Shawn - also known as the Wandering Wino - is the Wine Bloggers Conference ambassador for the Santa Barbara Vintners. This is the first of a series of articles for conference attendees.
When travelers get to planning those fun and exciting trips, often the anticipation, research, and discovery can provide a lot of positive emotional mileage before one even gets close to an airport. Travel agents, Google maps, Yelp, suggestions of locals, concierge and, of course, our very own Santa Barbara County Wines can often be great resources.
For all the wine-blogging rock-stars headed to Santa Barbara County this July, consider this to be custom concierge "Cliff Notes." Good beer, wine, food, and anything fun within 1 mile or so from the host hotel (Buellton Marriott) is often considered gold. This is wine country, and taxi cabs are not exactly plentiful in Santa Barbara. Depending on a traveler's shoes, physique, and "condition" of his/her condition, the distance he/she will want to walk will vary. Climate, of course, will not be a factor; after all, this is Santa Barbara in July.
One Way Distance Key
Stone's Throw - 100 yards or less
Lace Up - 101 yards to .9 mile
Hitch a Ride - 1 mile +
Lace Up: Cold Heaven
92 2nd Street, Buellton, CA
Standing Sun - Next door
For those too "over-the-top" excited to get their wine-tasting experience started, stumble on over all the way across the street to Cold Haven. While we are only talking the distance it takes from home plate to second base, one might be challenged by playing "Frogger" across the 101, so put your high heels away for this .7 of a mile walk.
Around these parts, Morgan Clendenen is known as "the Queen." Most people think of Morgen as the Queen of Viognier; however, a few might suggest she's the Queen of comedic sarcasm. Cold Haven primarily produces stellar Viognier and Pinot Noir. Should you happen to trip out the door, you could find yourself inside another tasting room which is not currently a member of the association, so "Shhh" cause you didn't hear it here. Evenings at Standing Sun is often a party atmosphere with live music, wine by the glass/tasting/bottle, and good finger foods.
Lace Up: Ken Brown Wines
157 West Highway 246, Buellton, CA
For those looking to learn about Santa Barbara history, and the vineyards, visit master jedi Ben Kenobi, AKA industry legend Ken Brown. Bring your recording devices as you will not want to miss a thing. Ken Byron Brown has been producing wine in Santa Barbara County since the early/mid 1970's and continues to be a shining-star producing Pinot Noir's from several stellar vineyards. Ken Brown would likely be on many wine enthusiasts short list of people to seek out. Get those comfy shoes for this .7 of mile.
Hitch a Ride: Loring/Cargasacchi
420 E. Hwy 246, Buellton, CA
Two wineries, one glass! Brian Loring and Peter Cargasacchi paired up in one location just 1.2 miles from the Marriott. Both wineries produce a few different varietals, however, both find common ground in Pinot Noir. Brian sources fruit from various parts of California and Oregon, while Peter picks from his two local vineyards Cargasacchi/Jalama just a short distance away. The Jalama vineyard just might be the closest vineyard to the ocean inside of Santa Barbara County, while Cargasacchi is part of the Sta Rita Hills AVA. Brian and Peter couldn't be more unique in both personality and wines. Be sure to bring your sense of humor and sarcasm dictionary, unless of course you are fluent.
Lace Up: Hitching Post II
406 East Hwy 246, Buellton, CA
Feeling hungry, nostalgic, thirsty, or just want to see one of the best Santa Maria Style red oak BBQ spots around? Then walk .7 of a mile to The Hitching Post II. I have had the pleasure of eating there since the late '90's back when reservations were not as highly suggested as they are now. The movie Sideways has thrusted the restaurant into the limelight. If travelers aren't familiar with the great BBQ, well, it is on the suggested list. BBQ master Frank Ostini and wine business partner Grey Hartley have been producing their own Hitching Post II Pinot Noir for many years and have lots of local wines available in the full bar.
Lace Up+ or Hitch a Ride: Ostrich Land USA
610 East Hwy 246, Buellton, CA
If you are still feeling Sideways enthralled, then stop by Ostrich Land USA past the Hitching Post II. This is only suggested for those with extra comfy shoes and interest, as this one stretches way past stumbling distance. If you're curious about this tasty bird, it has been a Hitching Post II menu item for years. This bird does not taste like chicken, but, in fact, just like steak.
Lace Up+ or Hitch a Short Ride 1.4 miles away: Avant Tapas and Wine
35 Industrial Way, Buellton, CA
If movie location shoots aren't your thing, then maybe tapas might have you at "Hello." Avant Tapas and Wine offers nearly 50 small/local producers by the ounce, glass, and bottle. Their full menu includes small/medium/large plates, pizzas, and tapas. Many smaller wine labels have their wine produced inside of this custom crush facility, named Taravant. Here at Avant, a guest can purchase a card to the self-serve great wall of wine, where one can create a personal wine-tasting experience.
