Join us on our exploration of Wine from across the Oregon Wine Region. Interviews with winemakers. Wine Festivals. Explore the AVA’s and discover the Terroir, The stories, The Wine, all across Oregon Wine Country beginning in the Willamette Valley. Follow us at Crushedgrapechronicles.com for your Oregon Wine Adventure.
We got in a van not knowing how long the drive might be. I suppose I could have looked at a map, but I’m not sure that would have helped. We actually ended up in Oregon. Walla Walla AVA is a border AVA with part of the AVA in Washington and part in Oregon.
We were headed to Cadaretta’s Glasshouse on their Southwind Vineyard for dinner. We arrived as the sun was setting to amazing views. We were greeted with a glass of wine and trays of passed hors d’oeuvres. The food and wine were lovely, but that view…
The name comes from the name of the schooner that carried the Anderson & Middleton lumber products to market in the early 20th century. The family has a history in Washington having been in lumber on the coast since 1898. That’s 120 years in business in WA this year, which is no small feat. The timber company was based on the coast in Aberdeen WA (of Nirvana fame).
Getting into Grapes
Issues came up with the decline of old growth and the family, always looking to preserve the land, closed their mill. In the 70’s issues with the spotted owl came up and many companies went out of business. The family bought property in California’s central valley and started growing table grapes. This led them to Paso Robles where they have been growers of wine grapes at their Red Cedar Vineyard for 30 years.
They started Clayhouse wines in Paso Robles. Their roots were in Washington though, and they returned to purchase this piece of property in the Walla Walla AVA.
Back to the ship
The Cadaretta carried lumber to San Francisco and LA. Kris’ father used to ride on the ship as a kid on it’s journeys. During WWII the ship was requisitioned by the Government. Family lore tell the tale that on the final trip as the Cadaretta the ship was followed down the coast by a Japanese submarine. The ship was later renamed Southwind, which is where this particular vineyard derives its name.
This vineyard sits just west of Milton-Freewater on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA. L’Ecole, Doubleback and Sleight of Hand also have vineyards nearby. The view and the company are impressive, but what makes this place special for wine is the soil.
Soil at Southwind Vineyard
Most of the soil in the surrounding area is loess (blown dust) from the Columbia and Missoula Floods and you find that in the soils on the Northern slope. Those are the relatively young 15 million year old soils. On the South slope you find fractured basalt soils. These are ancient soils. They were just behind the tent we were sitting in. You find them only on steep hillsides above 1250.
When they bought the property they spent 2 years digging test plots. After soil analysis they planted 1 acre test plots. Digging into the basalt is difficult, time consuming and expensive. The vines have to work harder and dig deeper, but the characteristic they were getting in the wines from this soil made it worth it.
They have been working on this for 8 years and only 2 years ago release the first of the Southwind wines. Kris said that as a timber family they have a saying…
“It takes 40 years to grow a tree, we have patience.”
They wanted to get it right. They find Syrah and Malbec do best in this soil. There are few other vineyard grown in fractured basalt. These Southwind wines are pretty rare also with just 50 cases of each released.
Sustainability is common sense
The family comes from timber and it was always just common sense to take care of the land. It’s no different with the vineyard. Being salmon safe and sustainable isn’t something they advertise, they just do it. They have falconers from Paso that they used in the vineyard there who come in to help keep the vermin down, as well as owl boxes on the property. They use arugula for cover crop and have a bee keeper who comes in with the bees. It just makes sense to be sustainable.
With that idea in mind, they also didn’t see the need for a big showy winery. Instead they worked with Norm McKibben and JF Pellet and created Artifex in Walla Walla which is a custom crush facility for small lot, high end wines. The name comes from a Latin term meaning “Made skillfully” and it is a state of the art facility. The facility houses multiple wineries and they are customers to themselves.
So they had determined that they didn’t need an extravagant tasting room, but her brother still wanted a place to entertain. The view here from the vineyard was stunning and he wanted to create a place to enjoy that view. He had seen a building at the Santa Rosa Airport and honed in on the idea of a glass house with garage doors to open to the view. The timber is recycled, of course. To keep this a “special” place they limit it to just a few events. We were lucky to be one of those few events.
Over the course of the evening, Kris spoke to us between courses and we enjoyed dinner from Olive Catering in Walla Walla to compliment the wines.
The 2014 Cadaretta, Windthrow
This wine was paired with Wild Canadian Arctic Char with Yukon potato emulsion, chanterelle mushrooms and plum relish.
The Windthrow is a Columbia Valley Rhone Style Blend (76% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 9% Grenache) sourced from Stonetree, Southwind and Monetta’s Vineyards. Aged 22 month in 50% Hungarian Oak, 40% New French Oak and 10% Neutral French Oak. Unfined they made just 259 cases.
The 2015 Cadaretta, Southwind Malbec
Paired with maple braised lamb shank with black truffle risotto, foraged mushrooms and dates.
The Southwind Malbec is a Walla Walla Valley wine specifically from the Southwind Vineyard. 2015 was a warm vintage with an early bud break. This was a wine that opened in the glass.
The 2014 Cadaretta, Springboard
Our dessert pairing of petite fours & truffles.
The Springboard is a Columbia Valley wine and is a Bordeaux style blend of 81% Cab Sav, 10% Malbec and 9% Petit Verdot sourced from Obelisco, Southwind, Red Mountain and Alder Ridge Vineyards. It is aged in 60% new french oak with the remainder in more neutral oak. Only 249 cases of this wine were made.
