I know this post is late and some of you are gonna cringe at the sight of another Christmas gift post. I know I know. I'm sorry. D and I were eager to get out our Guatemala and HK posts and somewhere in the mix I totally forgot about our Christmas dinner.
Anyways, I noticed as I grow older, there are less and less things that I really want, if not need. Or was it the other way around? You know what I mean. I don't need anything and I don't really want anything. So when D asked what I wanted for Christmas, I gave him a blank stare and kept the poor guy asking for several weeks. Just days before leaving for Central America, D exhaled one last time, "Jeni...what do you want????"
Ok ok. Can we just go to Santa Barbara for the day?
The next day, on a very cold Saturday December morning, D and I headed out to Santa Barbara County. With high chances of rain, both of us were quite worried that the weather was going to dampen our day of wine. Instead, the cold weather along with Southern Californians' fear of rain was a blessing for a quiet day in Santa Barbara. Hallelujah!
The Foxen Canyon Road is one of the most beautiful drives in California. Rolling vineyards, simplistic tranquility, and views of the sun beaming on the valley hills are reasons that bring me back several times a year.
Our first stop began at Curtis Winery. Their Syrah's are notable, but the reason I always return to Curtis is for their Chuck Carlson Pinot Noir. Chuck Carlson, Curtis' winemaker has been making consistently great Pinots year after year. *Secret...after your Curtis tasting..whisper, "Do you have any Carlson's we can taste???" D loved his Carlson tasting and I ended up buying another bottle to add to my Carlson collection.
Carlson 2004 Pinot Noir "The Wedge" Talley Vineyards - True fruit. Stable tannins and great Pinot structure.
Carlson 2004 Pinot Noir Le Bon Climat Vineyard - Smooth-medium Pinot body. Smoky, earthy, cherry and stawberry. Pleasant light finish. Another consistent Carlson Pinot.
After Curtis we headed straight to Rancho Sisquoc. Rancho Sisquoc, the "gathering place" for wine lovers, is a ways down on Foxen Canyon Road. If you feel like you're lost, you're probably going the right way. Off the beaten Foxen Road path, pass the cows and calves and leave the complexities of the 21th century behind. Rancho Sisquoc's old-school California, a family-owned farmer kind of winery is an experience that is now forgotten in places like Napa. It's the perfect place for picnics and hanging out with wine friends. The next time we're up, this will be our first stop and we'll make sure to stay an hour or so to truly inhale one of Santa Maria's true wine gems.
2003 Cellar Select Meritage - Rancho Sisquoc has it's Meritage down to a science. Full black cherry and chocolate mouth, the Meritage is a big wine for such a small vineyard.
2004 Syrah - Though still young and slightly tannic, this Syrah is full and firm has a lot of potential in the next couple of years.
It was almost 5pm and most wineries were closed. Zaca Mesa was closed. Andrew Murray Tasting Room in Los Olivos was too far away. So the ladies at Rancho Sisquoc told us that if we rushed to Cambria, we'd make in time for an awesome Santa Maria sunset. Cambria, sits on top of a hill and it's views of the Santa Maria mountains are stunning.
Cambria 2005 Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir - Open up to raspberry and strawberry scents with a lean but silky finish. A bit of unstable finish that makes you squint your eyes at the initial sip. Latter sips improve.
With chilling temperatures, a pitch black dark night, bumpy roads, and a belly full of wine, I wasn't feeling well at all. D must have pulled over 5 times within 10 minutes of driving for me to have some intimate time with Santa Barbara's side roads. Mom, I was carsick, I promise.
I knocked out after those 5 stops and I didn't wake up until D shook me, "Jeni, we're at Hitching Post, come on, I got us a spot at the bar." I guess somewhere while I was knocked out, D went and waited for a spot at the coveted Hitching Post bar. Wiping my eyes, D dragged my wine butt in and plopped me on a bar stool.
Trying to sober up, umm, I mean, get over my carsickness, I started feeling better after talking to patrons next to me. The atmosphere at Hitching Post is really cool. The locals are incredibly friendly. (I'd be bitterly upset if my local hangout turned into one of the most popular stops for Sideway junkies.) Instead, they welcomed us with open arms. Clinging glasses of Pinot to a Merry Christmas, it was some good times.
I was starstruck chatting with Frank Ostini, owner and winemaker at the Hitching Post. He's a really humble guy.
D and I ordered some grilled artichokes which we devoured in seconds. We also shared a grilled Angus Rib Chop which was awesome. This bone-in rib steak cut off the roast and cooked slow over oak and was the best prime rib I've ever had. Their secret seasoning and perfected cooking methods produced nothing but a hearty and tender piece of cow beauty. D enjoyed more Hitching Post Pinots while I looked at him in disgust. "I hate wine!" is what I usually say when I've had a little too much.
Angus Rib Chop at the bar. Hitching Post Pinot Noirs are a must.
I love Santa Maria and Los Olivos, by far it's always been my favorite place for wine tasting. Boutique wines, friendly locals, and Santa Barbara's non-pretentious wine attitude is what I love most. If you haven't been to Santa Barbara county to taste, I truly recommend making a trip. For your first time, visit the wineries and several wine cellars for the most intimate tastings.
Wine Cask 2007 Futures - March 10th and April 28th are the set dates for this year's Wine Cask Futures. This event is a tasting of over 100 locally grown and/or produced wines from soon-to-be-released vintages. www.winecask.com
Santa Barbara County Vitner's Festival - April 21st at River Park near Lompoc. Over 100 Santa Barbara County wineries and vineyards come together to celebrate wine. Tickets start at $75. www.sbcountywines.com
Au Bon Climat Open House - On April 22nd, meet Jim Clendenen, the winemaker, and sample wines and Au Bon Climat's twice a year Open House. Au Bon Climat produces incredible Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays and does not open it's doors for regular tastings. www.aubonclimat.com
5249 Foxen Canyon Road
Los Olivos, Ca 93441
Rancho Sisquoc Winery
6600 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454
5475 Chardonnay Lane
Santa Maria, CA 93454
406 East Highway 246
Buellton, CA 93427
Open Table reservations