10 Dog Friendly tasting rooms in Santa Barbara

My friends know me as the go to person for recommendation in Santa Barbara when it comes to wine and I have a friend who asked about dog friendly tasting rooms as they were heading out to Santa Barbara with their dog. So, I did a little investigating, checking in with some wineries to see what their policy was. This list is in no way all-inclusive, I am sure there are many more dog friendly tasting rooms in Santa Barbara, and if you know of them, please leave the info in the comments! But here is a list of some of my favorite places, that happen to also be dog friendly.

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemkers

Municipal Winemakers is in an old Surf Shop near the beach in Santa Barbara

I instinctively knew that Municipal Winemakers was a dog friendly kind of place. They are close to the beach in Santa Barbara and have outside picnic tables and are very laid back. But to be sure I emailed Dave Potter (the winemaker) to check. His response “Absolutely! have a look at #dogsofmuni on instagram.” So I did and you should too (it’s pretty adorable).

Municipal is in the words of Antonio Galloni “Joyous” (click the about button).  He’s so right. The location near the beach is in an old Surf shop and has a wall of filing cabinets where they store the glasses. You can bring lunch and sit at a picnic table outside or watch for great events like the pom pom & tassel workshop or plant-based cheese making workshop! The wines are approachable, affordable and they go fast, so stock up while you are there. You will find they have extremely unpretentious names like Bright Red, Pale Pink, Bright White, Fizz (which is a sparkling Syrah), and Heavy Pets, (keep your mind out of the gutter and think big dogs) which is billed as a weekday sipper.

2 locations!

The tasting room in Santa Barbara is located at 22 Anacapa St. Santa Barbara, CA 93101 (805) 931-6864

They are open every day here Sunday through Wednesday from 11 am to 8 pm and Thursday through Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm.

They also have a tasting room in Los Alamos

423 Bell St. Los Alamos, CA 93440 (805) 245-5524

It’s open Thursdays from 2 to 7 pm; Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 8 pm and Sundays from 12 to 7 pm.

For some more info on Municipal check out our post Municipal Winemakers and the Funk Zone Wineries.

Deep Sea Tasting Room

If you need to get a little closer to the water, the Conway Family has their Deep Sea Tasting room on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. Upstairs with a patio and views of Santa Barbara, the Coast and the Ocean, they are definitely dog friendly.

Deep Sea Conway Winery Santa Barbara Central Coast Wine Country

Deep Sea Tasting Room on Sterns Wharf in Santa Barbara

Gillian Conway, the Owner, responded to my inquiry with “Dogs are very welcome! We have two Winery Dogs who are usually hanging with us, their names are Ringo and Rolo. Both of our dogs have their own wine- Ringo’s Rescue Red supports our local Dog Shelter, the Dog Adoption Welfare Group (DAWG) and Rolo’s Red is in honor of our Rolo, the chocolate lab.”

Rolo at the Deep Sea Tasting room on Stearns Wharf (Photo courtesy of Conway Family Wines)

Ringo, looking very handsome in the vineyard. (Photo courtesy of Conway Family Wines)

The tasting room is located at 217 G Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.  (805)709-0151.

During the winter their hours at Sunday through Thursday 12-7 and Friday’s and Saturday’s 12-8.

Alma Rosa

Alma Rosa Tasting Room

Outside seating at Alma Rosa in Buellton

Alma Rosa Tasting Room

The beautiful Alma Rosa Tasting Room

You’ll find Alma Rosa in Buellton in an Industry Park, next to the deliciousness that is Industrial Eats.  They are dog friendly “Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards is proud to state that we are dog friendly both within and outside our Tasting Room, as long as the dogs are on a leash.”

The wines here are by Richard Sanford, who is legendary in this area.  He was the first to plant grapes in the Sta. Rita Hills.  The wines are spectacular.  Inside the tasting room the centerpiece is Olivia, their stunning Olive tree planted in the center, so even inside, you feel the great outdoors.  The experience is at table, so you take a seat and they bring the wines to you.  They have tables out front, so you can pick up a bite from Industrial Eats and enjoy a bottle outside.

181-C Industrial Way, Buellton CA, 93427  (805)691-9395

Their Spring and Summer Hours are Monday through Thursday 12:00 to 6:30 and Friday through Sunday 11:00 to 6:30.

