On Wine Tasting

November 15, 2013

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In the end, my little 48-hour sojourn into the heart of Santa Barbara County’s wine country was not canceled. A work emergency was avoided, and the scheduled Wednesday morning (well, after the morning commute for most LAers) departure time was upheld. It took a shade over two hours to reach the Buellton/Lompoc/Solvang area. The remaining hours were spent in various states of intoxication (though it never got TOO bad), eating yummy foods, and enjoying the relaxing vibe that is inherent to (insert cities/towns located a safe distance outside LA). Here’s some photos and captions from the trip that best describe the experience, as my rudimentary vocabulary is quite jejune.

Melville Vineyards And Winery (1)

Our first stop was at Melville in Lompoc. It came highly recommended (read: giant bold letters in the email, ten-times the size of the next-highest-rated winery). This is the view right when you exit your car in the parking lot. The best thing about being there on a Wednesday at noon was that there were only two other couples in the tasting room, so it was relaxing and informative. Probably a lot moreso than it would be if it’d been a weekend trip.

Melville Vineyards And Winery (2)

The Melville wines were not mind-blowing, but they were tasty. The thing about Melville is that they’re very adamant about their distaste for big buttery, nutty wines. That said, if there was a common theme to the tasting it was neutral barrels and pure flavors. So while not boldly flavored, the wines were eminently drinkable, and it was quite easy to taste something like the Viognier and comment, “That would go really good with a slice of pizza.” Honestly, I know so little about wine that most of my comments were in the “peppery,” “buttery,” “complex” and “it’d go good with…” vein. Give me credit for trying, guys!

Dierberg Star Lane Vineyards

Although not as highly recommended as Melville, I quite liked the tasting at Dierberg / Star Lane (Drum Canyon Vineyard). The atmosphere was a little more relaxed (outdoors!) the girl who walked us through the tasting was affable and knowledgable, and some of the wines were more memorable. The sauvignon blanc was shocking in the immediacy of the difference between it and anything tasted at Melville. The Syrah was one of my favorites of the trip, and the pinots were quite good. I like how they followed a 2009 from one location with a 2010 from another, as you could easily taste the differences between vintages. Good stuff!

Wandering Dog Wine Bar; Solvang

After checking into the inn in Solvang, we left our car and headed across the street to the Wandering Dog Wine Bar. After considering the different wine tastings they offered I realized there was a beer tasting menu so I opted for the one with three titles I’ve never had before. Brouwerij Huyghe La Guillotine was like a breath of fresh air after all the wine. Straffe Hendrik Brugs Quadrupel Bier 11° by De Halve Maan was okay, and Unita Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale was delicious. I finished off my tasting with a bottle of Ola Dubh 18 year, which meant by the time it was time for dinner I was quite a bit buzzed.

Solvang Windmill

Ah, Solvang. So many baked goods. So many windmills. 

The Hitching Post II Burger; Buellton, CA

That slice of heaven is the burger at The Hitching Post II in Buellton. It’s a bar-only menu item that’s only served Monday through Wednesday. Generally speaking, it’s the ground remains of all the high quality cuts of steak that are left over at the end of each week. That means it’s incredibly beefy, powerfully flavored, and quite delicious. I’d say it was an all-time great save for the fact that the bun was a cheese bun (totally unnecessary given the ingredients) and the patty was cooked past my requested medium rare. Otherwise, that’s a destination burger. One worth convincing your lady you need to consume even though it’s not the most romantic way to cap a day of wine tasting.

Succulent Cafe Fried Chicken & Gravy Biscuit

Like many of you, I too am wondering how I’m not dead yet. Is it a product of my regular exercise regimen? Is it good genes? Am I just treading water until my inevitable first (and maybe final) coronary? Either way, that’s the Fried Chicken & Gravy Biscuit from Succulent Cafe. It’s slathered in bacon gravy and stopped with an extra slice of gravy. And I’m pretty sure those homemade biscuits are cheddar biscuits. Put it all together with some breakfast potatoes and a glass of OJ and you’ve got yourself a POWERFUL breakfast. The perfect way to line your stomach for a second day of wine consumption.

Sanford Winery

And that’s the view while you sip wine at Sanford Winery in Lompoc. What sets this tasting room apart from the rest? Well, for starters, how about the fact that they played Dire Straits, Van Halen, The Police, and AC/DC while the other tasting rooms were either music-free or playing only erudite, non-confrontational tunes. I kinda like that vibe. I also like how Sanford also makes their own olive oils, salsas, mustards and more. Pretty cool! This also marked the first time I’d ever seen a Pinot Noir-Vin Gris, a white wine made from red grapes. The guy who did the tasting was awfully nice and let us try two off-menu pinot noirs that were both quite good. I was impressed.

Stolpman Vineyards Los Olivos Wine Tasting Room

After a quick stop at the Kaena wine tasting room in Los Olivos (I wasn’t a huge fan, hence the lack of pictures, also it was easily the most awkward tasting ever) we swung by the Stolpman tasting room. This one too came highly recommended by my friend Sherrie. Although I was a bite taste’d out by this point, it was one of my favorites simply because there were a lot of red options, including two Syrahs and two Sangioveses. The gentlemen who poured our wines was super friendly and very quick to grab bottles that weren’t on the menu to provide additional samples. One of the best bottles we tried was limited release called La Croce, which was 50% Syrah and 50% Sangiovese. So good.

From Los Olivos it was back to the highway 101-S, back to Los Angeles, and back to the real world. I’m still somewhat exhausted from the trip. Combined with last week’s raucous Vegas getaway, it’s been quite some time since I’ve had a day (or night) to myself to just shut down my brain and chill. With no end to the busy work/social schedule in sight, the best I can hope for is that my trip to New Jersey on Tuesday starts with a couple days of downtime before all the holiday festivities and other familial/social obligations start up. We’ll see…

Better busy than bored, I suppose…

Steve Earle – Tom Ames’ Prayer [MP3]

1 comment

  1. […] being well-versed in the two worlds can only enhance my enjoyment of both. That said, other than a trip to the Central Coast a few years ago and local wine tastings, my exposure is […]

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