Flash tour Central Coast Wine Country and Beyond – Day 5 – Santa Barbara County

Coast Oak Foxen Canyon road San Rafael Mountains Santa Barbara County

We are winding up our Flash Tour of the Central Coast and Beyond in Santa Barbara County.  This was our final day of fun, before we made the drive home to Vegas.  This final day allowed us a little less driving.

Day 5 Solvang, Santa Barbara County and Los Olivos

Solvang

Day 5 started with a stroll of the charming city of Solvang in the morning. The sun was out, the temperature was just right and it was the perfect way to start the day. Nestled in the middle of Santa Barbara County, Solvang feels like you have stepped into another world.  This historic Danish Village in the middle of California was founded by Danish-Americans in 1911.  Solvang translates to “sunny field” in Danish.  The town has embraced the Danish Architecture and the town is dotted with windmills.  The streets are enchanting and you can find aebleskivers (a Danish dessert that is like a donut hole) at many restaurants.  If you enjoy shopping or window shopping, you will be in heaven.  There is a store for everything here.  Walking the town you will find courtyards and corners to explore. Or you can rent a bicycle or a 4-wheeled surrey! They have an outdoor theatre, the Solvang Festival Theatre that runs productions throughout the summer.  Every Wednesday there is a Farmers Market in Solvang Park in the afternoons. There are great restaurants, wine tasting rooms and really, something for everyone.

Foxen Canyon to the Santa Maria Bench

We finished our walk and got in the car again to head up into Foxen Canyon.  With over 200 wineries, 6 AVAs, and over 21,000 acres of vineyards Santa Barbara County has quite a bit of area to explore.  We had limited time so we headed north from Solvang.  We took Ballard Canyon Road though the Ballard Canyon AVA which is known for it’s Syrah, and noticed that Larner Vineyard had netted for birds.  As the fruit starts to sweeten the birds like to feast so the green netting helps to keep them out and save the fruit.  At the top of the Canyon we stopped for another gorgeous view from above Saarloos & Sons beautiful Windmill Ranch Vineyard.

Foxen Canyon Road is a beautiful drive with the San Rafael Mountains on the right and views of Firestone, Curtis (where Andrew Murray has his winery) and Koehler Vineyards as you round the curve to meet with Zaca Station Road.  This is a perfect drive to get a sense of the sweeping area that Santa Barbara County covers.

We had some vines to visit at Riverbench to see how they were growing. Back in 2014 we watched as they planted a new front block.   Still in Santa Barbara County, this does take you into the Santa Maria AVA.  You can see below how much these vines have grown since we saw them as babies in 2014.

We continued into the Santa Maria AVA to see how Bien Nacido Vineyard was doing after the Alamo fire. The Whittier fire pulled much of the fire department away and vineyard staff worked very hard to keep the vines at Bien Nacido safe.  This is a revered vineyard and you will find it’s name on some of the best labels.  We met Chris Hammell their vineyard manager at a Syrah Seminar.  While they are known for their Pinot Noir, they are also growing some amazing Syrah.  You can hear Chris talk about it here.

Los Olivos

From here we headed back to Los Olivos where you can find the largest selection of Santa Barbara County Tasting rooms within walking distance of each other.  After a walk about town we headed to Crawford Family Wines for a tasting. We had met Mark Horvath, owner and winemaker a while ago at a Syrah Seminar at the Spring Vintners Festival and had wanted to get by to taste his wines. His wife Wendy was manning the tasting room and we had a great conversation and tasting with her.

We stopped at Larner for a tasting and to have lunch out front on the patio in front of the Los Olivos General Store.  This sits on the corner of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado Avenue by the flagpole in the center of town.  You get the view of Andrew Murray’s Tasting Room across the street among others.

Larner Tasting Room Los Olivos General Store View Santa Barbara County

The view from lunch with a tasting at Larner Vineyards Tasting Room in Los Olivos

We then finished out the day at the best place to finish your day in Los Olivos, Carhartt’s. It’s just down the block on Grand Ave.  They stay open a little later than the other tasting rooms and get pretty busy at the end of the day.  They have the tiniest tasting room (you can squish 5 people in if you try really hard, but the back patio here has a bit more space and is heaven.  Joe, as always, took great care of us.

Los Olivos Carhartt Tasting Room Santa Barbara County

Carhartt’s, the “World’s smallest tasting Room”.

As you can see, we had to gloss over most areas. You could easily spend 2 to 3 days or more in each area. We put almost 2000 miles on the Prius, but we tasted a variety of wines and saw an amazing portion of the beautiful state of California. Day 6 was the drive back to Vegas.  We soaked in as much of the coast as we could on the drive.  But this was just the quick version of the trip. Check back here as we delve into the details on each of the places we visited.