You can find more on Richard Sanford as well as some of the other incredible winemakers in Santa Barbara in A Sampling of the Incredible Winemakers of Santa Barbara

Kaena

Los Olivos is a great place to taste and walk your dog.  Many of the tasting rooms here are dog friendly and lots have patios so you can sit outside with your pooch.  Kaena is one of these great places.  Mikael Sigouin the winemaker is known as the “Grenache King” and makes a great rose!  You’ll find lots of Aloha here, Mikael is from Hawaii and Kaena is his Hawaiian name given to him by his Tutu (that’s Grandmother in Hawaiian).

The beautiful tasting room is located at 2890 Grand Ave. Los Olivos, CA 93441  (805) 688-4069.

They are open Daily 11-5 (Island time)

For a little background on the Grenache King check out our post How the Grenache King got his block.

Buttonwood Farm

To get to Buttonwood Farm you will have to head into the Santa Ynez Valley.   This winery is also an organic farm. During the season, you can find their farm stand open with fresh fruits and vegetables.  And you can wander the gardens, where they also raise goats. Dogs are welcome on leash in the tasting room and the gardens, but not at events (due to health department regulations).

 

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard

Buttonwood Farm inthe Santa Ynez Valley

They are located at 1500 Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang, CA 93463.

Their tasting room is open Daily from 11-5.

For more on Buttonwood Farm read our post Buttonwood Farm, a Hidden Gem in Santa Barbara County

Or check out the video Buttonwood Farm, a video Tour

Zaca Mesa

Zaca Mesa loves their dogs.  You can see great photos of winery dog Ichi on their Instagram feed.

 

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When you get on Zaca Mesa Station Road you head through the woods in the Valley and then you come around a bend and Foxen Canyon opens up ahead of you.  If it’s in the morning, you will be watching the Fog and mist swirl around the windmill as you turn into Zaca Mesa.  I always love walking up to the winery beneath the huge tree that shades the courtyard and winery.

6905 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos CA 93441  (805)688-9339 ext 308

They are Open Daily from 10-4 but if you are headed there on a holiday, double check the site.

For more information on the amazing winemakers who have come through Zaca Mesa Checkout the video of the Santa Barbara Spring 2015 Wine Seminar “Zaca Mesa University”

Foxen

If you continue past Zaca Mesa on Foxen Canyon Road, you will find Foxen just when you think you have gone too far. The “Shack” is my favorite spot with all their non-Burgundian varieties. But the beautiful Pinot House on the hill is really stunning. Both locations are Dog Friendly.

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Elizabeth sent me a wonderful response “Yes, we are dog friendly are both of our tasting rooms. We just request that the dogs be on a leash and have decent social skills. We’ve got dog biscuits behind our counters and water bowls outside for our furry friends. Sometimes we’ll even have cats visit us! FOXEN collectively has 5 dogs and 2 cats, so we definitely love animals here. Just for fun, I’ve attached a picture of Rosie, Zeke and Tucker’s birthday party last month. They celebrated with pup cakes. The cats were not invited. “

Rosie, Zeke and Tucker’s birthday party at Foxen. (Photo courtesy Foxen Winery)

Foxen (The Pinot House) is the first tasting room you come upon at 7600 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria CA, 93454.  (805) 937-4251.

Continue just a little further to The Shack (or 7200 Foxen) at 7200 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria CA, 93454. (805) 937-4251 ext 201.

They are open Daily from 11-4, but check their site for their holiday hours.

Riverbench

If you get back on Foxen Canyon and keep driving you will come into the area of the Santa Maria Bench on your right and soon the Riverbench vineyards will be in view.  Riverbench is primarily Chardonnay and Pinot and they do have a wonderful Sparkling wine program.  The tasting room is a restored 1920’s craftsman style house and the grounds around the tasting room are perfect for a picnic.  You will find a Bocce ball court and a horseshoe pit, so it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.

Sadie and a friend in the vineyard at Riverbench. (Photo courtesy of Riverbench Vineyard & Winery)

Sadie and a friend in the vineyard at Riverbench. (Photo courtesy of Riverbench Vineyard & Winery)

We did a vineyard tour with Rawley and were joined by his black Labrador Sadie.  This is a great location to bring the dog along.

Riverbench historic overview

Riverbench Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley shares a little of their history as you enter their tasting room

They are located at 6020 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria, CA 93454 (805) 937-8340

They are open Daily from 10 to 4.

