Saturday, August 04, 2007

Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara

U. and I went on a group wine tour with Wine Edventures. They picked us up in their signature purple air-conditioned van, (supposedly it was in the movie "Sideways"), drove us around to 3 wineries and a tasting room, and had a picnic lunch for us. Oh and we also got souvenir wine glasses. (Only one made it home in one piece - the wine glass that is.)
Stop #1 - Koehler Winery in the heart of Santa Barbara wine county.

Koehler Winery
5360 Foxen Canyon Road
Los Olivos, California 93441
Above is a photo of their tasting room.

We also got a tour of how their wines are made.
We purchased 1 bottle of Pinot & 2 bottles of their Rose. (One as a gift for Jill, our daughter's Godmother who is babysitting the little one so we could enjoy this weekend getaway together.)
Notable sites we passed while driving along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in Santa Ynez Valley:
  • Firestone Ranch/Winery - Brooks Firestone, the grandson of Harvey Firestone (the tire entrepreneur) started a winery and brewing enterprise (infamous for the 3rd installment of the "The Bachelor" reality TV show when the bachelor Andrew Firestone takes the finalists back to his family's winery).
  • Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch - We just had a view of the back, but the property is huge!

Stop #2 - Buttonwood Winery

Buttonwood Winery
1500 Alamo Pintado Road
Solvang, California 93463

They bottle just 5,000 cases each year in a mixture of varietals - sauvignon blanc, semillon, marsanne, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and syrah.Buttonwood was the most picturesque of all the wineries we visited today with its orchards, and beautiful gardens. It was picture perfect for sitting on a bench in the garden with your loved one, sipping wine.

In addition to a winery, they're also farm with a peach orchard. You can see the peach orchard behind us in the photo above.

They also have picnic benches on the grounds, and that's just the spot our tour guide had picked out for our picnic.

We purchased 2 bottles of Rose, 1 Merlot, and a jar of their homemade peach/ginger jam.

Keeping in mind that we would have to carry all of the wine we purchased back with us on the train, we tried to pace of ourselves.

(We discovered that one of the bottles we purchased was corked "went bad" and when U. called the winery, they offered to send us 2 bottles of wine on the house. Nice!) Stop #3 - Lucas and Lewellen Tasting Room

Lucas and Lewellen
1645 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, CA 93463

Their tasting room was crammed full of kitschy items for sale.
This winery has vineyards in the Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, and Los Alamos Valleys, but has their tasting room offsite in Solvang.

This was the only stop where we didn't buy any wine. We didn't care for any of the wines they had on their "traditional" tasting menu. We did however get some sparkling wine at this stop. U. sporting "wine wear" just for demonstration purposes. (We didn't buy one.)

At first glance it's the dorkiest contraption, but when talking to another couple about it, they mentioned that they went to a large outdoor event with wine tasting and food and lots of people were wearing them and how nifty they are, because they free up your hands.

Stop #4 - Shoestring Winery

Shoestring Winery
800 East Hwy. 246
Solvang, CA 93463

I guess they saved the best for last because this was our favorite winery on this tour.The vineyard and winery are owned by Roswitha & Bill Craig, wife & husband. They came out from the East Coast and started the winery in 1997 on a shoestring budget, hence where the name comes from. They purchased this farm and converted it to a vineyard. (See photo of the old barn above that's now used to house their wine and as a tasting room.) They're a very small winery but are winning awards left and right. Since they're the "little guys" in the world of winemaking, you can only get their wine here (or via their website). We sat on benches, in the shade, under an olive tree (lovely and hit the spot!) and the owner Roswitha (she explained it's an old German name) talked to us about each an every wine that we tasted. You could tell she loves wine and loves what she does, and it was contagious. All of us were holding our wines up to the sunlight swirling the wine in our glasses to appreciate the color.

She also offered us chocolates with our red wine - oh so yummy!This is a photo of the inside of the barn that's used as a tasting room.Their wine is hand-farmed and hand-crafted, and aged in French oak barrels.

We loved ALL of the wines on their tasting menu. ( We joined the Shoestring wine club and ordered every single bottle on their tasting menu (see below) and had a case shipped to us.

