On Wednesday we toured Santa Barbara wine country, best known of late for their Pinot Noir’s thank to the movie Sideways, but as we learned there’s so much more to the region. You can buy a lot of the wines we tasted in MA, and nationwide, or you can have them shipped directly from the Vineyard (unless you live in MA) if any sound good. A friend of my Mother’s is a bona fide member the California wine possee (he’s friends with the REAL Bo Barret from Bottle Shock), so he arranged the day for us, if you’re planning on going, this is a great route to follow!

We started the morning out at Foxen Vineyard, founded in the 1980’s, it was the furthest stop on our tour, in the town of Santa Maria, about an hour from Santa Barbara. They have two tasting rooms, a new solar-powered building, where they also make the wine, and an old wooden shack from the 1880’s (featured in Sideways). We stopped at the new spot first, tasted some Chardonnay and Pinot, and then drove less than a mile down the road to the old shack where we tasted some more and bought a Savingon Blanc (not as fruity as an NZ one, but lemony and fresh nonetheless). The best part of the trip down was the last 10 miles. You drive along a country road through the hills, it was beautiful, my pictures barely do it justice.

Our next stop, 20 minutes down the road, was the town of Los Olivos, for lunch at Patrick’s Side Street Cafe (yup it’s on a side street of Main Street). I got a massive salad with goat cheese, my brother got an italian sandwich, and mom got a major frittatta. I washed mine down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, but the more memorable wine was my brother’s 2007 Babcock Pinot Noir. After lunch we tried to find a bottle to buy, Los Olivos is FULL of tasting rooms, but alas, we learned it’s only sold at the Vineyard (more on that later).

Our next stop was Foley Wines, where they were “expecting us” thanks to a pre-arranged call by Mom’s friend, and we got to taste their regular lineup, along with some “under the table” Pinot’s. All their grapes are grown on site (at least from the ones we tasted) and some are grown totally naturally, only being watered by mother nature. My favorite was a steel chardonnay (Santa Rita Hills 2007), and my brother’s was a barrel chardonnay (2007 Rancho Santa Rosa Barrel Select). Steel tastes fresh, oak tastes more like your typical buttery chardonnay. Also, we tried a pretty neat Syrah (2006 Rancho Santa Rosa) with blueberry undertones, definitely different and not as heavy as a typical Syrah. So, when we found out we also got a “friends” discount we bought all three!

The last stop on the tour was supposed to be Melville Vineyards, and low and behold when we pulled in we saw they shared a driveway with another Vineyard, Babcock! The home of Paul’s Pinot from lunch, so we clearly had to stop at both! We started at Meliville and tasted their line-up, buying a Pinot we liked.

Then we drove across the drive to Babcock and tasted their wines, in a small shack much like Foxen’s. Paul got his Pinot, and I got a little insider tour of the barrel room (well the door was open, so I walked in and asked if I could take a look).

As we were leaving one of the guys was pouring some wine out of a barrel (French Oak, obvs) into a Tupperware container. I asked what he was doing and he said they were about to bottle this particular Syrah and wanted to make sure it was good to go. “Want a taste?” He asked. Clearly we obliged and got a hefty glass. It was probably the best we’d tasted all day, but we’ll have to wait a few months until it’s bottled and shipped!

It was a great day, spent in great company (the people and the grapes)… If you’re going to the central coast anytime soon, make wine country a must see!


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