Santa Barbara invasion: DAY 2
This post has been a long time coming….partially because I made some changes to the itinerary and partially because I’ve just been busy lately. But the trip is upon us….Day 2 brings us to the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area), which is more of a sub-AVA located within the western portion of the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA. Sta. Rita Hills (the “Santa” got abbreviated to “Sta.” on the wine labels a few years back out of a settlement with some growers from Chile over use of the name) is Pinot Noir country, made famous in Sideways, with Miles (Paul Giamatti) even explaining in the movie dialogue about how the fog rolls in here from the Pacific Ocean, making for cool mornings and ideal growing conditions for this finicky grape. There’s also quite a bit of Chardonnay and some cool-climate Syrah here also…but Pinot is king, and the winemakers out here know that…hence the ever-upward movement of the list prices for bottles.
Our day begins just outside of Buellton, where we will be heading in a westerly direction through the Santa Rita Hills, stopping by at select winery tasting rooms, before we finally make our way to the promised land of Central Coast Pinot Noir…the Lompoc Wine Ghetto!
Here is where we will plan to go:
MOSBY WINERY – The first winery on the west side of Highway 101, this is where Bill Mosby has been crafting Italian varietal wines (often called Cal-Ital) for years. We will be checking out his Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Primativo wines and sure to bring back a bottle or so since Mosby has very friendly prices! I’m interested to check out a dry Orange Muscat listed on the winery page. I once had a dry Orange Muscat (put out from Curtis, I think this was before they relocated and began to focus on just Rhone varietal) but have never found one since. Muscat is mostly known as a dessert wine, and I just don’t go for the sweet wines. If this is truly a dry (non-sweet) and delicious Orange Muscat, this is coming home to the wine fridge, to be uncorked on a random summer afternoon out on the patio.
ALMA ROSA – This one almost missed my attention! I was noticing that Sanford Winery on Santa Rosa Road had been sold, and the new owners built a new and opulent tasting room whose map location just didn’t jive with my memory of where I’d gone before on previous visits to Sanford. Turns out, Richard Sanford didn’t just sell his landmark namesake winery…he kept the original parcel with the old countryish tasting room and that is now the tasting room for his new winery, Alma Rosa. Whatever label is put on the bottles, Richard Sanford is the O.G. (if you will) of Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. This stop is a must stop!
SANFORD WINERY –
The aforementioned birthplace of Santa Rita Hills Pinot, Sanford Winery was sold to the Terlato Family in 2005, a fact I was not aware of when I last visited the old tasting room (now Alma Rosa) in 2007. I used to be in the Sanford wine club almost 7 years ago…I’ve had a lot of good juice bottled under the Sanford label, and curious to see how the new owners and winemakers are doing. They still source their fruit from the Sanford & Benedict and La Rinconada Vineyards, both planted with selected clones of the Pinot Noir grape, and some Chardonnay.
Lunch in Lompoc, CA. – Sissy’s Uptown Cafe?
LOMPOC WINE GHETTO
The Lompoc Wine Ghetto is bunch of rented warehouse and industrial buildings where some of the region’s best winemakers have set up shop. There are no estate vineyards or million-dollar tasting rooms here….it’s just an asphalt jungle of ghetto-fabulous wineries and their storefront tasting rooms. We’ll try to hit at least these 4 tasting rooms before they all close at 5 pm:
FLYING GOAT CELLARS – I’ve heard of this winery and seen their colorfully-labeled bottles in stores before. They make a lot of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from the best vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, several priced over $40. Gotta exercise wallet restraint!
PALMINA WINES – Breaking up some of the Pinot-monotony, here is another winery specializing in Italian varietals, grapes mostly grown in the eastern section of the Santa Ynez Valley and in the Santa Maria Valley. I got a hook-up for 2-for-1 tastings at this place, and will be sure to check out their Barbera, Dolcetto, Savoia, and Pinot Grigio.
TASTE OF STA. RITA HILLS – This is not a winery, but a tasting room featuring wines from several area wineries that don’t have a tasting room or are only able to accommodate visitors by appointment. My brother-in-law Terry (who is going on the trip) brought over a bottle of Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir for Christmas Eve, which was my favorite wine of the evening. After figuring we wouldn’t be able to visit Brewer-Clifton because they are closed on Thursdays, I’m now happy to discover that their wines are featured here at Taste Of Sta. Rita Hills.
Other featured wineries include Moretti, Clos Pepe, Diatom, El Rey, Gypsy Canyon, Huber, Ken Brown, Sea Smoke, Seagrape, and Thorne. This tasting room should promise to be interesting and may occupy a greater part of our afternoon in the Ghetto.
ZOTOVICH CELLARS – This is a small, family-owned winery that produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Viognier from grapes locally grown on their Sta. Rita Hills estate vineyard. I’ve read some good reviews on their wines, and since they are such a small-production winery, a bottle of Zotovich should make for a rare pleasure.
That will probably wrap up our afternoon at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. We’ll head back to Solvang via SR-246, the highway route that would have afforded us visits at Dierberg/Star Lane, Melville, and Babcock if we had gone that way in the morning instead of taking Santa Rosa Road. Oh well…..decisions!!!
I’m proud to say I was an “early adopter” of Firestone Walker beer back within their first year of opening their doors, discovering their brewery in Buellton during some of my first wine trips. Their Double Barrel Ale was one of my favorite craft beers in the late ’90s. They’ve moved their main brewery to Paso Robles, but this original location in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley remains open. Woodfired pizza and British style ales.