Barbara itself. So take some time and mix it up, a little beach time, some lunch, some shopping and some tasting, the wine here is just fine.
I have 3 tasting rooms on my list for my trip through Santa Barbara this time.
Au Bon Climat has opened a tasting room on Anacapa Street and I am very excited to be able to do a tasting of Jim Clendenen’s wines. With 30 years in the industry his wines are noted for balance and restraint. And…as the Bien Nacido Vineyard is primarily the source for their grapes…I mean, it’s really hard to go wrong. So this is first on my Urban Wine Trail Tasting list.
They share a space with Margerum Wine Company and are next to The Wine Cask if you are looking for a delicious lunch or dinner, and the Grassini Family Vineyards tasting room is right there also.
Next on my personal list is Municipal Winemakers. We tried to stop by here on our way home through Santa Barbara awhile back. Unfortunately, they were sold out and bottling, so they had nothing to taste! So…we will return again. They had (I hope they still have) an iPad program for tastings which I was fascinated by and looking to check out. Besides that, they are close to the beach and fun and funky! They offer free wine delivery if you show up on a bike. They are all about making interesting wines and I am all for that! I fell in love with their feel and their site and expect to fall in love with their wines when I taste them! Want to see why I’m infatuated even before I taste? Go to their “about us” page and click the top photo for a video interview with the Municipal Winemaker Dave Potter and hear his perspective.
While in this neighborhood you can walk just a few blocks to taste at 7 other tasting rooms including Kunin Wines, Kalyra Winery, Oreana Winery, Cottonwood Canyon, Santa Barbara Winery and Pali Wine Company…but we are headed out onto the water for our last tasting when we are there. Conway Family Wines has opened their “Deep Sea Tasting Room” out on Stearns Wharf with “360 views of the Pacific coastline, Channel Islands, and the Santa Barbara Harbor or Riviera.” So before we head inland we will head out onto the wharf to enjoy some of their white wines and some ocean air. If the view itself is not enough to entice you into this tasting room perhaps their sustainable vineyard practices will or their use of cold-soaking or fermenting with indigenous wild yeasts. Their Estate is located in Rancho Arroyo Grande and they are committed to protecting the land and wildlife there. Okay…are you there yet?
If you want the shortcut to find all the details head to Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail’s site for maps and links. And stay tuned for the details after we visit!