For more information on the wonderful wineries in Santa Barbara County visit http://www.sbcountywines.com/

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.

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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Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara’s newest AVA

Windmill on Saarloos & Son's Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Ballard Canyon is the newest of the AVA’s in Santa Barbara County, established in October of 2013.  This relatively small AVA encompassing only 7,800 acres sits at the center of the Santa Ynez Valley with Los Olivos to the North East and Solvang to the South. It produces Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Viognier.  Syrah accounts for almost half of the planting.

ballard canyon ava

ballard canyon ava

Ballard Canyon runs North-South, which protects it from the winds coming through the transverse valley than runs through the Santa Ynez Valley.  Happy Canyon is thought of as the warmest part of the region with daytime temperatures of 102, but it also drops to 48 overnight.  Ballard canyons highs are a little lower, but their nighttime lows are also a little higher, this allows the  grapes to stay warmer over night and warm up more quickly in the morning.

There are 18 Vintners and growers in the Canyon and 6 wineries:  Larner, Stolpman, Rusack, Saarloos & Sons, Jonata & Beckmen.

The first vines were planted in this area in 1974 at the Ballard Canyon Winery.  Today this property is Rusack Vineyards.  The 17 acre estate was replanted in 2003 with varieties of grape that would capture the character of Ballard Canyon.  It is now planted in Sangiovese and Syrah primarily with bits of Savignon Blanc, Semillon and Petite Sirah.  Everything is farmed in small lots.

The Rusack’s bought this property in 1995 and in 2013 hired Steven Gerbac to be their winemaker. In addition to their Ballard Canyon property, the Rusack’s have a newly planted vineyard on Santa Catalina Island (but that story is for another day).

The winery is set back in on the property and you follow the winding drive through the old oaks to their tasting room. They have a lovely redwood deck on the front of the tasting room with tables and great vineyard views.  It is shaded by the oaks so it makes the perfect spot for a picnic.

Larner is on the southern end of Ballard Canyon.  When Michael and Christine Larner purchased the land in 1997 it was nothing but sage and chaparral with Texas Longhorns on the property.  Now the 34 acres of vineyard include 23 acres of Syrah, 6 acres of Grenache and smaller plots of Viognier, Malvasia Blanca and Mourvedre. For a number of years they sold fruit to wineries, but in 2009 they began making their own.

Michael Larner is also the instigator behind the Ballad Canyon AVA.  In 2010 the vintners in Ballad Canyon gathered to coordinate an event on Syrah.  Michael got them together again after the event and recruited Wes Hagen  of Clos Pepe to help them develop plans for creating the AVA.

You can visit the Larner Tasting room is located in Los Olivos.  They hope eventually to have a beautiful tasting room on their property in the old Ballard General Store.  (again, another story for another day)

Tom Beckmen purchased a 365 acre hillside property in 1996 that is now Beckmen Vineyards.  With elevations of up to 1250 feet, this property would become the Purisima Mountain Vineyard. Tom & his son Steve farm this property and  they are certified biodynamic. They vineyard is planted with seven clones of Syrah that fill 18 blocks, five clones of Grenache that fill 8 blocks and smaller plantings  of Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rousanne, Marsanne, Mourvedre and Sauvignon Blanc. The soils here are clay and clay loam with a limestone subsoil, which while typical of the soil in Rhone, is a rarity in California.

Their tasting room is at the winery and is south of Los Olivos.  Take a picnic and enjoy the views from one of the three gazebos at the duck pond after your tasting!

Stolpman was founded in 1990 by Tom & Marilyn Stolpman.  This vineyard in the limestone hills was turning out fruit for cult wines like Sine Qua Non & Ojai Vineyards, until in 1997 they started producing their own wines.  Their winemaker Sashi Moorman (who also works with Sandhi & Evening Land) joined them in 2001 and works closely with the Vineyard Manager Ruben Solorzano.  They have experimented with high density plantings and dry farming.  They produce Syrah, Roussane, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc with limited plantings of Grenache, Viognier, Petite Sirah and Chardonnay which they mostly use for blending.  Today Tom’s son Peter manages the vineyards and winery.

Stolpman's Little Red Cottage tasting room in Los Olivos

Stolpman’s Little Red Cottage tasting room in Los Olivos

You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos on Alamo Pintado, in their little red cottage.  The cottage has fables. One says it was moved here from Arroyo Grande in the early 1900’s. Another claims it was built from scrap lumber from an old military barracks.  Regardless the Stolpman’s have filled it with a great staff and designed a Tuscan inspired bar. Plus they have a picnic area under the persimmon tree out front.  In the summer they even have a farm stand with local produce.