Downtown Santa Barbara location

Riverbench Santa Barbara Tasting Room

The Riverbench Santa Barbara Tasting Room on Anacapa St.

They also have a new Downtown location, (also Dog Friendly) at 137 Anacapa St. Suite C, Santa Barbara CA 93101 (805) 324-4100

Which is open daily from 11-6.

For more on Riverbench check out the post Riverbench Vineyards and Winery, a Vineyard tour

and you can see a video here.  Riverbench Winery, a Video Tour

Presqu’ile

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Presqu’ile Winery is located up in the Santa Maria Valley. The winery sits up on a hill (it’s a gravity flow winery) and has amazing views on clear days of the ocean. Dogs here are allowed both indoors and outdoors as long as they are friendly and on-leash. The only area they don’t allow them in is on their tours.

This winery is stunning and has amazing hospitality as well as brilliant wines by winemaker Dieter Cronje.  If you happen to be driving an electric vehicle, they do have charging stations and they offer really beautiful, Cheese Plates, Charcuterie, and a Parisian sandwich 7 days a week from 11am-4pm.

The beautiful property is at 5391 Presqu’ile Drive  Santa Maria, CA 93455 (805) 937-8110

Their tasting room is open 7 days a week year round. On Friday’s from 11am to 6pm and Saturday through Thursday from 11am to 5pm

We have visited Presqu’ile multiple times, so there is plenty of information on the site about them.  Start with the Big Bottle Bash at Presqu’ile  and then check out the series from The Taste through the Vineyard Event

Longoria

Another legendary Winemaker in this region is Richard Longoria.  He and his wife Diana have been making wine in Santa Barbara since 1982.  For many years they had a tasting room in Los Olivos.  Two years ago they built a winery and tasting room in Lompoc and closed the Los Olivos tasting room to focus their energies there.  Lompoc is the perfect place for them.  Richard was the first winery in what is now affectionately known at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  The new winery is just outside the “Ghetto” in the historic Lompoc JM Club building.

Rick Longoria of Longoria Wines

Rick Longoria, Longoria Winery

In response to my question of if they were dog friendly, Diana Longoria replied “Our tasting room is Dog Friendly!  We only ask that owners keep their dogs on their leash and next to them during their visit.

When I’m working in the tasting room, my Beagle, Buddy is usually with me.  He’ll be 12 years old next month and has been “helping” in the tasting room since he was a puppy.” And she kindly included a photo of Buddy.

Winery Dogs

Buddy, the tasting room assistant at Longoria in Lompoc (photo courtesy of Longoria Winery)

You will find the tasting room at 415 W. Chestnut Ave.  Lompoc, CA 93436 (866) 759-4637.

They are open daily 11 to 4:30, but do check for holiday closings and special hours.

As I said, this list in by no mean all of the Dog Friendly wineries or tasting rooms in Santa Barbara County, it’s just a few that I know of.  If you know of other dog friendly tasting rooms in the area, please leave us a note in the comments!

You can find more information on Santa Barbara County and on wine country and wines on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Flash tour Central Coast Wine Country and Beyond – Day 1

6 days…where to go in wine country?

Well if you have a Prius and can get to California fairly easily, you don’t have to choose.  Join us on our journey through California’s Central Coast Wine Country and a little beyond.

Day 1 Las Vegas to Monterey

We left Vegas before dawn and drove to the coast. We skipped LA and hit the coast in Ventura County. Day 1 was mostly driving with a bit of sightseeing along the way, with the final goal being Monterey.

Santa Barbara – the city

We took a break in Santa Barbara by Sterns Wharf to soak up some of the ocean and the morning. Santa Barbara, the city, has plenty to do for an entire vacation and if you love wine, we can enjoy plenty here without leaving the city on the Urban Wine Trail. Sterns Wharf is home to The Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting Room; The Funk Zone (the hip area close to the beach) has lots of great laid back tasting rooms and the El Paseo further in the historical district has even more tasting rooms.

Los Olivos

On this trip however, we kept driving. We took the 154 into Santa Barbara Wine Country. We drove through Los Olivos, with the plan to return. This town houses multiple wine tasting rooms and some great restaurants. It is a great place to park and walk, taste and eat. You are highly likely to run into winemakers in the tasting rooms and restaurants.

