As I was passing Santa Maria, I remembered I just read an article about a wine maker from New Zealand who loved Grenache but was having problems growing it. Her solution was to move to Los Alamos and open a winery. So, I changed up what I was planning and made my first stop at Grace Wine Company. The tasting room is right off Bells and Helena, which just happens to be the area you want to be for food and wine. Across the way, you have Plent on Bell, which is a casual nice little eatery where you can grab a bite and pair it with wine, craft beer, coffee, or ice cream.
Just around the corner from there you have the now world-famous BELLS eatery where you get farm to table lunches and dinners (make sure to make a reservation). For lunch, you should be able to walk in with no problems but still make a reservation to be sure. Then Pico is next door. Pico is similar to Bells, which was kind of high end but really good food and a great local wine selection. I ordered my tasting and first up was Rose of Grenache, which was very light but full of flavor, with a hint of rose pedals and peach with bit of earthiness. At only 12.2%, it is definitely a summer crusher.
2nd on the flight was a 2019 Grenache sourced from Rancho Cucamonga. I didn’t even know they had vineyards. Color on this is perfect, like a rose pedal sitting in water, clear but with a red see through tint, nose was nice cola raspberry and dry hibiscus, taste was even better than the nose: it kept the hibiscus tea flavor with a hint of rhubarb and red berries.
If you haven’t noticed, both wines are grenache. That’s because this winery does all grenache wines. I won’t continue & bore you with every tasting but after the first 3, I would recommend this winery to everyone. Their 2018 grenache was mentioned in The New York Times best grenache is the U.S., and yes, it is that good! The tastings are $20 for the standard  or $25 reserve .
My second stop for the day was in Buellton, California right off the Highway 1 and about 5 minutes on freeway 256 you’ll find Buscador tasting room on Industrial Way. Buellton is a small town where you’ll mostly find hotels and restaurants, one of which is the Sideways Inn that changed its name from the Windmill inn after it was featured in the movie Sideways.
If you take a drive on Industrial Way, you’ll find a highly recommended restaurant called Industrial Eats (which just happens to be across Buscador) where you can grab a brick oven pizza or one of the many specials and walk over to a small industrial park where Buscador is along with a hand full of other tasting rooms. You’ll find a mural of a huge wave with a picture of a guy named Matt with his surfboard. Matt is not only the owner, but also the winemaker and he’s also the guy that will be pouring for you. Here you will find him pouring every bottle from Chenin Blanc to Petit Verdot, GSM and Cab Sauv, all made by Matt himself. Did I mention he also harvests everything himself?
I’m a big fan of everything he makes and recommend doing a tasting, or a bottle, or both. He has a small but very nice tasting room inside and outside they provide picnic style seating. My favorites are the Grenache, Petit Verdot and GSM. Tastings are $20, and also, he has the best membership and member benefits in the area.
I finished off my first day at an event at Brick Barn Winery which is what brought me down to the area. If you like wine, you might consider a membership at one of the wineries you like. You get great perks, one being member parties like the one I attended at Brick Barn this weekend. They called it “The Summer Bash”, which included dinner, 3 complimentary pours of Grenache Blanc and a stainless Chardonnay, a free Brick Barn wine glass plus members only deals on cases. The event was free, and you didn’t have to buy anything, but most did because they were extremely marked down. The food was really good, actually, way better than I expected. Also, people were buying bottles and were sharing so you can only imagine how I left that night. That is how it is at Brick Barn, which is much nicer than any barn and is located about 3 minutes south of Buscador on the 246. They make a variety of wines, but my favorites are the Vermentino, Grenache and the red blend. Tastings are $20
I got a late start the next day and after a trifecta pour from the Good Seed Coffee Boutique in Solvang, I was ready to hit the tasting rooms. First off, I grabbed a good slice of pizza at The Wine Merchant in Los Olivos. If you’ve never been there, you might recognize it from the movie Sideways where Miles got drunk and called his ex-wife. The place is usually packed but if its only you and another person, just ask to sit at the bar. I like the pizzas but recommend just about anything on the menu and pair it with a glass of local vino.
You can literally spend all weekend in Los Olivos and never taste at the same tasting room twice. My first stop was Barbieri wines which was highly recommended by friends at Brick Barn. First, tastings are only $15, so why not have 2! The friends I met at Brick Barn called ahead and told them I would be stopping by, and I was lucky to try everything they made. Needless to say, this was my only stop of the day since I was leaving after 5pm. My favorites were the Syrah’s, especially the Colson Canyon Syrah and the Romanovs Syrah blend with 5% Viognier.
I ended my weekend with a nice early morning bike ride through the Santa Ynez mountains then had breakfast at the Bakers Table. Try their daily specials and one or all the pastries. I had the breakfast sandwich with arugula and prosciutto on a ciabatta and a coffee before my ride back to pack up. The area is beautiful, so make sure you take time to take a walk or ride or even a drive through the hills and towns. I made one last quick stop before my drive home; the good people at Barbieri recommended Story of Soil in Los Olivos. I was their first customer, so I was sat right away. I was told they had a killer Grenache, so I dove right into a whole cluster carbonic grenache which was served cold and tasted fantastic. The color was great with a light ruby clear red, it has a subtle bubbly thing going. Not a wine cooler or beer but somewhere around that area; it is a red wind wine made for the summer, especially these extreme hot summers we get in Fresno. If you want a chilled red, this is it. I really loved my visit to the Story of Soil tasting room and can’t wait to go back and make them my first stop.
’til next time… HK