The evening was beautiful, the hosting was warm and the wines were truly stunning. Getting to speak with Kris and being so warmly welcomed to the place that is so special to their family was a wonderful experience.
You can taste them at their tasting room in Downtown Walla Walla at 315 E. Main Street Thursday through Sunday. Visit there website here for details.
When in Napa, the best place to spend your morning, before heading out for wine tasting, is Yountville. Bouchon Bakery….Ahh… I live in Vegas and there are two Bouchon Bakeries at the Venetian, so I am luckier than most to be able to have these delicious pastries closer at hand than most, but really there is nothing like a Café au Lait and a Pain du Chocolat while sitting on a bench outside Bouchon Bakery in Yountville in the morning. You often start outside on the sidewalk, making friends as you exchange the duty of holding the door for the line that trails out of the tiny building. Once inside you can watch the bakery though the glass windows as they make the bread and pastries, while you await a close enough spot in the line to see the pastries in the display case. Once there you are mesmerized by all the beautiful pastries, which to choose? Then you must quickly decide on your drink (this part reminds me of the Starbucks in Time Square). The staff bustles behind the counter, maneuvering around each other in their morning game of twister as they fill orders. You politely duck back to await your name being called and move 5 or 6 times to allow others to grab a napkin or a fork from the counter behind you. This bustle could feel stressful anywhere else, but you’re in Yountville, so everyone smiles sweetly with an underlying sense of bliss for the deliciousness that is coming and the wonders of the day ahead.
Once handed your parcel of pastries, you scoot outside to find a seat. This trip had us there on a Saturday, and we were lucky that a bench opened up quickly. Immediately the sparrows stop by to demand crumbs. I’m so blissful, I can’t deny them. Then suddenly my pain au chocolate is gone. I nurse my café au lait to extend my reason for staying. Finally, we vacate to allow someone else a little of this bliss.
But the morning doesn’t end there. It’s cool and comfortable. The birds are chirping and Yountville is the perfect place for a morning stroll. The city is dotted with public art, and grapevines and then there is the French Laundry Culinary Garden. And strolling is part of what this place is about. If you visit the Yountville website, the first words you read are “Welcome to Yountville! Here we embrace the old world Italian custom “Passeggiata” – an appreciation for the art of stroll and all the discovery and comfort that comes with it.” So, to embrace the local culture, we strolled.
First…a little history on Yountville.
Yountville and the surrounding area, in the early 1800’s was owned by Mexico. In 1836, George C. Yount, the city’s namesake, got a land grant from Mexico that ran the width of the Napa Valley from the current city of Yountville, north to the southern edge of St. Helena. George named the area Caymus Rancho. He was the first to plant grapes in Napa Valley and laid out a village with a public square that he called “Yountville”.
The city is dotted with public art. You can find a map for the Art Walk on the Yountville City Site. I was enamoured with the Rock Mushroom Garden by Napa Valley Artists Rich Botto.
As you stroll through town, you will find the V Marketplace across the street from Bouchon Bakery (and of course Bouchon, the restaurant). This Marketplace houses Michael Chiarello’s restaurant Bottega as well as multiple specialty shops. This spot has some history also. In 1874 this was the site of the first winery in Napa Valley built by Gotteib Groezinger. The three massive stone buildings Groezinger built now house beautiful specialty shops with apparel, home decor, jewelry, art as well as restaurants and tasting rooms. The structure encompasses gardens with fountains and often hosts events.
The city is also dotted with grapevines here and there, it is after all, their biggest industry, and the vines were beautiful with grapes in veraison as we strolled. There is also a large oak tree in the in the center of town, branches shored up by posts, that provides shade over a park. We were strolling, but there is plenty here to side track you, tasting rooms, shops, galleries, bistros and then of course, some of the finest restaurants in the country.
And this was just the beginning of our stroll. Next we will stroll down Washington Street to visit the Culinary Gardens of the French Laundry.
For more on Yountville visit the Yountville site where you can find details on places to stay, things to do and upcoming events.
Continue with us as we chronicle our journey through wine country and dig into some of the wonderful places we’ve already visited. You can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Michael Larner has helped to champion Syrah in Ballard Canyon. He got the ball rolling on the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara.
We spoke with Michael last year about the Syrah planted on Larner Vineyard. We had discussed the different rootstocks that they chose for the vineyard and then went deeper into the Syrah clones that were grafted to those various rootstocks.
There are 23 acres of Syrah planted at Larner Vineyard, broken into 11 blocks of around 2 acres each. With his 3 root stocks he pairs a Syrah clone, so he has 11 different mixes of clone/root stock.
Blending a monovarietal Syrah from different Syrah clones
For his Estate Syrah he has a blend of Clones 877, Estrella, 174 and Clone 3. Each of these clones brings something different to the wine, the Estrella brings a Velvety softness, the 174 pulls up mid-palate strength, and the 877 and Clone 3 give you full body. So in essense he is making a mono-varietal blend. Add to this the variation in rootstock, in the placement in the vineyard and you have quite a bit of variety.
A little geekiness on these Syrah clones
Estrella: Gary Eberle of Eberle wines in Paso Robles planted suitcase cuttings from Chapoutier in Hermitage (in the Rhone Valley in France) This clone has become one of the most widely planted in the Central Coast region.
174: This came in from France in 1995. It is a low yield clone which gives balanced aromatic fruit.
877: This French clone brings in tannins that hit the mid palate.
