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Ink and Vine: A Wine Blog.

Santa Barbara Vintners Road Trip: Los Angeles.


By Maren Swanson • May 26th, 2016
Foxen Trail

One of my favorite parts of living in Los Angeles is its proximity to so many destination locations, and if you’re a wine lover like I am, then you’re definitely in a win-win state. Napa Valley, Sonoma and Santa Barbara County wineries are all located in the same sunny state of California and produce phenomenal wines, but when I really want a quick get-away to “wine country,” I’m a convenience gal. Two-ish hours outside of my L.A. residence and up the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, my car rolls into the Danish town of Solvang about 6 times a year. We park, we check-in to our hotel, relax and for the next few days we taste amazing wines.

My husband and I find that Sunday and Mondays are the best for traffic – on the road and at the wineries. I usually start the day off with a light jacket because the fog is still settled from the night before, but I know that sometime in the afternoon, that cover-up will be coming right off because the fog lifts and the temperature rises. Then I, like the grapes, start to soak up the sun and continue on our wine journey...

Pacific Coast Highway in California.
Wine grapes in Santa Barbara County.
Wine barrel aging at Fess Parker Winery.

Last week I jumped at the chance to attend the Santa Barbara Vinters Road Trip: Los Angeles, where I got to attend seminars on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Bordeaux varietals grown within the region. Santa Barbara County is divided into two AVAs (American Viticultural Areas): Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley. Additionally, there are four sub-appellations within Santa Ynez Valley including Santa Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos District, and Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. According to Elaine C. Brown (of WakawakaWineReviews.com), moderator of the most of the seminars and finalist for eight Wine Blog Awards in four years, “the wines produced in Santa Barbara County are some of the best in the world.”

Harvest grapes at Brander Vineyard.
Foxen Wine Trail
Brander Vineyards.

Santa Barbara County (SBC) is the only region on the western coast of North or South America with a transverse mountain range. Uniquely, the ocean meets the land on two sides, a sort of nook or “elbow” against the Pacific Ocean, which naturally funnels in coastal winds and maritime influences; creating varying temperatures in the growing region and causing an abbreviated ripening window. What does this mean? Winemakers in this region have more flexibility with harvesting and there is more time for flavors to develop on the vine, ensuring great acidity and more complexity, “a ‘sunburst’ of flavor,” remarked Brown.

Santa Ynez Valley Map

This was the 2016 seminar line-up:

Monday, May 16 - CHARDONNAY

Tuesday, May 17 - PINOT NOIR

Wednesday, May 18 - RHONE VARIETALS

Thursday, May 19 - BORDEAUX VARIETALS

Santa Barbara Vintners Road Trip: Los Angeles.
Santa Barbara Vintners Road Trip: Los Angeles.
Santa Barbara Vintners Road Trip: Los Angeles.

Monday’s panel of Chardonnay winemakers included Jim Clenenden (Au Bon Climat), Greg Brewer (Brewer-Clifton), Tyler Thomas (Dierberg), David Whitehair (Foxen) and John Faulkner (Pence). After I tasted the wines served at Repulique on La Brea last week, I noticed the oceanic influences in the wines of SBC, especially the Chardonnays. In each of the wines I tried, I noticed a subtle “saline” flavor in each of them. After discussions about the salinity surfaced in the room, the winemakers debated the its origins. “It’s in the air, you can smell the ocean in the area,” was blurted out by someone. The debate got slightly heated, some of the panelists arguing it came “from the soil and skins” and some “from the air.” No resolution was reached, but it was fun to watch and hear the all of the circulating opinions from the winemakers themselves – and good thing we had a moderator! Note to self: wine can be very scientific, but let’s not take it too seriously…let's drink it!


Jim Clenenden (left): winemaker at Au Bon Climat.
Greg Brewer: winemaker at Brewer-Clifton.

Wines I tasted at the Chardonnay seminar:


Au Bon Climat 2012 Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria Valley

Brewer-Clifton 2014 3D Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills

Dierberg 2013 Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley

Foxen 2014 Block UU Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley

Pence 2013 Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County

Wine panelists for Tuesday’s Pinot Noir tasting included Richard Sanford (Alma Rosa), Blair Fox (Fess Parker), Steve Clifton (La Voix), Ryan Pace (Nielson) and Trey Fletcher (Solomon Hills). After the seminar, we did a walk-around tasting below.


view my food journey on zomato!


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