Family road trip to wine taste in Santa Ynez Valley


Last month my boyfriend Injae and I went wine tasting outside Santa Barbara for the day.  Work had been really stressful this year due to my company being acquired (no I don’t own the company) and the integration of two different cultures.  I needed a day off so bad I could scream, so scheduled a Friday off.  We bounced around a few ideas and I brought up wine tasting in Santa Barbara.  He agreed immediately.  I wanted to bring my dog Zoe because i am a proud pet parent and just wanted to spend time with her as well.  Walking around the block and have her sniff out the same daily news wasn’t an option 🙂

Besides, she loves road trips (and could be a useful designated driver).

Thursday while I was at work, Injae was planning out the itinerary so by the time I got home he had a whole list of vineyards that were dog-friendly.  I thought “cool” this is going to be a family road trip and I won’t need a dog sitter.  We live in Los Angeles so this was really just a day trip but a perfect day trip for my mental state.

We headed out post rush hour on a beautiful Friday morning in the BMW with the sunroof open, our cheap $4 sunglasses on, Zoe lounging in the back and NPR’s morning edition blaring heading north on the 101 fwy to SB (California short for Santa Barbara).  Side note: The thing I love about Southern California is the ability to take short road trips to such unique and fun destinations.  Where else can you ski and hit the beach all within 4 hours?? I mean really.

The drive was easy, meaning little traffic, and we arrived at the first winery in Santa Ynez Valley around 11 am.  They open at 10am (really?) so I thought we might be the first, but alas a tour bus of old folks were there already boozing it up.  Hmmpf.  I had to grab a photo at the entrance mainly because I’m a picture fanatic (purchased a DSLR a couple of years ago).


Our first winery was Firestone (named after the family that started the Firestone tires brand).  Firestone, founded in 1972, was the first estate winery established in the Santa Ynez Valley.  I was a little nervous at first about walking in with Zoe, but the staff welcomed us with open arms.  In fact Zoe picked out a bottle rather quickly.


We tried the Reserve wine tasting list for $15 which included: 2011 Chardonnay Reserve, 2011 Rose, 2010 Syrah Clone, 2010 Cabernet Franc and a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I’m not much of a Rose guy, but did enjoy the Chardonnay reserve that had hints of vanilla and caramel.  Definitely worth the $15 to taste the reserves.  And Linda our server was a dog owner and loved Zoe.  So cool to bring your dog with you wine tasting.

Our next stop was Curtis Winery (only about 2 minutes away which is probably why we saw cyclists there drinking…is that safer? lol).  Curtis winery focuses on Rhone Valley, France grapes such as Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and Roussanne.  We learned that Roussanne is a white grape but has tannins and can act like a red as it ages.  Hmmm…I’ll try both please.  We tried their tasting menu with the chocolate pairing.

ImageOur server was Billy, who we loved (he was family and absolutely fabulous). He even gave an extra tasting of the Rose.  Haaaaay!!! Injae loved  the 2012 Viognier, which was incredibly smooth. We tasted a 2011 Heritage Blanc, 2012 Viognier, 2011 Roussane, 2010 Heritage Cuvee (pictured right), 2010 Mourvedre and 2010 Syrah.  We effed up on the first chocolate pairing – Injae grabbed the wrong one for the wine we were tasting, but did it really matter??  Definitely a thumbs up on Curtis for the wines and service.  While we were there a lady came in offering to sell tamales and since we hadn’t had lunch yet we bought some, then sat outside in the front lawn area and played with Zoe.


Next stop was Koehler Winery.  We tried the $10 tasting menu, which included a Koehler logo glass.  We tasted the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Viognier, 2010 Grenache, 2009 Syrah, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Riesling.  Zoe ran into her first other wine tasting dogs and of course wanted to play.  Our favorite wine here was the Riesling.


Whew on to the next vineyard…glad we ate those tamales.  Up next was Zaca Mesa Winery, which I have to say I love the name.  This winery is what I pictured in my head when thinking about a vineyard, sort of a rustic farm-house theme.  We tried the reserve menu here which consisted of a 2012 Estate Z Gris, 2009 Estate Grenache Blanc, 2009 Estate Roussanne, 2010 Estate Mourvedre (by this time I competely forgot what a Mouvredre even was), 2008 Estate Z Three (a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre) and 2010 Estate Eight Barrel Syrah.


The Syrah was our fave and had deep aromas with flavors of blackberry, pepper, dark chocolate and sage. We chilled here for a bit and let Zoe run around the patio area. Not sure who was more buzzed, us or Zoe….

Zoe playing around at Zaca Mesa

After some relaxation we headed on to the last winery, Foxen Winery. We tasted 6 wines for $10 and I actually don’t have the list for this one.  We did however love the 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon (the server gave us a taste off menu) and bought a bottle for a special occasion.  The price was ~$50 but worth it.  This tasting also included a wine glass with their logo on it.


After Foxen it was about 4pm and wineries would be closing soon.  We rush back to Curtis where Injae bought a bottle of the Viognier.  From there we decided to head into Santa Ynez and grab a bite to eat at Vineyard House (how appropriate).  Zoe was of course welcome on the outdoor patio.  It was a nice evening, about 75 degrees, and just a great finish to the day.  We ordered a bottle of Bishop’s Peak Pinot Noir and a wonderful dinner of steak and shrimp.Image


After dinner we hit a local club called the Maverick Saloon and yes it looked like an old western saloon.  We grabbed a few drinks, talked with some locals and then headed back home to LA.  It was a long day, but worth every minute.  Never once did I think about work, just the great time I was having with my boo and my best friend Zoe.

Injae and Chad




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