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sbsigns.jpgSIPPING IN SOLVANG – MAY 2008:
Santa Ynez Valley, CA

This quaint town built by Danish settlers in 1911 has been attracting visitors for almost 100 years. The wine industry only helps to bring in more tourists since Solvang's charm and proximity make it the perfect spot to stay for a weekend of wine tasting.

Most of the area's wineries have their own tasting rooms in the surrounding hills and valleys, but some are so small that they utilize the facilities of a few wine bars and shops in Solvang to give the public a taste of their wares. To that end, I decided to walk around town and see what these various shops had to offer.

tasteswinebar.jpgTASTES OF THE VALLEY: Tasting Fee: From $15-$25 for 6 tastes
Though I loved the movie SIDEWAYS, I'm one of many who believe it ruined wine tasting in this area. So I was a bit wary to go to this wine bar/shop as it touts itself as a Sideways Tasting Bar, whatever that means. As it turns out, its' classy atmosphere was warm and inviting and its' wine flights (named after the film's characters) are thoughtfully constructed with a focus on smaller producers from the region. One of the bar's owners, Dorothy, took care of us. She was friendly, attentive and willing to go off the menu if you wanted to try something not in your flight. Open to 8pm, later on the weekends, this is the perfect place to wind down after dinner if you're staying in town. It was packed at Happy Hour when we returned to purchase a few bottles, so clearly they're doing something right. The tasting fees are a bit steep but the pours were good and they're not doling out the cheap stuff.
1672 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA | For more information CLICK HERE.

TRIO TASTING ROOM: Tasting Fee: $15 for 7 tastes
This fairly new tasting room features the side efforts of winemakers Kris Curran (who worked at Cambria, Koehler and SeaSmoke) and her husband Bruno D'Alfonso (ex-winemaker for Sanford). They have been making their own wines for over a decade and the Trio tasting room gives you the chance to taste these small production bottlings. With big windows looking out onto Mission Drive, this is a nice place to belly up to the bar. The staff was friendly and attentive, though the pours were quite tiny. Two sips and the wine was gone. That said, they gave you a chance to revisit. I preferred D'Alfonso's wines to Currans, but both were well-constructed and easy to drink. Left with a bottle of the 2004 Di Bruno Sangiovese and was tempted to take home the 2005 Badge Pinot Noir. The wines are worth a pop-in.
Open Daily 11am-5:30pm | 1557 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA.

WANDERING DOG TASTING ROOM: Tasting Fee: $10 for 5 tastes, also by the glass selections
wanderingdog.jpgWe ended our day at this bar/shop that features some of the regions up-and-coming, acclaimed producers like Flying Goat, Blair Fox, Kenneth-Crawford, Kaena and Departure Wine Co. With over 200 bottles and 40 by the glass selections, you will find something you love. Co-owner CT Williams was behind the bar and he knows everything about every bottle in the place. Probably because he helped select them. There are 10 themed flights to address any and every palate. Their main focus is on smaller production wineries from the region, but they also have a nice selection of wines from around the world. Not as intimate or fancy as Tastes of the Valley, but the atmosphere is pleasant and unhurried. We had a hard time leaving. Will definitely be back.
Open Wed-Mon 11am-8pm | 1539 Mission Drive #C, Solvang, CA | For more information CLICK HERE.

STOLPMAN VINEYARDS: ($10 for 6 Pours. Free for members.)
stolpman.jpgPopped in to pick up my wine club shipment. Looks like they're moving from this location to Los Olivos at the end of the summer. That should definitely help bring more wine lovers to the fold. Loved the 2006 L'Avion (Roussanne with a touch of Viognier) and the just released 2005 Sangiovese. Bright berries, lush mouthfeel with just the right amount of acidity. Way bigger than last year's version. Yummy right out of the bottle. Was getting one bottle with my May Shipment, had to add a second. Also got to try the 2005 Angeli. All I can say is WOW.
(Stolpman has since moved their tasting room to Los Olivos. Check their website for new location.)
– For more information CLICK HERE.

→ A full list of what I tasted can be found HERE.

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