Santa Barbara Wine Country: Part One
When most people think of California Wine Country they usually think Napa and Sonoma Valleys. But there are more wine regions in California than you may think. I had the pleasure of spending time in Santa Barbara Wine Country as part of a blogger/influencer trip coordinated by Emily Martin of The Jetsettting Fashionista and Emily Martin Communications & Events
Emily, along with Lacey Fussel and Lisa Gerbac of Muse Wine Marketing, hosted several bloggers for a 48-hour adventure tasting great wine, fabulous food and taking in the sights in Santa Barbara Wine Country. I was delighted to be included and couldn’t wait to visit a California Wine County I had yet to experience!
Thankfully, Bill was able to join me for this fun weekend. We left early the morning of the first day. We planned to arrive with enough time to have lunch and do a little sightseeing in the area before checking into our hotel and meeting up with our group.
We decided to visit the charming town of Solvang. It had been many years since we spent time at this Danish-settled village with lots of windmills, pastry shops and flower gardens. We arrived late morning and walked around the village, working up an appetite for lunch.
Since I knew we’d be in the car for several hours, as well as walking around exploring, I dressed comfortably, but of course I still wanted to look stylish. I wore jeans, light gray suede booties, a long-sleeved top by Covered Perfectly and a Stella Carakasi jacket from the Resort 2017 Collection.
We checked out three or four restaurant menus before deciding on Bacon & Brine. It had such an an appealing and interesting menu with lots of locally grown and sourced fare.
We ordered the Fried Brussels Sprouts and they were truly the best Brussels sprouts we have ever tasted. You would think with a name like Bacon & Brine they would be covered in delicious bacon but they weren’t! Instead the Brussels sprouts were fried in sesame oil and topped with ponzu sauce and sesame seeds. I’m going to try making them at home sometime.
After lunch we drove the short distance to our hotel, the Marriott Santa Ynez Valley. With a friendly and welcoming staff, large and contemporary lobby and bar area, and well-appointed guest rooms, it’s a lovely and convenient place to stay when visiting this wine region.
I thought this little alcove area in our room was so cute and ideal for getting a few things done on the laptop between outings.
We had a knock at the door soon after checking in, and were greeted with a lovely surprise! A tray of snacks, a bottle of wine and some water for our room. What a lovely treat!
Once we got settled and unpacked, we dressed for the evening. I wore my Karen Klein dress, suede booties with tights and a leather choker. Soon it was time to meet the group and head to the darling town of Los Olivos.
Epiphany Cellars is located in downtown Los Olivos and is part of the Fess Parker family of wines. Epiphany focuses on Rhone varietals, most from the Santa Barbara Wine Country. We expereinced a sit-down wine tasting with Eli Parker, son of Fess Parker, founder of Epiphany Cellars and the label’s Brand Visionary.
The outside of the tasting room is quaint and charming while the inside is hip and chic with a retro Mad Men vibe.
I love the orange furniture against the light flooring and walls, as well as the metallic accents and lighting. It was such a fabulous setting!
Epiphany was founded originally as a creative outlet when Parker was winemaking. These days, as Brand Visionary, he’s left that role and given it to Blair Fox, who is the talented and well-known winemaker for both Epiphany and Fess Parker labels.
As an enthusiast of mostly white wines, I loved this 2014 Inspiration from Santa Barbara County. It’s a drinkable and lovely blend of 50% Viognier, 25% Marsanne, 13% Roussanne, 12% Grenache Blanc. Ideal for summer sipping on the patio!
Adjacent to Epiphany is the Bubble Shack. Siblings Ashley Parker Snider and Eli Parker created this special tasting room for their line of bubbles. Ashley and Eli collaborated to bring sparkling wines to their customers. Their Fesstivity Blanc de Blanc and Brut Rose from Sta. Rita AVA are their first releases.
While we weren’t able to experience the Bubble Shack during our visit, it’s certainly on my list of things to do next time!
After our visit to Epiphany Cellars concluded, it was time to eat! We went to The Ballard Inn’s restaurant, The Gathering Table. What a romantic and relaxing atmosphere! Candle lit tables, a roaring fire in the dining room’s fireplace, and only 12 tables in the entire restaurant. Chef Budi Kazali, named CCM’s Ultimate Chef, has been the owner of this beautiful property since 2004.
I sat with Emily and two other influencers at the end of our long table. We decided to order several plates to share – cheese fondue, fresh oysters on the half shell, a salad and hamachi. Delicious, fresh and flavorful!
Not wanting to miss out on any desserts, we ordered three to share. All three were delectable but I loved their bread pudding!
The next morning, we had breakfast in the hotel before heading to Gainey Vineyard for a tour and tasting. It was such a gorgeous winter day with sunshine and blue skies.
I was excited to see that Gainey has such an expansive and picturesque ranch with vistas as far as the eye can see.
If you look closely, you can see the Santa Ynez Mountains in the background were capped with a bit of snow.
We would be taking a tour of the property – not by foot but by jeep. What an adventure! Cloud Climbers Jeep and Wine Tours provided the jeeps and the skilled drivers. I love the yellow color of the jeeps – my favorite!
Our guide and driver was Michelle. She was so friendly! Doesn’t this seem like such a fun job to have?
We stopped by a vineyard to learn more about Gainey Vineyard. It’s a family owned winery that was established in 1984. Gainey makes small quantities of high-quality wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon Wines.
The Gainey family owns three properties in two appellations – Santa Ynez and Sta. Rita Hills – and is able to produce enough fruit to produce 18,000 cases of estate wines each year, meaning they don’t buy grapes from other growers.
Driving up and down hills, through some mud and over rocks, we explored a good portion of the ranch. When we came upon a rustic barn, we stopped for a break and some photo opportunities. The Gainey’s use this barn for events, like weddings. Wouldn’t this be such a great place to get married?
It was a lovely and peaceful place to walk around. The day was sunny but a little cool – it was wintertime after all – so I wore a sweater poncho, a long-sleeved tee, jeans tucked into tall cognac boots and my wool Australian Outback hat. For jewelry, I wore a beaded necklace with a tassel necklace from KayandStar (similar).
I ventured into the barn with Amy Lieberfarb who is a friend and fellow blogger, also from a Sonoma Valley. Amy has the blog Sip on this Juice and does the wildly popular weekly wine discussion on Twitter called Sonoma Chat (#sonomachat).
Once the jeep tour was complete, we went back to the winery and visited the barrel room.
Once there, we had the chance to sample a few more Gainey Vineyard wines right out of the barrel!
Stay tuned for Part Two of the Santa Barbara Wine Country adventure!
Have you ever visited Santa Barbara Wine Country?
Disclosure: My hotel room, meals (except for Bacon & Brine) and wine tasting experiences were part of the blogger/influencer trip and I was not charged. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always.