Barefoot is really not suggested, but it really is that close.
Stone's Throw: Firestone Walker Brewing Company
620 McMurray Rd, Buellton, CA
It is often said, "It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine." Recently I was talking with a sommelier at World of Pinot Noir. He shared his experience at Firestone, and described having three kegs of beer in his hotel room for the sommeliers' party. Who doesn't love a good palate cleanser, and what better than beer?
Firestone gratefully is one of the closest spots on our list, but be patient, as they do not open the doors until 4:00 PM. Firestone needs little introduction to the typical Californian; but, for those visiting, this is the same family that was in the tire business so many years ago. The story of how Firestone beer started is a great one, and well worth stumbling a straight path half a block to do some journalistic investigation.
Hitch a Ride: Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.
45 Industrial Way, Buellton, CA
Still got the buzz of beer interest, or just want to switch it up, then hitch a short ride to Figueroa Mountain Brewery. The nearest of their three locations isn't far from Avant, just about 1.5 miles from the Marriott. I think any visiting Oregonians might be pleasantly surprised.
Hitch a Ride - 1 mile: Industrial Eats
555 McMurray Rd, Buellton, CA
The big buzz in the area over the past months has been one of the newest restaurant editions to the area, Industrial Eats. Anyone, by now, may have seen the trend, yes, this fun eats is also located on Industrial Way. Lots of cool stops to visit on this small stretch of road that also is home to the California Highway Patrol. Stay safe all, and walking with a group can be a lot of fun.
Lace Up: Antonio's Pizza & Pasta
280 E. Hwy 246, Buellton, CA
After a long day of drinking, many might have a short list of dinner items that tend to please: Steak - Hitching Post II, Sushi - ARU Japanese (225 McMurray Rd), Mexican - Taco Roco (245 Avenue of Flags). Curious to continue down the local wine path while sharing a pizza with friends, then head over to Antonio's Pizza & Pasta. This locals pizza spot also carries a few local brews, to keep you emerged in Santa Barbara.
The April Vintners Festival, for thirty years Santa Barbara County’s favorite way to taste wines and meet winemakers, has for 2014 expanded into the four-day Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, April 10-13, and includes vineyard hikes, barrel toasting seminar, winemaker dinners, golf tournament, winery open houses, and much more.
The Santa Barbara Vintners has joined forces with Solvang-based Relevé Unlimited and upped the ante and offerings for 2014. New this year are ten “Signature Events” focusing on education, wine, food, and Santa Barbara County’s world-class vineyards, bucolic towns, and the gorgeous city of Santa Barbara. Additionally, more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms are hosting individual events.
On Saturday, April 12, is the weekend’s crown jewel, the annual Vintners Festival Grand Tasting, held this year from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Buellton’s beautiful River View Park. The more than 100 winery members of the Santa Barbara Vintners will pour their newest releases, and the county’s top-rated restaurants and caterers will offer bites and small plates of culinary goodness. This year attendees will be able to purchase wine by the bottle or case and view the new Art Walk exhibit.
The Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend opens at noon, Thursday, with a shotgun-start golf tournament at Goleta’s Sandpiper Golf Course, overlooking the ocean. Join host Rex Pickett, “Sideways” author and playwright, and celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the film that showcased Santa Barbara County with a “Sideways” trivia contest. Enjoy food from some of Santa Barbara’s food trucks and sip Foxen Vineyard & Winery and William James Cellars wines from stations right on the course.
After golf, drive up the coast along Route 101 to enjoy the Sta. Rita Hills AVA dinner and wine pairing at Buellton’s new hot restaurant, Industrial Eats, at 6:30 p.m.. The evening opens with a sparkling wine reception hosted by Clos Pepe Vineyards, followed by a delicious meal paired with wines produced in the AVA. Presenters include Clos Pepe’s Wes Hagen and Steve Pepe, Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa Winery, and Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, as well as wines from Dierberg Estate Vineyards.
Friday’s events begin at 9:00 a.m. with a day-long Wine Education Seminar Program at Hotel Corque in Solvang, featuring four seminar sessions, a gourmet lunch, and culinary/wine tasting stations. Topics of the seminars include: an overview of Santa Barbara County sparkling wine; a comparison of American Viticultural Areas (AVAs); a vertical seminar tasting; and an exploration of the wines from Bien Nacido. For more details on each seminar, visit www.sbvintnersweekend.com
Each seminar will include a handful of winemakers, who will share their experiences about the respective topics. Clos Pepe winemaker Wes Hagen will be the seminar series moderator. In addition to his role at Clos Pepe, Hagen has lectured at Cornell University, and researched and written the three most recently approved AVAs in Santa Barbara County — Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and Ballard Canyon. He teaches a series of food and wine pairing classes at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.
