Vol. 2 No.2

Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez Valley

Visits in This Issue:

  1. Santa Barbara Winery
  2. Sanford
  3. Foxen
  4. Byron
  5. Rancho Sisquoc
  6. Buttonwood
  7. Wine & Spirits Emporium
  8. Los Olivos Tasting Room

(Journal and tasting notes from a one-day tour of the Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez wine areas. Tasting notes: each wine was scored using the requisite sight, smell, and taste impressions. Scores reflect two of the tasters opinions (EA, first column, MP second), and uses an alpha-oriented rating system. "n/n" indicates no notes , and "n/t" indicates not tasted. Although more extensive note-taking took place, specific descriptions are not included here.)

Saturday, June 4, 1994

Left Irvine at 7:35 for a 7-member group assault on the wineries of the Santa Ynez, and Santa Maria area.

Arrived at Santa Barbara Winery a little before opening at 9:45. Stretched our legs a bit in town, waiting for tasting room to open. Very friendly duo were handling tasting bar and the usual opening chores. Extremely efficient pourer kept all of us busy keeping up, especially MP and EA. As it turns out, tasting and gabbing is tough when you're the only group at the bar with the pourer all to yourself (a condition remedied soon enough). It also appeared that an interview with the winery administration was taking place in the back. SB poured us an incredible 12 wines N/C, including many that were normally subject to additional charge. A great stop, and a great start to our trip. Grabbed a quick bite at the tailgate, and left at 10:50.

Tasted at Santa Barbara Winery: 1991 Paradis; 1990 Chenin Blanc (Dry); 1989 Sauvignon Blanc Resv; 1989 Chardonnay Resv; NV Rouge; 1991 Pinot Noir Resv.; 1989 Zinfandel; 1988 Cabernet; 1990 Cabernet; 1990 LH Sauv. Blanc.; LH Zin.

Arrived 11:41 at Sanford after the long trek up 101. With this visit also slated as our lunch stop, we decided to taste first, picnic later. 2 pourers working their rustic tasting room on a hillside deep in a small canyon off the hwy. Served 4 pours N/C, pouring Sauv Blanc and Char at a table in the middle of the small room, with the Resv Char and Resv Pinot at the tasting bar. 2 dogs and cat in the room, plus a wide assortment of bugs, flies, and massive amounts of drifting Cottonwood blooms managed to fill the air with distractions. Took advantage of picnic table to do a sit-down-stand-around lunch. Left at 12:30 for next stop.

Tasted at Sanford: 1992 Sauvignon Blanc; 1991 Chardonnay; 1992 Char Resv; 1992 Pinot. (John's quick downing of his glass Pinot, got HIM another pour. Geez, are WE dumb! Looks like we've been doing this all wrong! Go figure.)

Decision time. Do we go up 101 to Byron as planned, or reverse our intended loop and go up Zaca Station Rd? Decided on 2nd option, and arrived at Foxen at 1:05 to a departing group of tasters. Good, we'd have the place to ourselves, and what with the tiny tasting room, that's just fine. Foxen's now got a great looking red T-shirt with Rob't Parker quotes on the back. Dick Dore (owner) doing the pouring. Meager pours and a busily filling room cut down some enjoyment of this unique stop. But, at least Foxen was pouring the Sanford/Benedict Pinot, albeit in small portions. Inquired about the bathroom, and informed that theirs was an "out-behind" bathroom. Chatted just a bit, but Dore was quite busy with the increasing crowd. It seemed that all of our stops got busier just after we arrived, if not before. Probably typical for most Saturdays. Left at 1:25

Tasted at Foxen: 1992 Chardonnay SM Vly; 1992 Chardonnay Est; 1992 Pinot Noir SM Vly; 1991 Pinot S/B Vnyd.

Arrived at Byron at 1:35 to yet another busy room. Pouring N/C (so far, all tasting N/C). One staffer was pouring, while the other was conducting their brief tour (more on this later). While awaiting some room at the tasting bar, asked about their tour, and were told we might be able to take a 15min tour as soon as the guide finished her current one. Waited patiently (well, most of us) for her to wind up other business and left about 2:10 for 10min tour. ie: "Here's our tank. We keep it real cold," etc. Out at 2:25.