Each year one of the clone/rootstock variations will stand out. This is where the Reserve wines come from, and the Dedication which is all Clone 3. But all the blocks are treated as if they could be stand alone wines. These stand alone wines would be a wonderful expression of one thing…mid palate tannins or velvety softness. The blending of these is what creates the depth and layers within the wine. The idea is to pull together the ultimate expression of Syrah in this vineyard to make a complete wine that fires on all synapses.
You can taste some of Michael Larner‘s exceptional wines at their Los Olivos Tasting Room at 2900 Grand Avenue.
For more on the wines of Santa Barbara visit Santa Barbara Vintners.
They will be holding their Vintners Spring Weekend April 20-22, 2017, where you can attend the Grand Tasting and taste wines from all over this amazing region.
I was asked recently about insights into visiting Santa Barbara. My brain goes a little crazy then, filled with all the wonderful options. It’s no secret that I love this area and it’s people. As I set out to jot down some notes, it occurred to me that I am asked this quite often. And while Crushed Grape Chronicles has loads of information on Santa Barbara, I do not have one concise blog post that details the highlights as I see them today. So here I am, putting together my SBC highlight reel. Keep in mind that there will be omissions. Some because there is only so much room in a highlight reel and some because I have yet to discover them. So if you come across one of these omissions, please feel free to add your SBC favs in the comments section!
When you say Santa Barbara, the first thing that comes to mind is the beach, and the city of Santa Barbara. So we will start there. Just know that Santa Barbara is so much more than that.
The City of Santa Barbara
Stearns Wharf and the Beach
Go straight to the beach. You know you want to. You can head out onto Sterns Wharf where there are restaurants and a tasting room. The Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting room is a great place to start. They have a variety of wines that they source from coastal vineyards and you can’t beat the ocean view, I mean you are ON the ocean, not just on the beach looking at it! And a meal at The Santa Barbara Shellfish Company is perfect, especially on a cloudy day. If you can manage to pack into this tiny place at the far end of the wharf you will indulge in some soul warming seafood.
The perfect place for a quick overview: The Valley Project
But the city beckons and I suggest your first stop be to the The Valley Project– AVA Santa Barbara
This project started by Seth Kunin will give you an overview of Santa Barbara County. This county contains multiple AVA’s (American viticulture Areas), which differentiate climate and soils within wine growing areas. The beautiful Elkpen chalk mural that spans the entire wall behind the tasting room bar will give you an overview and the pourers are there to discuss the differences in the wines and areas with you. Expect them to pull out soil samples to show you.
Super quick tutorial on Santa Barbara County
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 led 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. Read more about it in The varied and amazing wines and wineries of Santa Barbara County
The Funk Zone and Urban Wine Trail
So now that you are armed with a little background, you can decide where to go next. The Funk Zone is home to lots of little urban tasting rooms. If you are looking to just hang and drink wine and enjoy the sunset in a set of board shorts barefoot, you can march right down to Municipal Winemakers . The funky laid back atmosphere here is ultra relaxing. If this is your style, you can check out our article Municipal Winemakers and the “Funk Zone” wineries
Wine Collection of El Paseo
If you are not in your board shorts there is the El Paseo further up State Street. Here you will find the tasting room for one of the grand daddies of Santa Barbara Wine Au Bon Climat (ABC to those in the know, which now you are!). Margerum Wine Company is located here also, along with Doug Margerum’s restaurants the Wine Cask and the Intermezzo Wine Bar. Grassini, known for Happy Canyon Bordeaux style reds and gorgeous Sav Blancs is also here as well as Jamie Sloane Wines, where you will often find Jamie himself behind the tasting bar pouring. There are a few more tasting rooms here that I have yet to visit.
You can read more about the El Paseo in our post Santa Barbara’s Wine Collection of El Paseo
Into Wine Country
While you found tasting rooms, I bet you didn’t see any vineyards here in town. That’s because you have to drive inland to get to wine country. You have two options, you can take the 101 and head to Buellton or you can take the 154. The 101 will stick to the coast line until Gaviota State Park and then head north to Buellton. The 154 takes you up into the hills above the City of Santa Barbara and along Lake Cachuma bringing you out in Happy Canyon. From there you can choose to head to Solvang (the little Danish town, that is very quaint and contains most of the areas hotels) or to Los Olivos, a town of tasting rooms. Both are pretty drives, the 154 is quieter (and faster and my favorite).
Places to Taste:
Regulations in Santa Barbara are still quite strict in many areas, so you will find many tasting rooms in towns like Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Solvang, Buellton & Lompoc, some of these are wine makers sourcing fruit and some are vineyards and wineries, who according to current regulations are not allowed to have a tasting room at their vineyards. Below is a short list of some of my favorites in each of the areas. As I mentioned before, I have yet to drink through all 300 wine tasting rooms in the valley, so please add your suggestions in the comments section below!
Quick note on tastings:
Many of the places listed below are not open 7 days a week, in fact some are only open on weekends. I have provided links to their websites so you can check on the days and hours before you go as they typically change seasonally. And, always be responsible. Drink lots of water, limit the number of tastings you do in a day (4 is really max) and spend some time in each tasting room. Michael and I typically share a tasting, we make sure we have snacks along the way (pack something!) and don’t be afraid to use the spit bucket! They are there for you to use. You can swish and spit or if that is uncomfortable, you can use it to empty your glass after you have “tasted”. If you walk into a tasting room and find the spit bucket is a tip bucket? You have come to the wrong place, and you should turn and find the door.
The main drag of this small town circles around it’s flagpole. The streets are lined with tasting rooms as well as shops and some restaurants. If you are looking to stroll from tasting to tasting, this is the place I suggest.