Los Alamos

We drove onto the 101 from here, heading north past Los Alamos, which is another great spot to do weekend tastings. There is another Municipal Winemakers tasting room in town as well as Casa Dumetz Wines. Full of Life Flatbread is a great dinner spot and if you need beer, Babis Beer Emporium (same owner as Casa Dumetz) is a perfect spot to sit outside and enjoy some really great local brews. On the weekends there is often music and Casa Dumetz has a Friday night “Words to Live By” speaker series which covers a wide range of topics with an eclectic group of speakers! But yeah, we didn’t have time to stop here either….on we drove.

SLO – San Luis Obispo

Next to drive through is SLO (San Luis Obispo). You begin by passing Laetitia where they do Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and have an amazing sparkling wine program that is Méthode Champenoise (that’s the really good tiny bubbles). Further in you will find more wine trails and downtown SLO which has beautiful tree-lined streets, lots of art and great food.

Paso Robles

Paso Robles is up next and there are so many wineries here that I won’t even try right now. They recently divided into 11 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). Before dividing, this one area was the Paso Robles AVA and covered about 614,000 acres. (for some perspective, Napa is only 1/3 of that size). This place deserves a bit of your time. Take all 6 days here. It’s close enough to the beach that you can spend a day tasting and a day on the coast and then back. We do stop here on our way back…we’ll get there on day 4.

Monterey

We kept driving to arrive in Monterey for the first evening and with limited time, we went to Cannery Row to enjoy the view, taste some wine and have a bite at A Taste of Monterey. You can taste at the bar or get a table and do a flight and order food. We found a great table with a view (and a seagull companion) and enjoyed a couple of flights along with some bacon wrapped dates and…pardon me I drool when I talk about these… Inzana Farms Almonds & Pistachios, which are roasted in olive oil, brown sugar, cayenne, thyme.

This is a flash trip so there are more areas to discover and explore that we passed by.  Yep, the Central Coast is full of great wine country.  In Santa Barbara County you can also visit, Buellton, Lompoc and it’s Wine Ghetto, Santa Ynez and then the many wineries all around the county.  For more information on the Santa Barbara Wineries visit Santa Barbara Vintners.  San Luis Obispo Country also has great tasting rooms out at Avila Beach.  While we didn’t visit those areas this time, you can find more about them here at Crushed Grape Chronicles, just do a search!

The Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest is coming up September 29th to October 2, 2017 and it is a great time to visit.  You can attend the Taste of Santa Barbara Wine Country Event and enjoy wines from 50 of the different wineries in the region on September 29th in downtown Santa Barbara.  And there are event all over the region during the weekend where you will learn more about the wines, wineries and winemakers.

Day 2 takes us from Monterey to Napa and Sonoma!  Come back for more of the trip!

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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April on the Central Coast

I love April. It is a month where Michael and I have a little time to travel. This year, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that we hit the Central Coast. This trip was about taking in all that the Central Coast has to offer. We visited wineries and tasting rooms, yes, but one of the great things about the Central Coast is that the ocean is right there. We had an opportunity to speak with Heather Muran of SLO Wine Country. You may have seen our quick video with Heather talking about the wrap up of the April month long anniversary celebration for “Roll Out the Barrels”. There will be more video with Heather giving us more insights to the SLO Wine Region, but she impressed upon us that one of the most wonderful things about this area is the lifestyle. Many of the winemakers, surf or hike, and Michael and I wanted to take this in. So on our trip we visited wineries, hiked the bluffs trail at Montana de Oro north of Morro Bay, drove the Pacific Coast Highway, stopped in at the Avila Beach tasting rooms and watched a cricket game on the beach!

You’ve seen the beginning of our trip. It started at Santa Barbara’s El Paseo , first with lunch on the rooftop patio of Nordstroms in the historic Presidio district, with a view of the shops, buildings and trailing bouganvilla. The blog post has photos and details of The Wine Collection of the El Paseo with details on tasting at the 6 tasting rooms; Jamie Slone Wines, Margerum, Au Bon Climat, MCW32, Happy Canyon and Grassini Family Vineyards.

After our afternoon at the El Paseo, we wandered back down through the funk zone and onto the pier. The Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting room is the perfect place to enjoy some wine and watch the sunset over the water.

