I decided at the last minute to join some friends on a wine tasting trip to Santa Barbara. I couldn't think of a better place to spend the 4th of July.
We made a quick stop at Jeannine's Bakery in Montecito on our way up from LA. If you're driving up on the 101, this is worth the stop. Please note that they have several locations and it can get pretty crowded on weekends, so be prepared to wait or order ahead. I highly recommend the Kahlua Banana French Toast (challah bread topped with bananas sauteed in Kahlua, brown sugar and butter). It's a bit much but if you have a sweet tooth like I do, dessert for breakfast is always a great idea.
Santa Ynez Wine Trail
Nestled under California pepper trees and overlooking the Alamo Pintado Vineyard near Solvang, Lincourt retains the rural charm and simplicity of an earlier era. Once a dairy property, the old farmhouse—an original 1926 Sears Craftsman kit home—serves as our tasting room.
This was our first tasting for the day. We were there pretty early (11:15 am) so it wasn't very crowded yet. Julie, our pourer, was fantastic. She took the time and explained each of the wines. She even poured a few wines (2012 Foley Johnson Rosé and 2010 Lindsay's Pinot Noir) that were not on the tasting list. One of the things I liked most about Lincourt was that their grapes are all grown in Santa Barbara County (Santa Ynez, Santa Rita Hills). Also, their wine club is worth joining. Since Lincourt is owned by Foley Family Wines, you can also get complimentary tastings and discounts on wine at any of their sister properties. Their other properties in the area include Foley Estates and Firestone, and they also own wineries in Paso Robles, Sonoma, Napa and New Zealand.
Tasting Fee $10
Self-described as “California Rustic,” this tasting room has been constructed from materials salvaged from original buildings right on the ranch, with the tasting bar built from the salvaged wood of a retired bowling alley. Bleacher seats from the original Wrigley Field are also a part of the mix of materials that make this wine tasting experience truly unique.
The winery is owned by the man who invented California Blackjack, which is a variation of blackjack, hence its name. Blackjack Ranch was also featured in the movie Sideways. My favorite from the tasting was the 2007 Maximus Syrah which also happens to be the wine that was featured in the movie.
Tasting Fee $10 (They pour 12 wines for the tasting so you may want to share)
Founded in 1994 by Tom and Steve Beckmen, Beckmen Vineyards is a family-run, estate winery located in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley. Since its founding, Beckmen Vineyards has emerged as one of North America's premier producers of Rhone varietal wines, while also helping to establish Santa Barbara County as one of California's most highly regarded winegrowing regions.
We decided to purchase a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc and picnicked on their grounds. Next time I will definitely try to go in for a tasting.
Nestled in an oak-studded 40-acre vineyard, Roblar Winery is located in the heart of the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, just 30 minutes from Santa Barbara. Our winery reflects the spirit of “The Valley” as we locals call it—rustic, authentic, and bold.
We arrived at the winery 15 minutes before they were closing (they are open Thursday - Monday from 11AM-5PM) and since they were getting ready to close they could not accommodate us for a tasting. Instead they offered a complimentary taste of one of their wines. My friends thought it was rude that they were rushing us out instead of accommodating us, but it was the 4th of July and I'm sure they wanted to head out and enjoy the holiday. I'm indifferent but I would have liked to have tasted more of their wines. I tried their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and thought it was well-balanced and really enjoyed it.
Kalyra, a translation from the Australian Aboriginal meaning ‘A Wild & Pleasant Place.’ Its fun, international blends made the label wildly popular.
The winery / tasting room is known for its appearance in Sideways. It was where Sandra Oh's character worked.
We thoroughly enjoyed the tasting and the festive atmosphere. We had such a great time in the tasting room that we decided to purchase tickets to their upcoming wine stomping event. Wine stomping in togas, that didn't take much convincing. See the link below for more information on the event.
The Great Grape Stomp
Kalyra Sampler Tasting- $10, Reserve Dessert/Port Tasting- $12
Wandering Dog Wine Bar
We were still eager to taste some more but since most of the wineries were closed for the day we decided to go to a wine bar in Solvang. I decided to do the blind tasting and couldn't resist and grabbed some beer as well.
Wandering Dog's blind tasting is a great way to test your pallet and is available each week on Thursdays. They presented us with four half glasses (2.5 oz) of red wine to taste and we each had to guess the origin, vintage, varietal, price and alcohol percentage of each wine.
Blind Tasting $15
We ended our long day of wine tasting at a Spanish restaurant nearby and saw some of the fireworks from Old Mission Santa Ines.
Of all the wineries listed above, I would recommend the following:
Lincourt - good wines (2010 Lindsay's Pinot Noir, 2010 Lincourt Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Foley Johnson Rosé), excellent service, nice ambiance (tasting room, vineyard)
Beckmen - nice scenery
Kalyra - casual and fun atmosphere, variety of dessert wines
Wandering Dog - stop by on a Thursday for a blind tasting
I was actually quite surprised at how many wineries / tasting rooms were open on the 4th. Some were closed so if you do decide to go wine tasting on a holiday, call ahead and see which tasting rooms are open.
Happy 4th of July!