Michael and Christina Larner are some of our favorite people in Santa Barbara. Michael championed the Ballard Canyon AVA and he is the founder of the Buellton Bodegas a Wine Cooperative space where wine makers have their individual space but can share some of the big wine making equipment. Their tasting room is on the corner by the flagpole (behind the antique gas station) next to the Los Olivos General Store, a gift shop that Christina runs. During the day you can grab a sandwich from Panino next door and get a glass of wine from the Larner tasting room and enjoy lunch on the patio. Michael has a background in Geology and as such he is an expert on soils. You will find a long list of interviews on many fascinating wine related subjects here we have discussed with him here Larner Vineyard
Larry Schaffer loves making wine and talking about wine. He especially loves Rhones. Typically you will find Maeapple pouring in the tasting room (she is a joy to chat with), but sometimes Larry will roll in from a busy day going in a million directions and will hold court in the tasting room. He is active in the Rhone Rangers, a passionate supporter of screw caps and footstomps his grapes. Oh and he loves baking bread, so if you are exceptionally lucky, you might come in on a day when there is a loaf being shared in tasting room. (the ultimate breaking bread!)
Blair is the Winemaker at Fess Parker. But here he makes his own wines and they are spectacular, with many single vineyard wines. His tasting room staff is well versed in the wines and the local vineyards. We had an exceptional tasting here, talking with the staff as well as several other guests in the tasting room. One guest had a special reserve bottle and busted it open to share tastings of. Yep, it’s that kind of atmosphere here. They mostly produce Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Vermentino and Viognier. Alright…Vermentino & Viognier? That makes me very happy.
Okay, I have yet to visit this tasting room, but I met Mark Horvath the winemaker and tasted his Sta. Rita Hills Syrah (cool climate Syrah) and really enjoyed it. Here he is on the Syrah panel this past spring speaking about this wine. Mark Horvath, Crawford Family Wines on Sta. Rita Hills Syrah
Follow their blog. This place is all about family and Keith Saarloos is a joy to read. The wines here sell out fast, so if you like something, better buy it while you are here.
AND they have cupcake pairings on the weekends! Check out the video here https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/video/saarloos-sons-paired-withenjoy-cupcakes/
Bien Nacido has been providing extremely sought after fruit for a while. Au Bon Climat & Qupe built their winery (that they share) on the property to be close to this fruit. If you have ever tasted a Bien Nacido Pinot, you will remember it and be able to pick out this fruit regardless of the winemaker using it. It is distinctive. And now, they not only grow this prize fruit but they have begun making their own wine with Winemaker Trey Fletcher. They also make Syrah. Here is Vineyard Manager Chris Hammel talking about their Syrah and Bob Lindquist’s Qupe Syrah from their vineyards. Syrah Seminar 2016 SB Vintners – Episode 3 Bien Nacido
Mikael Sigouin is also the Winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards (notice a theme?) He is originally from Hawaii and is known as the Grenache King, so I guess you know what you will be drinking here! His tasting room is full of Aloha, I always end up having great conversations with other guests there. Last time, we met some folks from Hawaii tasting, who lived near where I did when I was there growing up. They knew dear friends of ours from when we lived out Makaha way. Small world syndrome at it’s finest. We included Mikael in our Sampling of the Incredible Winemakers of Santa Barbara
This is another tasting room I have yet to visit, but it is on my list for our next trip. Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe is now the winemaker and brand ambassador. He can wax poetic on many topics, and is fascinating. I was able to pick Pinot with him during an early morning harvest a few years ago at Clos Pepe. He has helped create an educational tasting room for J. Wilkes and quite honestly I can’t wait to see it! Typically just open on weekends, Wes posts on his and J. Wilkes facebook pages and on Twitter other times when he will be in for tasting and teaching. You can Make a Reservation on the website ahead of time also.
This is where you finish your day. It is the tiniest tasting room in the world they claim, with just 3 stools at a small bar. Luckily, the back patio opens up (and fills up) at the end of the day. The Carhartts, yes, they are those Carhartts, of work clothes fame, grow grapes and make wine as a family affair. This place is casual though, as handsome young men often pad around the back patio barefoot pouring wines. Here is a throwback piece from way back in 2011 when we first discovered them. https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/santa-barbara-and-los-olivos-part-2/
If you have seen Sideways, you will know Buellton. The restaurant Miles meets Maya in, is none other than The Hitching Post II. (They, by the way make their own Hitching Post wines). There are several tasting rooms in the area here are two of my favorites.
This is the place if you like cool climate Viognier. Morgan Clendenen (yes, you recognized the name, she used to be married to Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat) pioneered cool climate Viognier, and she also makes Pinot Noir. We had an extraordinary visit with them with Cold Heaven Cellars – Rhone Scent-ual Experience
The Sta. Rita Hills wine growing region was pioneered by Richard Sanford. While he no longer owns and runs Sanford Winery, this legend in this area now has a new winery called Alma Rosa. The tasting room is conveniently located next to Industrial Eats, off of Industrial Way in Buellton. Get a little bit of his history here.
This place looks as different from Wine Country as you can get. When you drive out 246 toward the ocean and Vandenberg Air Force Base, the vines end and you run into an Industrial Park Area. This is the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. The beautiful irony is that Lompoc was first founded as a Temperance Colony back in 1874. The Ghetto has lots of wineries, but further into Lompoc you will find more wineries and tasting rooms.
