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Santa Barbara, CA

It's been almost two months since we went out tasting and my husband has been medically required to stay off of alcohol for 3 weeks, which hasn't stopped me from imbibing but is sort of mean to have a glass without him. Or so he keeps telling me. So we decided a jaunt to Santa Barbara wine country was in order to celebrate his jumping back off the wagon. Normally I wouldn't go anywhere on a holiday weekend, but the Red Sox 2007 World Series games were being rebroadcast on the radio and the man was willing to drive...so we took our chances with the crowds to check out some places I hadn't visited to see if we were missing anything. Plus it's really the only option for a one day tasting trip from LA.

LAFOND WINERY: Tasting Fee: $5 (Includes logo glass and 5 pours)
I decided to start the day here since it was the furthest winery out on my list. The wineries focus is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and they are very good at what they do. All their wines were enjoyable, especially their basic Santa Rita Hills bottlings ($18-$24). Their single vineyard Pinot Noir Clone 777 is a real standout, as is their SRH Syrah, which was truly yummy for $18. The staff was friendly and informative even as the bar got busier and busier. This is one to make time to visit. Their $5 fee a bargain considering the quality of their wines.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

almarosapic.jpgALMA ROSA: Tasting Fee: $5 (Includes logo glass and 6 pours)
I haven't been out to this location since it was the Sanford tasting room. Same owners, different name, still great wine. They've expanded the tasting area to include bars inside and out, which helps keep the wine flowing and affords some lovely views. Chris Burroughs still presides over the tasting room, though the rest of the staff was just as fun and friendly. Pinot is King here, for a very good reason. Both the Santa Rita Hills and La Encantada Vineyard bottlings are delicious. I also loved the 2005 El Jabali Vineyard Chardonnay, which being an ABC (Anything-But-Chard) Girl, was a surprise.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

SHOESTRING: Tasting Fee: $10 (5 Pours)
This is one the newest winery's to open and it's right on the 246 on the way to Solvang, so I decided to give it a try. Their list is unusual for the area, focusing on Italian varietals, with a Merlot and Syrah thrown in for trendiness. While the staff was friendly, neither the tasting/barrel room experience, nor the wines were worth the $10 fee. Their wines are drastically overpriced for the quality with only the Merlot making a positive impression. Quite a disappointment considering the first two places we visited.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

stolpman.jpgSTOLPMAN VINEYARDS: (6+ Pours. Don't know the fee, since it's free for members.)
We're Club Members here, so I was basically just picking up my shipment. Had to taste the wines of course. The standouts: Poetry in White and Poetry in Red (blends), L'Avion and Hilltops Syrah. Beware of the blond behind the counter. She's all business. With her job she should be having more fun. Had a great time talking to Tom Stolpman, the owner. He really knows his stuff and is rightly proud of his wines.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

panino.jpgMade our usual stop at PANINO, which is right next door to Stolpman, to grab a bite. Great gourmet sandwiches and definitely needed. Was feeling a bit punchy after tasting 25 wines in 2 hours. They have another location in Los Olivos, if you're in that area and want a quick bite. From there we went up Alamo Pintado Road from in an effort to hit the most wineries in one stretch (there's four) without having to enter the chaos of Los Olivos and escape the Solvang craziness.

BUTTONWOOD FARM: Tasting Fee: $7.50 (Includes the glass & 7 pours)
Used to come here regularly years ago. Have been off my radar for a while. They've actually kept their prices fairly reasonable for the area, which is good because their wines are enjoyable but nothing outstanding. The tasting room is nice with bars inside and out. The best wines were the Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Trevin (Bordeaux blend).
– For more information CLICK HERE.

lincourt.jpgLINCOURT: Tasting Fee: $10 (Includes logo glass and 5 pours)
Owned by the same people as Foley Estates, the wines are quite similar in style with Lincourt's being slightly less expensive. The tasting room is quite nice with an outside porch that you can linger or picnic on. The staff was friendly and attentive despite the number of people in the place. All the wines were enjoyable with the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir standing out. Nothing I had to have, but solid quality stuff.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

blackjackpic.jpgBLACKJACK RANCH: Tasting Fee: $12 (10 Pours)
I have to admit that my palate/brain was more than a little fatigued by the time we got here. That being said, given the state of intoxication, I thought I would like their wines more. Though the wines were good, it's clear from the prices that SIDEWAYS and Robert Parker's big scores have caused them to go a bit crazy. Chardonnay for $50? Even for Santa Barbara their prices are extremely high, except for the Syrahs which were in the normal range. The place was packed and we got timely pours, but that's about all. Even my husband, who was the DD and being cautious about quantity, wasn't overly impressed. Will give them another chance when I'm more clear-headed to see if my opinion changes.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

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