Vol. 2 No.2
Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez Valley
Visits in This Issue:
- Santa Barbara Winery
- Rancho Sisquoc
- Wine & Spirits Emporium
- 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
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
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;
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
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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