Rick Longoria is quiet, soft-spoken and decidedly unpretentious. He quietly tries to blend in with the crowd at the Grand Tastings in Santa Barbara. A couple of years ago I had a lovely conversation with him at his table there. And he is a joy to speak with. He beams while telling you about his wines. His vineyard is Fe Ciega in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. In addition to his award-winning Pinot Noirs (Lovely Rita is one of my favorites…a wine that once you taste it, you long for), he also makes a wonderful Albarino sourced from Clover Creek Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Founded by Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton in 1995. Back then they were working at other wineries. In 2005 they started growing their own grapes and 2012 was their first estate vineyards vintage and their 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot was named the #8 Wine in Wine Spectator’s Topp 10 of 2014. Here you will taste Sta. Rita Hills Pinot & Chard. Ask about stem inclusion. You will find an older piece I wrote about a tasting we did at Brewer-Clifton here.
We met Kenneth “Joey” Gummere at an event at Sunstone Winery sponsored by the Santa Barabara Vintners. He and several other wine makers were there showing off some of their wines. He and his wife Sarah are dedicated to making cool-climate Syrah, Pinot and Chard. I had a fascinating conversation with him about temperature control with his wine making process. He’s a really nice human, who is a joy to speak with AND he makes great wine. I will admit that I have not been to the tasting room, but I look forward to getting there!
It’s time to go ghetto, Wine Ghetto that is. In a semi-industrial area of Lompac on the road in from Sta. Rita Hills you will find warehouses with roll up doors housing wineries. The office space next to each warehouse becomes the tasting room. Sandhi and Piedrassi share a winemaker Sashi Moorman, who also is the head winemaker for Pence Ranch and Stolpman. Sashi’s wife Melissa makes bread which is available (and in demand) in the tasting room. Sandhi is a project he works on with Sommelier Rajat Parr and Charles Banks. You will need to make an appointment but it is worth it. While I have not tasted in this tasting room, I was blown away by the elegance of the Chardonnays that I tasted back when they had a tasting room tucked away behind Matteis Tavern in Los Olivos.
Stolpman has their vineyards in Ballard Canyon, but they have a tasting room here in the Lompac Wine Ghetto as well as one in Los Olivos. Tom Stolpman founded Stolpman Vineyard in Ballard Canyon. His son Peter manages the vineyard. Sashi Moorman as I mentioned before, is their winemaker and the Grape Whisperer himself, Ruben Solorzano is their Vineyard Manager. This vineyard did a lot of the beta testing of grapes for Ballard Canyon. They planted everything and waited to see what worked. There’s a lot of patience that goes into that. They found Syrah was the perfect match and indeed Syrah has become the flagship wine for Ballard Canyon. They are not afraid to experiment and they have some huge concrete tanks that they use for wines. Give them a taste and ask for stories and make sure to taste “Ruben’s Block”. In this post on the Syrah Seminar, Peter speaks about the Estrella River Clone from the Zaca Mesa Black Bear Block that is used in the Stoplman’s 2013 Original Syrah.
Foxen Canyon & the Santa Maria Valley
When you hop on Foxen Canyon Road you get more than Foxen Canyon. This road takes you all the way up into some of the great vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley.
Before Au Bon Climat, before Qupe and so many others, there was Zaca Mesa. Many of the greats in Santa Barbara Wines did a stint here before opening their own wineries. You can see more about that in Zaca Mesa University” Santa Barbara Wine Seminar Spring 2015 – The Highlight Reel
Zaca Mesa is beautiful early in the day. When the fog weaves through the big coastal oaks it’s either ethereal or creepy (I vote for ethereal, cause after all, they have wine!)
They are dog and kid friendly and on Saturdays they have baguettes. There is a giant Chess set in the courtyard to play.
What to expect to taste: Roussane, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Syrah (the Syrah from the Black Bear Block is highly sought after and well respected), Grenache, Mourvedre…yep, are you sensing a Rhone theme? And they do have a Pinot.
This is the same winery, just with two tasting rooms, steps from each other. 7200 also known as “The Shack” is in an old blacksmith shop and was the wineries original tasting room. Foxen is at the top of the hill, their solar powered tasting room, where you will find their Rhone & Burgundian style wines. “The Shack” is the place to go for atmosphere. You are open to the elements and often can see the resident bobcat prowling the hill outside. Bill Wathen and Dick Dore founded this winery back in 1985.
Riverbench is on Foxen Canyon Road in the Santa Maria Valley. They grown Pinot and Chardonnay Pinot Meunier and a little Albarino for Kenneth Volk, who is just a stones throw away. Clarissa Nagy is their winemaker. In addition to Pinot and Chard they craft sparkling wines. We spent a morning at Riverbench doing a vineyard tour with Vineyard Manager Rawley Hermreck and learned how to hand dip bottles for the wax cap, which Rawley does mostly himself. We also watched a new block of vines put in out front and have been able to continue to watch these grown. You can read about our tour here https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/riverbench-vineyards-winery-tour/ They also have a tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.
Presqu’ile Winery has grown to be one of our favorite spots in the Santa Marie Valley. The winery sits up on a hill and is a gravity flow winery. The view here is stunning, on a clear day you can see the ocean, and this place does hospitality right. If you have an electric car that needs charging, never fear, there are two charging stations. And they have a wonderful light food menu with truly spectacular cheese and charcuterie boards to enjoy with the wine. We spent a morning here for an event which brought together 4 winemakers all making wine from fruit from these vineyards. The event was held on the crush pad at the top of the winery (remember gravity flow). We again attended the Big Bottle Bash at the winery during the 2014 Vintners Spring Weekend in Santa Barbara.