Evening view from the Conway Family Vineyards Deep Sea Tasting Room on the pier in Santa Barbara
Central Coast Wine Country Spring at Tablas Creek

We also spent a bit of time in Paso Robles. Jason Haas, GM of Tablas Creek Vineyards was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to do an interview with us in the vineyard and the winery. It was a fascinating conversation that I look forward to sharing with you.

As I mentioned we did a great interview with Heather Muran the Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association at the beautiful Laetitia Vineyards which is the southern most end of SLO Wine Country. We did a tasting at Claiborne & Churchill where they were doing a “Roll Out the Barrels” Event called “Hit Me”. They are known for their Alsatian style white wines and did a blind tasting of 5 aromatic wines where you had to pick which variety matched each wine. We had a great lunch at Big Sky Cafe in downtown San Luis Obispo, which is a great town to stroll through.

Claiborne & Churchill SLO Central Coast Wine Country
Kynsi San Luis Obispo Central Coast Wine Country

Kynsi has a beautiful tasting patio at their vineyard. Don Othman came to the area to start a company to design and manufacture wine making equipment. He created the “Bulldog Pup” which is a widely used racking wand for transferring wine from barrels. He later began making wine and now his daughter Kala and her husband also work in the winery.

We returned for a tasting and a short hike at Laetitia, where you can taste classic sparkling wines and hike part way through the vineyard and see the ocean views. Come through the week if you want to talk wine, the tasting room is bustling on the weekends!

These vineyards are just a few miles from the Central Coast beaches, so after your tasting you have time for a leisurely drive to Pismo or Shell beach to take in the sunset.

Laetitia Central Coast Wine Country
The Hike on the Bluffs at Montana de Oro

The Morro Bay area has a beautiful park that is just south of the Bay called Montana de Oro where you can hike the bluffs at the edge of the ocean. After a little exercise, a drive up the coast exploring the beach towns and catching lunch at a great little beach spot is perfect. We had lunch at Schooners at Cayucos. This place has great views and a very attentive staff. The food is fresh and easy going and if you are there around sunset there is a great view from the upstairs bar.

Schooner's Restaurant in Caucus on the Coast

Continue up the Pacific Coast Highway to Hearst Castle or Cambria or on to Ragged Point for some great views.

We turned around a little past Ragged Point and headed into Paso Robles for dinner at Artisan. You are likely to see a winemaker or two here. The sidewalk patio on the square is nice and it is a great local menu with artisan cheeses, small plates and more. You can enjoy great local wines and they also have flights. A couple of flights and some small plates make for a great evening exploring pairings! And don’t skip the dessert, the bread pudding was delicious.

Artisan Restaurant in Central Coast Wine Country

Avila Beach is a great little secluded getaway on the Central Coast. As you drive in, you pass Apple Orchards where you can pick your own apples, Hot springs where you can lounge at the resort or rent a hot spring tub by the hour. The Bob Jones trail runs from the springs to the beach and is busy on weekend mornings with bicyclists, walkers and dog walkers. Pirates Cove is said to be great for hiking and word has it the secluded beach that you must hike in to, is clothing optional. We parked ourselves at the in Avila beach to watch the ocean and suddenly a group of guys set up a cricket game on the beach in front of us.  Beyond them sail boats from San Luis Harbor were out. After a morning on the beach we had lunch at the Custom House, enjoying live music on the patio and then strolled to several of the wine tasting rooms nearby.

Avila Beach and it's Tasting rooms

The beautiful Peloton Cellars tasting room with it’s bicycle racing theme, attentive and informed pouring staff and really great afternoon light (oh and lovely wines) was our first stop. A little past them there was live music by A Simple Parade in the Morovino tasting room. This tiny tasting room has the winemaker pouring behind the bar, with wines that she makes because she likes them. She has recipe cards for pairing with each of her wines. The tasting room atmosphere was warm and friendly and the music filled the room and kept us all entranced. We headed around the corner to the downstairs Alapay Cellars tasting room with their large Aquarium behind the tasting bar. And our final stop was at Sinor La Vallee’s brand new tasting room. Mike Sinor has worked with Byron, Center of Effort and Ancient Peaks. He now owns the Bassi Vineyard in Avila Valley which is only 1.5 miles from the ocean. After a late day tasting we finished the day on a super casual note with pizza at Mission Pizza and sunset at the beach.

