This one’s a photo rambler….
I love middle California. I love it so much that I am angry at the words I am typing right now because they have no hope of expressing just how much I love it. I heart the wine (it is, after all, everywhere you stumble, and believe me, there is stumbling). I heart the food (‘locally sourced’ is treated as a sacred art form). I heart the people (everyone is so honestly happy). I am in true love with the wide-open spaces; the way the tangy-green vineyards spill out from between the gilded pelts of those endless rolling hills, the beautiful black of the California Oak trees, the contented herds of cows, and horses, and ostriches grazing without a care in the world. Yeah, ostriches. Why not? I went to school in Santa Barbara (go Gauchos!), and perhaps this has a little to do with why I have such a sense of returning home when I go to its wine country. When I huff and puff and sigh about living on a farm somewhere….this is my somewhere.
But enough of this sentimental crap. Let’s get to the wine-drinking. And the cheese-eating. Jonathon’s parents came into town from Dallas to celebrate their birthdays, and we headed up to Santa Ynez for a two-day wine-tasting whirlwind. Unfortunately, Day One got off to a late start, and then slowed to nearly a standstill with all the traffic getting out of LA (everyone desperately fleeing the city alongside us). By the time we checked into our hotel and oriented ourselves, we had darned-near missed wine-tasting hours. Fortunately for me and the Texans I was with, Fess Parker Winery was open and kicking. For those who don’t know it, Davy Crockett was and is still a pretty big deal in Texas, and no Central Coast wine-tasting trip would be complete without a stop here.
The vines and roses at Fess Parker.
Davy Crockett’s grand-dog.
Jonathon discusses the Parker Family Reserve White.
I enjoyed the wines (perhaps a bit too thoroughly), but you can see that I was really taken with this dog.
Beautiful things growing at Fess Parker….
Wine club joined.
We headed back down the road, thinking we were done for the day, but noticed, to our delight, that the Curtis Winery tasting room was just barely still open. We skated in there (probably much to their chagrin), and settled in at the bar for some wonderful wines.
Some lovely Curtis samples backed by the beautiful artwork they showcase in the tasting room.
A sip of something yummy at Curtis, I wish I could tell you what….
Jonathon loads some of my drunken purchases.
Wine club joined.
At this point, it was pretty much closing time everywhere, so we went back to our hotel for an extended water break and power nap, and then headed to the very fabulous Root 246 Restaurant. I’m sorry to say that I remember very little about dinner, other than the exquisite cheese plate we started with, and the very comfy chair/couches we were seated in. Suffice it to say, Day One ended with a fairly early bedtime.
We rallied nicely (miraculously) for Day Two, and began it bright and early with a 10 am tasting at Riverbench Vineyard & Winery….wine tasting, the breakfast of champions.
The Riverbench Pinot Noir Rosé that I am now rather taken with.
The vines and wildflowers at Riverbench.
This was the start of my obsession with wine barrel plantings at each of the vineyards.
Jonathon’s cute parents outside of Riverbench. Happy Birthdays to them!
Multiple wines purchased, but the jury is still out on joining the club.
On a whim and an insider tip, we went off the beaten path and found our way to Kenneth Volk Vineyards. What an amazing little find this place was! What piqued our curiosity was the fact that they dabble in some very unusual varietals; things like Malvasia, Mourvedre, Trousseau, Negrette and Tempranillo. Yes, please!
Prettiness at Kenneth Volk.
Of course, I managed to locate the afor-mentioned attack kitty.
Jonathon and his mom wait impatiently for me while I waste precious wine-tasting time taking pictures of the cat.
Wine at rest in the KV tasting room.
Attack kitty joins us in the tasting room and gets into some paper-shredding mischief.
Pretty wine barrel plantings at KV.
Wine club absolutely joined.
It was finally time to head to Foxen, one of our all-time favorite wineries and wine brands. In 2009, they opened a shiny new solar-powered tasting room, but we prefer The Shack, the 1870′s building that was their original tasting room, now referred to as Foxen 7200.
My kind of sign, Foxen.
Someone at Foxen got the yellow memo.
Wine at last, inside the shack.
A cool old barn on the Foxen property.
Jonathon ponders life after Foxen.
Foxen wine club membership re-instated. A this point, it was definitely time for a little bit of a pause in the wine flow, so after several glowing endorsements, we headed to Los Alamos to try out Bell St Farm for lunch. Equal parts gift shop, cafe, and market, the decor is weathered, farmy and downright darling. Especially the quirky chicken art that adorns the worn brick walls. Please check out the cheese spread below and decide for yourself if this place is worth the stop.
A shot of the chipped linoleum floors, brick walls, and country chairs. Love!
Every table had fresh dahlias, and hand-stamped butcher paper table liners. You have to love the glass Mountain Valley Spring Water bottles!
I loved those vintage-y bottles so much that they are now sitting on my kitchen window sill.
I cannot believe that I didn’t take more photos, but I was abysmally distracted by the amazing food. I am so enthralled with it, in fact, that the next time we go back up, I’m gonna devote an entire blog entry to Bell St. Farm. Mark my words.
Because Day Two was a Saturday, the afternoon brought with it some pretty hefty crowds at the vineyards. As a result, we did not make it to several that we had intended to. But we did find our way to Rideau Vineyards, which I had read about and was dying to go to. True to me, I was most excited to see the house and stunning gardens, and they did not disappoint….nor did the wines.
Wine club joined. For anyone keeping track, that’s five wine clubs. But who’s counting?
Meanwhile, back at the farm….
Millie has discovered the upstairs back deck, from whence she surveys her domain.
I don’t like this….I don’t like this at all.