Jonata (pronounced Ho-na-ta, which is the Chumash word for “live oak”)has an 84 acre vineyard with sandy soil planted in Syrah, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc.

When they originally bought the property the French vineyard expert they brought in found only 5 acres of land on the 600 acre property that he felt were suitable to growing grapes.  Matt Dees joined them in 2004 as their winemaker and Ruben Solorzano is their vineyard manager.

Here there is extreme detail in the growing.  Each shoot and cluster is individually manicured.   Lots are separately pulled from each distinct part of the vineyard and put into different barrels or tanks before blending.  Well known French wine expert Michel Rolland comes in to check aging potential before bottling.  As a result of all of this extra attention and the fact that if a vintage doesn’t live up to their standards, they simply won’t produce a wine from it, these bottles can run up to $125 per bottle. Their 2010 La Sangre  de Jonata Syrah was given 97 points by Wine Advocate.

A little back story.  This winery is owned by Stanley Kroenke, a real estate developer who owns the Dever Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche.  He is also one of the leaders of the consortium that purchased Screaming Eagle.

Wines here are only sold through the mailing list. http://jonata.com

Windmill on Saarloos & Son's Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Windmill on Saarloos & Son’s Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Last but not least I will mention Saarloos & Sons.  Their Windmill Ranch Vineyard lies within this AVA.

Saarloos & Sons is a family business that is 4 generations in the making.  Each of their releases is unique and is never duplicated.  Their goal is to capture the year in a bottle and bring you a high quality wine that they name in honor of a family member.  They have a 250 year plan, thinking not just for the next generation but for the next 50.  Their goal is “Honoring + Preparing”  and their wines are heartfelt and unique.  Their winemaker and resident chronicler is Keith Saarloos.  Check out the blog for amazing vineyard videos and for philosophic posts on life, family and farming (amongst other things).

And head to their tasting room in Los Olivos.  If you are lucky, Brad will be there and will fill your glass and your spirit as he passionately talks about the wines and his family that made them.

And…have to mention, if you are there on the weekend, try the cupcake pairings!

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons tasting room in Los Olivos

Over the upcoming Vintners Spring Weekend you will be able to taste many of these wines at the Grand Tasting on Saturday April 12th.  In addition, Steve Beckmen will be leading a Vineyard Hike with with wine at the Purisima Mountain Vineyard on Friday Spril 11th.  Larner will be pouring wines at the Barrel Toasting Seminar and Tasting at the Buellton Bodegas on Friday evening. Also Friday evening Beckmen and Larner will be pouring at the 90+ Wine & Dine event at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara.  Beckmen will also be pouring on Sunday at the Farm-to-Table Picnic at the Fess Parker Ranch.

2013 Spring Vintners' Festival at the Mission Santa Ines

2013 Spring Vintners’ Festival at the Mission Santa Ines

Visit http://www.sbvintnersweekend.com  for all the Spring Weekend Events or http://www.sbcountywines.com for anything you want to know about the Santa Barbara County vineyards or wineries.

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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Saarloos & Sons with Enjoy Cupcakes, the perfect pairing

Saarloos & Sons paired with Enjoy Cupcakes

I have waxed poetic before on Saarloos & Sons and Enjoy Cupcakes.

You can check out the previous blog post http://crushedgrapechronicles.com/foxen-canyon-los-olivos/ if you are so inclined.

Today enjoy the video with a little surf inspiration (Keith Saarloos is a surfer).
This tasting is from the Thursday of Labor day weekend this year. Sadly both Keith and Brad were out of the tasting room. Keith was down in LA doing a couple of tastings. I look forward to the day I finally meet him in person. None the less we enjoyed the cupcakes and the wine! Here’s the tasting and pairing menu for the day.

Peach fig chardonnay

Chardonnay cake, filled with peach fig butter, topped with sweet cream frosting & more peach fig butter. W/ Bride 2011 Grenache Blanc

Chocolate Blackberry Syrah

Chocolate Syrah cake, filled with dark chocolate fudge, topped with blackberry frosting and a Syrah soaked blackberry that’s rolled in sugar crystals
W/ Brother 2010 Syrah

Banana orange foster

Vanilla cinnamon cake, filled with bananas fried in butter & OJ, topped with orange buttercream. W/ Brotherhood 2010 GSM

Serrano chili chocolate

A chocolate cake filled with Serrano chili fudge, chocolate frosting with a Serrano chili soaked sugar crystals on the top.
W/ Courage 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Cinnamon Sugar Dulce de Leche

Vanilla cinnamon sugar cake, filled with vanilla bean pastry crème, topped with vanilla frosting & Dulce de Leche
W/ Extended Family Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 2011

Salted Ridiculous

Chocolate cake, filled with house-made caramel, topped with salted peanut butter frosting, caramel and chocolate sauce & pinches of salt
This is a bonus cupcake to console you as you run out of wines to taste!