Santa Rita Hills:
This is the Western part of the area, where the climate is cooler and Pinot and Chardonnay thrive. You will find vineyards on both sides of the 246, but for a more complete look at this area, make sure to take a drive on Santa Rosa Road, where the first vineyard in this area Sanford & Benedict was planted.
I spoke about Richard Sanford earlier with Alma Rosa. Here is an opportunity to see the amazing winery he built before Alma Rosa. Now owned by the Terlato Family, the winery retains the beautiful buildings and exceptional vineyards that Richard Sanford built. The tasting room is in the middle of the La Riconada Vineyard on Santa Rosa Rd. Made to be sustainable the walls are adobe bricks and are 30 inches thick to keep the interior temperature cool. The lumber is from recycled timber.
Just down the way you will find the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard. The vines here grow some of the most prized fruit in these hills. Sanford & Benedict Vineyard was first planted in 1971 and is home to some of the oldest Pinot Vines in Santa Barbara County.
This stunning tasting room is appointment only, but it is well worth it. John Hilliard and Christine Bruce beautiful wines (John handles the Pinot Noir & Christine the Chardonnay). Be in touch a few days in advance. We had a wonderful visit with them before the winery was even built. The start of the series is here
Santa Ynez Valley/Los Olivos District:
The Santa Ynez Valley, actually covers quite a bit of space! The AVA itself encompasses the entire lower section of Santa Barbara County. Within this AVA you will find the Sta. Rita Hill AVA, Ballard Canyon AVA, Happy Canyon AVA and the newly approved Los Olivos District AVA. The 3 wineries listed below are actually within the Los Olivos District.
Buttonwood is not just a vineyard, it is a farm. They have a farmstand with seasonal fruits and vegetables next to the tasting room. Michael spent a day on a winery & vineyard tour with winemaker Karen Steinwach, followed by chef demo and lunch with Chef Pascale Beale.
Buttonwood Farm, a Hidden Gem in Santa Barbara County
We did a vineyard walk with Steve Beckmen at the Purisima Mountain Vineyard. The event walk us through the vineyard with a bit of education on soil & vine thinning. I was lucky enough to have a great conversation with Steve as we hiked up to the high point. He gave me a run for my money, he is obviously used to climbing these hills! You can see an overview of the hike here, but there are additional videos with Steve speaking on the soils and shoot thinning also.
This is a stunning (no…REALLY stunning) property. I mentioned earlier our visit to this winery when we met Joey Gummere at an event here. This was a Santa Barbara Vintners event for WBC14, with multiple wine makers. We were given a tour by Bion Rice, the wineries President and CEO, of the stunning Villa at Sunstone, which is built from reclaimed materials from villages in Marseille and Provence. We then gathered in the garden to sample wines and speak with the wine makers followed by a family style dinner. This is a premium place for Weddings and the location is stunning (did I say that before?)
Michael and I were lucky enough to spend a weekend in the Los Alamos Valley. That gorgeous photo on our homepage and as the feature image on this page, we took from the top of the Rancho La Cuna Vineyard.
I first learned of Sonja Madjevski when she I came across “The Wine Down” a video series on The Lip.tv where she would have conversations with wine makers and farmers and other interesting Industry people. I loved the show. Sadly, it is no more, but go look it up, there are plenty of old episodes that are fascinating! She is the owner and winemaker at Casa Dumetz Wines as well as running Babi’s Beer Emporium here in Los Alamos. She does a wonderful “Words to Live By” speaker series on Friday’s nights at her tasting room. I have had a few opportunities to speak with her, most recently at the Larner Fete in April (she sources grapes from Michael Larner). Her tasting room is a wonderful welcoming place.
(Yep you can find a location here too, if you didn’t already visit them in the Funk Zone, or if you just need more of their wine)
Places to Eat:
We published this article in April of 2014 and it is a great reference.
9 Great Places to eat in Santa Barbara County
Since then we have enjoyed a few more spots so I’ll include them below. Also, sadly Matteis Tavern is closed and is only available as an event venue.
The Old School Steakhouse that you got to know in Sideways is here putting out classic steak dinners. You are likely to see Frank Ostini the owner and chef and a local personality in his pith helmet.
Jeff and Janet Olsson own New West Catering Company and they have been a stable for farm to table catering in the area for a while. Industrial Eats is their fast casual restaurant where they write the daily menu on the butcher paper hanging from a spool on the wall. The menu changes daily depending on what is fresh and available. It’s great for lunch (and it’s right next to Alma Rosa if you want to do a tasting there!) For a sampling of some of the amazing catering they do, check out the Sta. Rita Hills AVA Dinner that was set here.
Great spot in the center of town for lunch or dinner and you can always pick up a few bottles of local wine. You are very likely to see wine makers here with friends or family. It’s elegant without being stuffy. The patio is covered in wisteria and they do have outdoor seating available. Inside is a wall of wine, a beautiful U shaped bar and fireplace. They serve California/Mediterranean cuisine. They also have a blog where they do interviews with local wine makers that you can find here.
This building was previously a hardware and shoe store owned by Milburn Sides. The Nichols Brothers opened this restaurant with a made from scratch local menu. They cure their own bacon here. You can sit inside or on the front or back patios. They are open for lunch or dinner, but plan ahead, because it gets crowded. The do have a larger restaurant in Santa Ynez called The Red Barn.