Friday afternoon includes Vineyard Hikes at five distinct vineyards in Santa Barbara County: Purisima Mountain, Baehner Fournier, Hilliard Bruce, Buttonwood, and Refugio Ranch.
Friday evening features a Barrel Toasting Seminar and barrel tasting hosted in Buellton by a group of wineries, and, in Santa Barbara at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort Hotel, the 90+ Points Top Rated Wine & Dine event, featuring winemakers whose wines have earned 90 points and more from various critics. Additionally, Brewer-Clifton, Brander Vineyard, and Flying Goat Cellars have events planned including a cheese pairing seminar, a seminar on Cabernet Sauvignon led by a Master of Wine, and a winemaker dinner at La Purisima Mission.
Saturday evening debuts the Vineyards Dinner Event featuring Sea Smoke, Grassini, Magerum, Dierberg, Kaena, Fiddlehead, and Andrew Murray at Grassini Family Vineyards in Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. The four-course menu will be prepared by Village Modern Foods of Santa Barbara, and served under lakeside under oak trees, right in the vineyard. Melville, Lucas & Lewellen, Foxen, and Longoria are also hosting Saturday evening wine dinners at special locations.
The final Signature Event of the Vintners Weekend is the Farm-to-Table Picnic and Concert at 11:00 a.m. Sunday and features Jamestown Revival at Fess Parker Winery on Foxen Canyon Road. Jamestown Revival has appeared on “Conan O’Brien,” “Last Call with Carson Daly” and the KCRW radio show “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” The duo blends Americana/Folk, Texas twang and back porch indie rock.
Sunday is also the traditional day of the Spring Weekend when many wineries host open houses and special events. This year includes an impressive list of participants including: Melville Winery, Pence Ranch, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, Au Bon Climate, Qupe, Brewer-Clifton, Flying Goat Cellars, Longoria Wines, and Kalyra Winery.
For more information about all the events throughout the weekend, as well as details on advance purchase tickets, visit www.sbcvintnerweekend.com or call 805-688-0881. You can get daily weekend updates on social media using #sbvintnersfest.
The start of 2014 brings California’s statewide celebration of all things delicious – California Restaurant Month. Throughout the month of January various communities throughout the state are hosting Restaurant Weeks, when cafés, bistros, bars, and restaurants open their doors for one week to share their culinary creations at a discounted price. No longer do you have an excuse not to visit the new restaurant that just opened, or the local favorite down the street. Here in Santa Barbara Wine Country, treat yourself to prix fixe menus at some of the top restaurants in Santa Barbara County, and explore what local ingredients can become in the hands of talented chefs. Best of all, since you are in Wine Country, you will have the chance to enjoy the bounty of the region's wines.
Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week
Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang join together from January 19th – 25th for the Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week sponsored by Visit Santa Ynez Valley Start living the life* by enjoying the varied cuisines found in the Valley and be amazed by the savings you’ll receive by dining out. To ring in the New Year every participating restaurant and brewery will offer a prix fixe, 3-course menu for only $20.14. That’s 19 different places offering a starter, entrée, and dessert for just over $20! Keep in mind this does not include tax, gratuity, or beverages – some menus may include beer or wine so check them out if you’re interested.
*Living the life? That’s the Visit Santa Ynez Valley motto…
Santa Maria Restaurant Week
Savor Santa Maria delicacies at the five restaurants participating in Santa Maria Restaurant Week January 19th – 25th sponsored by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. Get your fix of Santa Maria style barbeque and explore other dishes at The Historic Santa Maria Inn, Vintner’s Bar and Grill, Rooney’s Irish Pub, Far Western Tavern, and Pasión Comida Mexicana. Each of these restaurants will be offering a prix fixe, 3-course menu for only $20.14. Again, remember this doesn’t cover tax, gratuity, or beverages.
Santa Barbara’s Restaurant Week
Film Feast, sponsored by Visit Santa Barbara, is January 30th – February 9th, coinciding with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (To view the Film Festival schedule, purchase tickets/passes, or learn more click here.) Over 30 restaurants, tasting rooms, and bars have created special offerings and prix fixe menus during Film Feast’s 11 day celebration. Want to make a night of it? A week of it? Take advantage of the special lodging packages found here so you can fit in dinner, the movies, and more! The cities participating in Film Feast include Carpinteria, Montecito, Summerland, Santa Barbara, and Goleta so there’s sure to be a steal near you.
Take advantage of California Restaurant Month and you’ll support local businesses, try new dishes, and discover new favorite spots. You’ll want to make reservations as most places fill up quickly.
With this many restaurants offering special deals, the hardest decision in dining out will be choosing where to go first!
Interesting stories from Santa Barbara Wine County.