Of course the following weekend was the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring weekend, so we were back to dive into Santa Barbara County. We finally were able to get to the new Alma Rosa Tasting room, conveniently located next to Industrial Eats in Beullton. You are in an industrial area, but when you walk through the door you forget all of that. The center piece of the tasting room is Olivia, their olive tree. There are skylights, beautiful photos of the vineyards and casual seating. You are greeted at the door and your Wine Guide finds you a seat. This is not your typical wine tasting bar. And of course Richard Sanford’s wines are spectacular.

Another one of those iconic Santa Barbara spots that we had not managed to get to yet, was The Hitching Post II. So…we enjoyed dinner there. This place is like a time capsule. The way you saw it in “Sideways” is exactly how it is today. But the food, while in a style of times past, is delicious. The steaks here really are phenomenal. I can’t gush enough quite honestly.

The Beautiful Tasting Room at Alma Rosa in Buellton

We started Saturday bright and early at the Santa Ynez Marriott with a Wine Seminar by the http://www.sbcountywines.com/. Christopher Sawyer moderated a panel of current and previous winemakers at Zaca Mesa including Ken Brown, Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist and Eric Mohseni. We will have a multiple part series coming out with the full Seminar.

It was a grey morning and it rained right up until the Vintners Spring Festival tasting at River View Park in Buellton. The cloud cover kept us from getting sunburned and overheated as we tasted through wines and spoke with winemakers from all over the area.

After the tasting we headed to Los Alamos where Sonja Madjevski was releasing Sonja’s Sonnet at her Babi’s Beer Emporium next to her Casa Dumetz wine tasting room. This was a project with the Libertine Pub Limited release ale fermented & barrel aged in French Oak, brewed with Kiwi, hibiscus, & Mourvedre grapes. This was a great sour beer and the Turkey Buzzards were playing inside and the kitchen was open. We relaxed on stools by the bar on the fence, enjoyed the beer and watched the people go by.

Babi's Beer Emporium Los Alamos Central Coast Wine Country
Ful of Life Flatbread Central Coast Wine Country

Dinner called and when in Los Alamos what better place is there than Full of Life Flatbread. The place is small so there was a wait. So we bellied up to the bar and ordered a couple of glasses of wine. I ordered the Au Bon Climat Aligote that was on tap. Little did I know that when our table was ready, we would have a perfect view of the big wood fired oven and an entire table with Jim Clendenen and his staff behind us. This is Santa Barbara County. It’s rare that you walk into a restaurant and don’t see a winemaker enjoying wine “at table” as it is meant to be with friends or colleagues.

Our flatbread was great and we ordered 2 desserts since we couldn’t decide between them. Another perfect day in wine country.

Sunday had us out in Ballard Canyon doing another great interview with Michael Larner, of Larner Vineyards and Winery, this time focusing on the wines. (Look for that shortly). We then headed out to Sta. Rita Hills to the open house at Hilliard Bruce. I had a chance at the Festival to speak with the owners and winemakers Christine Bruce and John Hilliard, but they were out of town today, so we went to see their beautiful new winery. We had been to the vineyard before and did a post about their detailed viticultural methods, and wanted to see their new winery which is a blend of the practical and the artistically beautiful.

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

We finished our day tasting in Los Olivos, at Stolpman, Longoria, and Blair Fox, all of which introduced us to more amazing wines.

On our final morning in wine country we headed out to see how the new chardonnay planting at Riverbench was coming along. When we were here last year in June we saw these vines before they went in the ground and have been following their progress. They were pulling off the tubes today and training them up on the trellis’. We drove out onto the Bench in Santa Maria and drove by the Bien Nacido Vineyards before heading back through Foxen Canyon to meet Larry Schaffer of Tercero in his Los Olivos Tasting room. We had a great interview with Larry that will come out shortly, talking about, screw caps, Roussanne, Rhones and so much more. It is always a fascinating conversation with Larry.

So as you can see, we have tons to tell you about our trip to the Central Coast! We will be releasing video’s as soon as they are ready, watch for the Wine Seminar to come out first! Stick with us on the journey..from dirt to glass!