Michael tasted a bite of food from this restaurant at the Grand Tasting one year and we decided to head there for dinner. We were not disappointed. They do great Italian dishes. Skip the table and sit at the bar where you can watch the kitchen bustle! These guys make hustle in the most beautifully choreographed manner around the small kitchen.
A newer restaurant, having opened in April of 2013, SY Kitchen serves modern Italian in a beautiful farmhouse. You can dine in the Front room, the porch or the Dining Room of the house. They also have an outdoor Courtyard which is great for cocktails. Executive Chef Luca Crestanelli was born and raised in Verona Italy. His dishes take the inspiration from Italy and compose them from local fresh ingredients. Ask the servers for wine pairings, they will be happy to assist. In addition to lots of local wines, they have an innovative cocktail program and a great selection of dessert wines.
Well, it’s really in the lower part of Ballard Canyon, but that is considered the Santa Ynez Valley. This is the place for a special occasion dinner. We enjoyed the first annual Larner Winemakers Dinner here with Chef Budi creating dishes to perfectly pair with each wine. Again a place you will find tons of local wines.
A great place for burgers, fries and shakes. All-American, kid friendly and locally owned (you will probably see the owner out managing the plethora of teenage staff he teaches and employs as wait staff.)
This bakery becomes a Restaurant on the weekends, and is a frequent gathering place for wine makers. You will find lots of local wines here.
See some of the Video’s we have made on Santa Barbara here.
The Santa Barbara Vintners website is the ultimate comprehensive place for information on the areas wineries. http://www.sbcountywines.com/
This stunning tasting room is off of 46W on Oakdale road. The winery released it’s inaugural vintage in May of 2011, and opened their tasting room later that year. This winery was built to be sustainable and the building is LEED certified. At least 1/3 of the wineries energy needs are supplied by the solar photovoltaic panels on the building. The redwood used on the building is 100 year old reclaimed wood from Vandenburg. All the items in their gift shop are repurposed items.
The owner Al Good was raised in Virginia and is an entrepreneurial farmer. He has developed a holistic approach to the agriculture business. The sense of land stewardship is what drives Shale Oak. Their winemaker Curtis Hascall is in his early 30’s and grew up in Watford England. He graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in food-science. He worked with Consulting winemaker Kevin Patrick Riley before coming on board with Shale Oak. Consultant winemaker Kevin Riley is well know in Paso and consults for several wineries as well as owning and running Proulx with his wife Genoa. His adventure style shows in the wines.
Before we began our tasting our pourer got us each a small glass of a palate cleanser called evo that was developed by a couple for their senior project at Cal Poly. The pH is the same as wine, so it is better than crackers or water. Our tasting began with the 2011 Sui. Sui is the second element in Japanese philosophy and represents water, fluidity, magnetism and suppleness. This blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Albarino, Pinot Grigio is bright and clear with honeydew melon and a nice minerality. We next moved on to the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. I know…Cabernet as the first red on a menu? Seems a little out of order doesn’t it? But this is a lovely approachable soft cab with just a little petite Verdot. The Cab has a very interesting nose. It is deep rich and smoky. On the palate it is lighter bodied almost with a Pinot Noir mouth feel, but still a very deep nose.
The 2009 Syrah had berries on the nose and was meaty and smoky on the palate. This is a fruit forward new world style wine.
The 2009 Petite Sirah has a sense of caramel, this is a bigger wine, but very approachable. You get violets on the nose. Unlike many Petite Sirahs this is not heavy or inky. It has great aromas and flavors but is lighter on the palate. They once did a pairing of this with an ice cream with a caramel ribbon (yum).
The 2009 Petit Verdot is dry but not as dry as a typical Petit Verdot. You get a burst of raisin with this. This one sits at 16% alcohol but is not hot.
The Cabernet and all of their whites are grown on their Pleasant Valley Vineyard on the East side. Here on the property by the winery they grow Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel. The Zin is young and not producing much yet so they supplement their Zin by buying fruit from Willow Creek Farms right down the road. Willow Creek is owned by Kevin Riley.
Their white wines are aged in stainless, and the reds in oak. Their 2012 Zin is currently aging in New Oak.
The tasting room is stunning with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows on the front, clean lines and a sense of peacefulness.
They have a beautiful patio where they have music on the last Sunday of each month. They sell wine by the glass and encourage people to bring their lunch and enjoy the patio.
Really this place is stunning and the wines were really wonderful.
If you need a little Zen time, this is the place to come. Bring a snack, get a glass of one of their wines and relax and rejuvenate on the serene patio with the beautiful water features.
Join us for a tour of Miramonte Winery in the Temecula Valley of Southern California!
Miramonte is a boutique winery in the Temecula Valley in Southern California. They provide a wide variety of music on the weekends on their patio. As well as amazing cheese and charcuterie boards. This eclectic and artistically minded winery creates an incredible atmosphere for enjoying wines.
Introducing our New YouTube channel. Join us as we explore these stories through AVA’s and vineyards and the eyes of the winemakers.
Wine it’s simply crushed and fermented grapes. The variations and the stories are what make it so fascinating.
The variations in wine are beyond comprehension. The stories behind the wines are as lush and beautiful as the wines themselves.
Our goal at Crushed Grape Chronicles is to explore and chronicle the grape it’s many stories and it’s journey from dirt to glass.
Visit our YouTube Channel at CrushedGrapeChron or click on the link
Our Next video will be on Temecula Valley Wine Country, followed by video’s on the individual wineries that makeup Temecula AVA
I had the privilege of meeting Victor Abascal the owner and winemaker at a tasting a Khoury’s in Las Vegas. His story is an entertaining one. His background was as a sound engineer until he became obsessed with wine. He and his wife Jennifer own and run Vines on the Marycrest in Paso Robles, California with Jenni managing the farm during the week while he continues working as a technical engineer. On the weekends though, you can expect to see him at the winery.