2006 Pinot Grigio
This crisp white wine is simply luscious, light & refreshing.Our Pinot Grigio is not dry but "fruit forward" with a clean finish. It is low inalcohol & best served chilled, $22 a bottle (members $17.60)

2006 Syrah Rose
Only 200 cases made. Our Rose is a Syrah base with alittle Grenache & a splash of Sangiovese for color. Very similar to our Pinot Grigio, it is low in alcohol, fruit forward & best served chilled, $22 a bottle (members $17.60)

2003 Sangiovese
BRONZE medal winner 2007 Los Angeles International Wine Competition & SILVER medal winner 2006 Orange County Commercial WineCompetition. Blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in oak barrels 17 months,$26 a bottle (members $20.80)

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
SILVER medal winner 2007 Los Angeles InternationalWine Competition & BRONZE medal winner 2006 San Diego International WineCompetition. Blended with 12% Cab Franc, aged in French oak barrels for 2 years, $28 a bottle (members $22.40)

2003 Syrah
GOLD medal winner 2007 San Diego International Wine Competition& BRONZE medal winner 2006 San Diego International Wine Competition. Blended with 3% Malbec, aged in French oak barrels for 2 years, $28 a bottle (members $22.40)

(When we got back home, we opened a chilled bottle of Rose from Shoestring and we were in heaven. It's so refreshing and just perfect for the summer.)

Useful Tips

  • You can call the winery (see contact info on the wine bottle) and ask what the peak year is for the bottle of wine you have.
  • If you open a bad bottle of wine, you can call the winery and let them know and they'll send you a replacement.
  • It takes 3 sips to get the real taste of the wine.

Wine Tasting in Wine Country
The tour was great for getting a flavor of Santa Barbara county wineries and was convenient and hassle free. We also met a nice couple from Florida and another couple from San Jose. If you have a nice group of people with you it can make the experience more enjoyable.

If we go back, I think we'd research some wineries we'd like to visit beforehand and get a limo to drive us around. Then spend one day in Solvang where they have tasting rooms up and down the streets, perfect for walking and grabbing a bite to eat afterwards. Or do the organic wine tour next time.


CitizenRobots said...

Foxen = JUICY

Was turned off by the sheer amount of Republicans on the walls of the Firestone tasting room. Firestone patriarch and his kin posing with everyone from Reagan to the current Bushy. Bah!

Zaca Mesa got skipped on your tour, that's a shame, they have some lovely bottlings as well at affordable prices...

Buttonwood has a kick ass Rose... said...

I am redesigning the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail web site and would like to use a portion of your pictures and text from your blog. Do you mind? It would go in the "Pictures and Stories" Section. The new site is not ready but you can view the test site at
Comments are welcome!! Please reply to
Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Burgundy Wine lies at the very heart of France, and is one of the world’s finest wine producing regions. Located two hours to the southeast of Paris, the wine area starts in Chablis in the north of the region and then it follows the autoroute A6 southerly to Lyon.

The Burgundy soil is mainly based on oolitic limestone, upon which both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes flourish. The red wines, made with the Pinot Noir, are more difficult to grow because these grapes are more sensitive to disease or to being badly handled. Towards the south of the region, from around Macon, the soil changes to a reddish granite schist and sand of the Beaujolais. Here, the Gamay grape flourishes, making excellent red wines, many of which are drunk while they are young.

If you have not been to Burgundy, try it. It is a great part of France to visit for a holiday. Alternatively, stay at home and simply drink and enjoy the wine.
You can more information for the Burgundy Wine in:

Unknown said...

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Shayne G. said...

This blog is a great read. I have to agree with the comment above me though-good wine you know from the very first taste. An explosion of flavor that lasts a whole glass is what it is all about. Santa Barbara wine tasting is a great time and the beautiful surroundings and atmosphere is just an added bonus to an already memorable experience. I was there this past harvest season and I loved every minute of it. I went all over the place; Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Barbara. SB was my favorite-I can't wait to go back. I stayed at the South Coast Inn ( Really nice place; I'll be staying there again!

Judith said...

What is it with Santa Barbara and a good time? Oh right, wine tasting just makes everything so much more fun! If you're downtown at the urban wine trail or in the valley getting super into it, you are bound to broaden your horizons and fall in love with some grade A wine. I try and make it out each season and I'm counting down the days till this upcoming trip I have planned. My fiance and I are planning on staying at the South Coast Inn ( Nice and actually pretty affordable, especially for Santa Barbara standards!

Unknown said...

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