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!

Santa Barbara…yes Again!

Life is better with WIne

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

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

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

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

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!

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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).