The varied and amazing wines and wineries of Santa Barbara County

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

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

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

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

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

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

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

Au Bon Climate, Grassini, Margerum

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

Bistro Dining and Sunset Tasting at Deep Sea

Bistro Dining and Sunset Tasting at Deep Sea

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

 

Saarloos & Sons & Cupcakes

Saarloos & Sons & Cupcakes

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

Carhartt Patio Tasting Area

Carhartt Patio Tasting Area

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

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

Avante Front Entrance

Avante Tapas & Wine Bar Front Entrance

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

Zaca Mesa chess set

Zaca Mesa Patio with the oversized chess set

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

Clos Pepe and Hilliard Bruce

Clos Pepe and Hilliard Bruce

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

Lompac Wine Ghetto

Lompac Wine Ghetto

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

Or at anytime for information visit Santa Barbara Vintners

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Municipal Winemakers and the “Funk Zone” wineries

Life is Better with Wine

I have wanted to visit Municipal Winemakers for a while.  We stopped in on our last trip through Santa Barbara a year and a half ago only to find that they were sold out and had no wines to taste!  Well, if you are going to have a problem in the wine industry, I think that is the one to have.  As we planned another trip through the area I did more research on the winery.

Municipal Winemakers, Santa Barbara

Municipal Winemakers, Santa Barbara

They are kitschy, located in The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail’s “Funk Zone”.  Their winemaker Dave Potter wants to get the wine to the people.  He loves making wine and meeting people who want to drink his wine.  Distributors and sales…that creates the distance between the grape and the glass and takes some of the heart out of the process.  So…Dave makes his wines and sells them in his tasting room.  Small lots, high quality and it’s working if he is selling out before he can release another vintage!

This is not your average wine tasting room.  Outside you have to see the sign on the sidewalk to realize that it is a tasting room, otherwise it looks like an old dive shop near the beach in Santa Barbara.  There are picnic tables set up in an area out front.  When you walk in you first notice the wall of stacked filing cabinets.

Municipal WineMakers, File Cabinet Wall

Municipal WineMakers, File Cabinet Wall

As we walked up for our tasting the person pouring pulled one drawer open and pulled out two glasses and oversized index card with a typed list of the tastings!

We tasted through the list, which included a dry, Riesling (Bright White), a Rose (Pale Pink), a Red Blend (Bright Red), a Pinot (Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir), a Cab and a sweeter Riesling (Sweetness).  The bottles have great labels and each bottle has a bottle number listed.  The rose was Grenache, Cinsault and Counoise and the “Bright Red” which I really enjoyed was the same blend with Syrah.  The Bright Red was light on the palate but with big flavor.  They do also have a “Wine Fountain” where they serve wine by the glass or in 1 liter refillable bottles.

We walked the neighborhood enjoying some more of the “Funk Zone” before heading up State Street.  Next door there is an old red phone box labeled “Book Exchange” and filled with books.  I had seen these on Facebook, but this was the first I had seen close up!  Need a book, take a book, done with a book, leave it!  It is a great concept!  Lots of other wineries have tasting rooms in the area.  Anacapa Vineyards is not even listed yet, they are so new!  They have a beautiful tasting room with big windows and chalkboards on the walls filled with all kinds of interesting information on their grapes and wines.  It is a regular wine education classroom!

Oreana Winery

Oreana Winery

Oreana Winery up the street has old trucks painted with their logo out front and a juke box in the garage that is part of their barrel room.  Pali, which is next to Anacapa, has lots of windows and a patio on the side.  Santa Barbara Winery sits in a white washed building covered in vines.  In addition to the wineries listed on the Urban Wine Trail site, there are more popping up all the time.  We saw a side door on a building that said “Drake”.  This new little tasting room evidently recently opened.  When we were later at Sculpterra in Paso, the person pouring for us said his friend had just opened that tasting room (the wine world is a small world).

While we only had time to taste at Municipal, we will happily return to spend a day or two tasting in the area and enjoying the beach.  There are around 11 tasting rooms in “The Funk Zone” and another 9 or 10 within the downtown area, including Conway’s Deep Sea Tasting room out on Stearns Wharf.

For now…we were off to take a stroll up State Street and find Au Bon Climat (or ABC as it seems to be known here).

Santa Barbara and it’s Urban Wine Trail

CGC logo

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?

And…that’s not all the tasting rooms!  Silver, Jaffurs, Carr, Sanguis, Whitcraft and Summerland are just a little ways away and… I hear that Anacapa Vintners just opened a tasting room.

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!