Tasted at Byron: Chardonnay; Pinot Noir; Chardonnay Resv; Vin Gris.

Continued on up Foxen Cyn, and arrived at Rancho Sisquoc (later dubbed Rancho Sasquach, AKA Bigfoot) at 2:35. Arrived again to a busy place, but the crowd was breaking up. Talkative fellow pouring 7 wines N/C. Nice and friendly, until a member of the BPOE arrived. then it turned into a clubby thing. (Hate that; unless we're included, of course). After tasting, grabbed a picnic table and did a little relaxed snacking (tasting sure makes you hungry). Lovely setting in this Cyn. My guess is that these tables were probably packed from 11:30 till now. Out at 3:25 for a try at Zaca Mesa Winery.

Tasted at Rancho Sisquoc: Merlot; Sylvaner; Chardonnay; Sauv. Blanc; Cabernet; J. Riesling; LH Riesling


Arrived at 3:45 at Zaca Mesa Winery tasting room which appeared to be setting up for a wedding reception on the grounds in front. So, we decided to pass on a visit, and instead headed for a new winery we'd not visited before.

Pulled in to Buttonwood Vnyds at 4:05. Brand new tasting room/gift shop/herb store/organic Mecca in the Santa Ynez valley. Humph. I can't put my finger on it, but the place didn't seem winery-enough for me. Maybe it was because it looked like a "Hadley's" operation, with fruits, herbs, and the like. Maybe it was the "organic" signage out front. Maybe it was the $2.50 incl glass tasting charge. Or, maybe it was just all of the above, coupled with a "cold" tasting room. The pourer was obsessing about the installation of a new countertop. The wines were just okay-to-average, although I particularly enjoyed the Port, which, as it happens, was made from 4 of the original Portuguese grape varieties (Porto uses 6). Out at 4:25 for other dragons to slay.

Tasted at Buttonwood Vnyds: Merlot; Chardonnay; Sauv. Blanc; Cab; and Port.

Backtracking toward Los Olivos, we decided to pay a visit to the Wine and Spirits Emporium, a new tasting room that pours for wineries who have no facilities of their own. Arrived 4:30 at rural country store type of bldg. Very busy room, but thinning out . We appeared to arrive at the tail-end of the day's rush, so as we took up residence at the tasting bar, our pourer was rushing around emptying pour buckets, tidying up and cleaning glasses. As it turns out, this was the fellow that started the Los Olivos Tasting Room, and the similarity of the operation was unmistakable. Apparently, the LOTR was sold/given by the owner to his son, which ended up forcing out this fellow. Looks like he landed on his feet though. The setup was 8-10 wines for $4 per taster. He had some of the more unusual selections in the area, too. MP and I were the only tasters, and DA & JG waited in the car (our group is tiring). After MG just had to ask about Michael Jackson's place, out at 5:00.

Tasted at Wine & Spirits Emporium: J. Phelps Grenache; Makor somethingorother (notes certainly would have been a plus here); Lane Tanner Pinot; Qupe Marsanne; Qupe Viogner; Bonny Doon Framboise. No Au Bon Climate to be had though. As with most non-winery tasting rooms, visitors are only able to try samples of whatever happens to be open.

Into town for "last call' at the aforementioned Los Olivos Tasting Room. Arrived 5:05 to a stuffy, hot, and busy room. All our indicators read "NO, don't taste here." But, MP and I were up for more tasting, and CG and DA joined us. The same dour fellow encountered on previous visits (son of the previous owner, remember from previous story?) was pouring fairly tepid wine -- certainly nothing memorable. Seems like a disservice to ABC to pour their wines under these conditions. ABC probably ought to have somebody like Austin or the Wine & Spirits Emporium take a whack at it. Maybe I should write 'em. ...NAW!! Out at 5:25 for 5:30 dinner reservation at the Hitching Post in Buellton.

Tasted at Los Olivos Tasting Room: who remembers?

Dinner at Hitching Post in Buelton. Departed HP at 7:25. Arrived back home at 10:15, after a restless and squeaky trip. Nothing like filling up on beef just before you spend 3 hrs sitting in one place. Stats: total miles 438mi., 8 stops, 52 tastes.

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