Check out both of their websites! Keith often posts great life philosophy in his unique voice and his commitment to family is unparalleled. The Enjoy Cupcakes site has stunning photography and just try to keep your mouth from watering as you stroll down the “flavors” page.

http://saarloosandsons.com
http://enjoycupcakes.com

See More YouTube Video’s on our Crushed Grape Chronicles Channel http://youtu.be/Uj8uqGIjPM4

Santa Barbara Wines- the Highlight Reel!

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural Central Coast Wine Country

We are back from our trip to Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles and I wanted to quickly get the highlights out and give some shout outs to people and places that made this an exceptional trip.

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro SB

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro SB

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.

 

Grassini Tasting Room

Grassini Tasting Room

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.

 

Carr SB Tasting Room

Carr SB Tasting Room

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.

 

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

AVA Santa Barbara Elkpen Mural

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!

Conway's Deep Sea Winery

Conway’s Deep Sea Winery

 

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!

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.

 

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.

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

Clos Pepe in the Santa Rita Hills

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.

 

Vines at Carhartt

Vines at Carhartt

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.

 

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons

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.

 

Hilliard Bruce

Hilliard Bruce

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!

A day in Los Olivos.

Los Olivos Carhartt Tasting Room Santa Barbara County

Day two of our trip will be in Los Olivos.   We are hoping to get some great sunrise shots probably near the Saarloos and Sons vineyards and up into Foxen Canyon to shoot the Vandenberg fog.

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons

Later we will do a cupcake pairing at Saarloos and SonsEnjoy Cupcakes is located in the Saarloos and Sons tasting room and they have cupcakes available for sale or pairings Thursdays thru Sundays.  With flavors like Chocolate Blackberry Syrah and Brown Butter Cowboy Cookie Dough, how can you go wrong?  On top of that you have the Saarloos and Sons wines.  I look forward to trying the latest vintage of Brielle that he makes with his daughter of the same name who just started 3rd grade.  This budding young winemaker is in control of the Sauvignon Blanc and decides when they are ready to harvest.  As the Sav Blanc is the first thing to harvest, she gets to kick off the whole season.  This place is all about family and making great wine to enjoy with family and friends.

We hope to make a stop out to Buttonwood and maybe get to meet their winemaker Karen Steinwachs.  Buttonwood Farm was founded in the 60’s by Betty Williams to be a working farm based on practices that were good for people, animals and the earth.  In 1983 they began planting vines and now they work as a winery and a farm with a Farm stand open in the summer.  This is a place that was designed early for sustainability.  Karen worked at Foley and Fiddlehead before coming to Buttonwood.  I look forward to a great discussion on sustainability and how the farms thoughts on this have changed or adapted since the 1960’s.

Alta Maria

Alta Maria

I have a list of other tasting rooms I would like to visit including Alta Maria where James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins are making wines inspired by old world France.  James is the descendent of Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, drove cattle across the Santa Maria River back in 1855, so there is a bit of history with his family here.  Their artwork on the label features hand-hewn iron nails.  This is the type that homesteaders used before the Industrial Revolution and it makes for stunning artwork.

Others on the list include: Andrew Murray, Byron, Stolpman, Dragonette, Consilience, Epiphany for their new tasting room, Fess Parker, Lincourt, Blackjack Ranch, Fontes & Phillips, Rideau & Presqu’ile.  There is never enough time to get to all the wineries in this area that we want to see.

Blair Fox Cellars ?…well if they happen to be open, I will find a way to stop in. They are typically only open on Fridays and Saturdays, but who knows, maybe I will get lucky.

Richard Longoria Wines

Richard Longoria Wines

And, I don’t see myself leaving without a stop at Longoria to see if there is any Lovely Rita left this year (there fantastic Pinot Noir), as well as a stop at the smallest tasting room on the planet (as well as one of my favorite places on the planet) Carhartt.  I never cease to be amazed by the incredible aromas that Brook gets in her wines.  I could smell them forever and possibly dab some behind each ear!

Dinner is planned at Avant with a possible breakfast or lunch stop at Succulent in Solvang.  So many places and so little time.

Next stop Paso Robles!

Foxen Canyon & Los Olivos

Foxen Canyon Road

Saarloos & Sons Vineyard

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.