After meeting him at Khoury’s I was intrigued and researched the winery. I came across a wonderful article written by a friend of his talking about his journey in the wine industry. It’s worth a read http://erikaschickel.com/Articles/Article004_Dinosaur.html
To synopsize…He got hooked on wine reading a Wine Spectator..then had to learn more. While running in the neighborhood he grew up in he realized this land that he climbed fences and rode his bike on as a kid, was perfect for growing grapes. So he planted some! The property was actually owned by the Catholic church and the nuns freaked out thinking someone was growing pot! Turns out they knew his parents and allowed him to let the vines go dormant over the winter so he could relocate them. He found another property, continued with his journey and eventually purchased land in Paso Robles. The name “Vines on the Marycrest” comes from his first vineyard. That property the nuns kicked him out of was Marycrest Manor in Culver City.
It was not too long ago that they were doing tastings out of their home. Now they have a stunning tasting room with a patio for enjoying the great outdoors and perfect for live music.
They were having live music on this night at their new tasting room. We watched Victor move about quickly working with the band on the patio, setting up mics then coming through the tasting room inside and adjusting speaker levels. The man was in his element, good music, sound gear and his own wines…he was clearly enjoying himself. In the meantime, Jenni was managing the bar and took very good care of us. We enjoyed the music as it filtered in from outside and tasted through their wines, many of which are named after music they find inspiring.
Enjoying conversation with either Jenni or Victor while having a glass of their wine is really a joy. Don’t miss a stop at this beautiful tasting room, and remember to tell them we say hello!
Foot Path is not your typical winery. It’s off the beaten path on Glen Oaks Road. The property and drive are marked by a banner.
This isn’t a shiny tasting room that you are driving into, it is a working organic farm. Grapes are just part of what they do. As you pull up you see the horses and then the metal warehouse that is the winery. Stroll in and you find barrels on one side and a tasting bar set up in the center.
In all likelihood the person behind the bar is Deane Foote the owner and winemaker. It’s $10 to try 5 of their wines and they are all reds. Mr. Foote makes a small amount of white, but it is all for his wife! This is a family run farm and winery and Deane’s daughter came in while we were there to bring her dad lunch. Bandit one of the farm cats came in and wandered down the tasting bar. They are dog friendly, but with the cats…you have to have your dog on a leash. They do also sell produce from the farm and usually have that listed on the home page of their website so you can see what is in season. They grow pomegranates figs tangelos lemons grapefruit limes orange.
The wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and a couple of blends. You won’t find lots of oak or extra stuff in the wines. The wines tend to be fruit forward, are unfiltered and are ready to drink now. In September family comes in from all over to harvest. This place is not shiny and it makes for a lovely contrast to some of the larger corporate wineries. It’s quieter, or maybe the noises are just different, horses munching on hay, cat meowing, the buzz of humming birds. This is farm and family and Deane Foote is making wines that he likes.
Masia de Yabar has a stunning location for a winery on the De Portola wine trail. Wilmer and Silvia Yabar came from Peru with ancestry in Spain and have wine-making in their blood. In 2004 they planted vineyards in Argentina with about 50 acres of Malbec and Torrontes and family members take care of the vineyards there. In 2007 they purchased the property in Temecula and planted Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Tempranillo, Muscat, Cabernet Franc and Syrah Rose de Peru. The patio wraps around the property showcasing the stunning view. There was live music in the tasting room on the Saturday that we stopped by and the tasting room was busy but not completely full with lots of people out on the patio. They do have quick deli snacks available also. I did a tasting of their Rose, Tempranillo which had strawberries on the nose and the fruit warmed up in your mouth. The 2011 Tempranillo had tobacco on the nose and a touch of sweetness behind it. The tobacco rolls downs the side of your mouth. The 2008 Garnache had a lighter more floral nose with a warm influence and a hint of licorice, which was different and hard to pinpoint. I also got hints of herbs and white pepper and it had a medium soft finish. We then did a vertical of their Merlot’s. The 2011 was very smooth with herbs on the nose. This wine tasted young but has potential. The 2009 was richer darker and jammier. These seemed like 2 very different styles of Merlot. They also had sangria available by the glass. This is the perfect spot to return to in the summer and enjoy some sangria on the patio. Check them out at Masiadeyabar.com
There are only so many hours in the day and there is only so much wine one can drink. Well at least when you are driving. So our visit to Lorimar’s new winery and tasting room did not include a tasting. This Temecula California property is beautiful and is conveniently located on Anza road off of Rancho California road across from the South Coast Resort, it was all dressed up for the Christmas Holiday. They have a tasting room in Old Town also but just opened the winery facility this year. These folks are big into music. The Old Town Tasting room often features music in the evening and stays open later than your typical tasting room. It is no different in wine country where they have music every weekend. They label themselves as “A Fusion of Wine, Art and Music”. Both tasting rooms have art galleries and the winery has additional events all the time. We got here around dusk and the place was packed. After strolling a bit it got dark and the winery is all lit up for the holidays. We stopped back early the next morning and were told that we had just missed all the hot air balloons over head. So, while I cannot yet rave about wines we tasted, we will share with you some great photos of this stunning winery and we will look forward to getting back, tasting, viewing the galleries and enjoying some music here with Lorimar.