I know…we were just there in April, but ya know, the wines in this area are really amazing! We are headed back first to the Funk Zone to visit some more tasting rooms. We have waxed poetic on ABC (Au Bon Climat) and Municipal Winemakers, now it’s time to explore some of the other Funky Wine Tasting rooms.
Au Bon Climate & Municipal
The plan is lunch at Pierre Lafond’s Wine Bistro on State Street for lunch and a flight. In 1962 Pierre Lafond opened the first winery in Santa Barbara County since prohibition. Mr. Lafond originally had a wine and cheese shop that became the place to be for Santa Barbara wine lovers.
Pierre LaFond’s Wine-Bistro
He started Santa Barbara Winery and later Lafond Winery. So…we will taste some wine, have some lunch and maybe try a little of the new Kambucha made locally that is now on the menu. And hopefully we will find a seat out on the patio where we can absorb some of the State Street atmosphere.
After lunch we will head to Grassini Family Vineyards to do a chocolate pairing. They have a tasting room near ABC and Margerum. Their vineyards are located on the east edge of the Santa Ynez Valley in Happy Canyon. Oddly enough for this primarily Burgundian style region, they are growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, all Bordeaux varieties. I look forward to finding out why they decided to grow Cab and what makes their vineyard Cab friendly. They also have solar panels and are a gravity flow winery so I look forward to finding out more about that!
AVA Santa Barbara
Then we head to the funkier part of Santa Barbara and stop by AVA Santa Barbara where I need to check out the amazing Elkpen murals of the region.
This winery is a wine geeks dream, the murals are all educational with details on the climate in each of the regions AVA’s. They have wines from each of the 5 AVA’s in the regions. They are owned by Seth Kunin of Kunin wines. This should be a great opportunity to get a little more of the details of the area under my belt, with a big map to guide me.
Conway’s Deep Sea Winery
After that we will hit as many other tasting rooms as is feasible and plan to get a nice sunset time-lapse out at the Deep Sea Tasting room on Stearns Wharf that night. Kalyra, Santa Barbara Winery, Carr, Oreana, Kunin, Riverbench, and Pali…you could all see us knocking at your door! We will try!
Next stop Los Olivos!
Foxen Canyon Road
After breakfast at the hotel it was still early so we decided to drive through Foxen Canyon. We started on 154 and headed north on Zaca Mesa past the Saarloos & Sons vineyards. Right about where you get to Firestone the road meets with Foxen Canyon Road. We drove north watching the marine layer rise finally turning around at River Bench. River Bench sits just past the road that takes you out to the famous Bien Nacido Vineyards. We enjoyed the drive back down Foxen Canyon and pulled in a few minutes before 11 to Foxen 7600 the Pinot House.
A little fancier than “the shack” down the road now known as Foxen 7200, which is still perfection to me. None the less this tasting room with their production facilities was open and the ladies in the tasting room were very welcoming. 2 of them were actually the pourers who we had met last year at the shack and they remembered us! We tasted Chardonnay and Pinot and had a great conversation finding out about “Bob” the bobcat that we had been watching when we were at the shack. He evidently has moved on to tastier grounds these days.
Saarloos and Sons
Okay I have been a little enamored with this winery since seeing Keith Saarloos speak on the Wine Down. This is a family vineyard and the whole family works it. Bradley was pouring in the tasting room when we got there and was full of great and passionate information about the family the wine and the vineyards. The wines are named for someone in the family each year and all wines are individual to the vintage and are not meant to ever be recreated. The names include “Brielle” a fantastic Savignon Blanc named for Keith’s daughter; Hers a grenache blanc; His a Cabernet, Humble Harv a 100% grenache named for Keith’s dad and Big Larr a 100% syrah named for Bradley’s dad. 194d8 is a wine that is made new every year. The first year it was called 1945 for Keith’s grandparents anniversary. Each year they make a new blend and honor another year of their grandparents being together with a label complete with a photo of the happy couple from that year. The last wine we tasted was the Creed a 100% Petite Sirah. Oh…and did I mention that on Thursday through Sunday “Enjoy Cupcakes” is in the house with great cupcakes and a $10 pairing menu to go with the wines! Yeah! Totally Rocks! So I’ll try to remember the pairings. A Ginger Lime Chardonnay cupcake with the Brielle, (chardonnay cake, buttery ginger crust filled with a lime curd and topped with a lime frosting and sugared lime zest). I remember that the “His” went with the Chocolate Malt Milkshake with “fries” (chocolate cake filled with malt pudding topped with chocolate frosting and “fries”- that is shoestring style). Okay I can’t remember the rest…but…can you picture getting a little box with 6 miniature cupcakes and then walking over the to tasting bar and having them pour something to taste with each!? IT IS THE BEST! So Keith was not there but Bradley was amazing handling 8 guests at the tasting bar with ease and keeping us all informed and entertained! Larr came in while we were tasting and we all said hello. This is a very warm and welcoming tasting room. And after hearing the stories about the wines and the family you feel very much a part before leaving.
Bradley suggested Artiste which is on a side street just off of Grand. The place is covered with art, as are the wine bottles. “Art Inspired Wine”. The fabulous idea is that you can taste the art in the glass. The first wine we tasted was called “Windy Beach” The art on the label is of ocean beach and sea grass blowing. The wine is a blend of 60% Sav Blanc, 25% Chard and 14% Pinot Grigio. I tasted before knowing what the blend was (that seemed to be the idea!), and it tasted like the shore on a windy day, one that is crisp (that would be the sav blanc). Crazy…but you even get a bit of salinity to it. Could be my imagination, but then again, who cares! We went on to taste the Lilium with a label that was colorful and abstract. It reminded me of a summer field of flowers. It was a Cote du Rhone style blend with 81% Grenache, 18% Syrah and 1% Viognier. Next was a Bordeaux style blend called Midtown with a label filled with deep rich colors of the city on a black background. This blend was 80% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc, rich and bold. The Skyline with a similar painting that was a little lighter a little more of a view than the other was another Bordeaux style blend of 60% cab franc, 20% Cab Sav and 20% Merlot. I enjoyed the depth of this wine (I do love Cab Franc). Last we tasted Daybreak with a sensual painting of a dark haired woman in a white nightgown sitting on a bed as daylight starts to break into a room. This Super-Barbaresco style blend was sensual and warm and is made of 60% Nebbiolo, 20% Barbera, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.
Artiste also reminded us of what a small and connected world we live in. The pourer, who had just started that day was in school studying scenic design so we got talking and found that Michael knew her uncle. 6 degrees…
By now we were hungry again (the cupcakes had worn off) and we headed to Panino for a bit of lunch. Panino is a Santa Barbara chain for sandwiches and Salads with 4 locations in the area. I had a Harvest Salad and Michael had a sandwich and while we ordered to go, a table opened up as we were walking out, so we sat and enjoyed our lunch. We did a little walk around town on Almo Pintado I had to wonder into J. Woeste. The gardens are filled with herbs and plants for sale and all kinds of wonderful nick nacks for the garden. It was enchanting. They have some wonderful tubular chimes out front that were just glorious. I was intrigued by Coghlan Vineyard and Jewelers…(Vineyards and Jewelers?) So I wandered across the street to check it out. They had a collection of artists set up in the beautiful side yard and I needed a new pair of earrings! I indeed found a pair I liked, although they were in turquoise and I really wanted something in green…The artist suggested swapping out the stones and we did! Gorgeous sterling silver earrings with Periodot that I love! Now we were ready for a nap. Time to reserve our energy for the evenings big event, the Carhartt Winemakers Dinner. More on that later…..