 

Foxen 

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

Saarloos & Sons Tasting Room

 

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.

 

 

Artiste

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…

 

Panino

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…..

Santa Barbara County Wine Getaway

Welcome to Santa Maria!  Allegiant Airlines has new low budget flights from Vegas to Santa Maria!  No frills but short.  The flight was 48 minutes and then a 30 minute drive south to Los Olivos and the Santa Barbara Wine Country.  Of course the selection for flights is slim.  They fly on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  San Luis Obispo is just 30 minutes North and then another hour to Paso Robles.  We flew out on a mid day flight leaving Vegas at 1:45 and we were pulling out of the parking lot with our rental car by 3!  A short drive down the 101 and we were in Los Olivos for tastings!  Of course even closer you can hit the Santa Maria Wineries and take the back roads south through Foxen Canyon, or head straight to the coast and taste in Lompac.  We arrived at the small but nicely appointed airport and exited down the ramp to the tarmac to the sounds of an airshow!  Bi planes doing death spirals greeted us.  The drive was short and lovely.  Exit at 146 onto Rt 254 and pass the Saarloos and Sons property on the left then continue to Los Olivos (o LEE vos  who knows how long I had been pronouncing it incorrectly before someone filled me in) and take a right onto Grand Avenue with around 30 tasting rooms lining the street.  During the weekends the town can be very busy in the summer.  Our trip brought us out for the Carhartt Winemakers dinner on Saturday night.  On our last trip we tasted at the tiny and adorable Carhartt tasting room where we fell in love with their style and wines.

One of the things I learned more about on this trip to Santa Barbara County was the location of different vineyards in the area.  I had not put together that Happy Canyon was so close and the infamous Bien Nacido vineyard is just up the road from Foxen Canyon.  Time to get out the maps! This area is much less about estate vineyards and more about sourced grapes from small specially tended vineyards.  Sea Smoke is located in the Santa Rita Hills and this prime real estate they keep to themselves only selling grapes to Brewer-Clifton (their Chardonnay) and to Foxen (their Pinot Noir).  Exclusive deals like this with winemakers, wineries and growers are typical in this area and the respect for the grapes, growers and the differences with the micro climates and soils show in the wines.

 

3CV Cimarone tasting room

3CV & Cimarone

This tiny tasting room is in Los Olivos right next to Carhartt.  It is the first winery from Happy Canyon to open a tasting room in Los Olivos.  Our tasting began with some great approachable wines at $20 and under.  They went straight to the distributors to get the 3CV (three creek vineyard) name out there.  From there they began developing higher end wines under the Cimarone name. They are working with Bordeaux & Rhone varieties as well as a Sangiovese.  All the wines were delicious and approachable. The tasting room is open Thursday – Sunday from 11-5.

 

Longoria Tasting Room

Longoria

Before heading to Santa Barbara I downloaded Steve Heimoff’s book to my Kindle and I looked up winemakers in Santa Babara.  Richard Longoria has been making wine from the Santa Rita Hills since the 1970’s and has been making wines at Longoria since 1982.   This winery turns out around 3500 cases per year in small lots from 50 to 700.  They pull grapes from their Estate vineyard at Fe Ciega as well as from Bien Nacido and a blend of the 2 vineyards Pinot grapes which makes their Lovely Rita Pinot Noir which is simply delicious!  We tasted the Pinot Grigio and the Chardonnay both of which are amazingly well balanced.  They also had an Albarino this year which sold out very quickly. The tasting room is in one of the oldest buildings in Los Olivos and has charming metal siding.  Inside the tasting room the pourer was full of great information on the vineyards and microclimates, the soils and the difference in weather from vintage to vintage.  There is not a bad wine in the place.  Joyful tasting.

 

Sides Hardware and Shoes

Dinner was next!   When we were last in town we had dinner at Matteis tavern where the Brothers were cooking at the time and had a fantastic dinner.  They have since moved from the large tavern (which I hear there is rumor that it is being converted into a resort) and into the historic Sides Hardware and Shoes building on Alamo Pintado just off of Grand Avenue.  The location is quaint with 4 to 6 tables out on the patio on the sidewalk and maybe 20 tables inside.  We had an amazing dinner beginning with an ahi tuna appetizer.  Then Michael enjoyed the Salmon and I had Lamb with goat cheese gnocchi.  One of those meals where you close your eyes and savor each bite.  We paired with the Au Bon Climat 2010 Pinot Noir as we were in a Pinot mood and it was delicious.  For desert we had the special which was a corn ice cream with blueberry compote.  All in all a wonderful evening and a spectacular start to our weekend!