Friday, August 7, 2009

Many of my Trader Joe's customers tell me that they are planning a wine trip to the Santa Ynez area, just an hour away from Ventura, and they ask me what some of my favorite wineries are.  In my last Ventura store wine letter, "Uncorked," I listed eight of my favorites.  There are many more that I appreciate and visit, but these were the first that came to mind, so I guess that means something.  With your indulgence, I will share that list with you in no particular order other than alphabetic.

Some of my favorite Santa Barbara County Wineries:

When I like a winery, it’s not just for the wines themselves, but more for the customer service, and overall ambiance.  It’s not so much the wine but the delight.

Babcock Winery:  Bryan Babcock, in my opinion, makes some great wines and some very drinkable wines with lesser grapes. He’s not your typical wine master.  The tasting room staff is very knowledgeable and always helpful.  Never a bad experience.  What’s of particular interesting is the  simple tasting room, as compared to many others in the region.  At Babcock, it’s more about the wines, not the decor.  

5175 E Hwy 246, Lompoc.

Beckman Winery:  Love Beckman!  They have great wines (at least one’s that I appreciate).  They specialize in Rhone varietals and their 2006 Estate Grenache was one of my favorite wines.  I bought four cases of it.  Now I just bought a case of their 2007 Grenache and three bottles of their Cuvee Le Bec, a Chateauneuf-du-Pape style wine.  

But I go to Beckman, not only for their wine but because of their Wine Tasting Managers.  Sarah, then Emily, and now Ali.  They are always some of our favorites and keep drawing us back.  I hope Ali stays for a long time in this often, quick-turnover business.  Beckman’s causes great delight.  

2670 Ontiveros Rd., Los Olivos

Firestone Winery:  Normally, I have not enjoyed my Firestone visits because of the crowds in the tasting room.  But I learned that “timing is everything.”  Two friends wanted to go to Firestone, much to my dismay, but we walked in about noon on a Friday and there was one couple in the room.  We soon were sitting at a table with “Bradford,” who turned out to be an incredible tasting room representative.  Bradford was knowledgeable and generous.  He continued to open any bottle of Reserve wine that we wanted and those that he recommended.  We bought a mixed case of expensive wine, as did our friends.  So Bradford did a great job for Firestone.  He should be the manager someday.  Again, it was a delight.

5000 Zaca Station Rd., Los Olivos

Kenneth Volk Winery:  Kenneth was the owner and winemaker for Wild Horse.  He sold it for a gazillion dollars and has now opened his own winery, utilizing his name, Kenneth Volk.  Keeping it short and sweet, Kenneth knows his wines.  I have never tasted a wine of his that I didn’t think was very, very good.  Never a bad wine.  Also, the tasting room staff knows their wines and they are always friendly and accommodating.  The tasting room is small so go during midweek, if you can.

5230 Tepusquet Rd., Santa Maria

Lincourt Vineyards:  I like Lincourt for their Pinot Noirs, which I think are some of the best in the area.  They also have a terrific covered picnic area and a peaceful setting.  The tasting room staff is helpful and knowledgeable.  Oh, I also like their Rose’ wine that is produced by Foley Vineyard.  It’s one of our favorite Summer wines.

1711 Alamo Pintado Rd., Solvang

Melville Winery:  Great wines and great decor!  I love the looks of this winery.  Very Tuscany in colors, but as it turns out, apparently the colors were selected because of the owners connection to USC!  Still, very attractive, even if they are more Los Angeles, than Tuscany.  They have very good wines,

both red and white and their pouring staff is very knowledgeable.  Always a very nice experience.  

5185 E. Highway 246, Lompoc

Rusack Winery:  Rusack is one of the most attractive wineries with the best picnic area, the tables completely shaded by trees.  Surrounded by sloping hills and an occasional horse-drawn carriage.  I particularly appreciate their Sauvignon Blanc and often buy a bottle to go with our picnic lunch.  Be sure to visit this winery, you’ll be delighted.  Knowledgeable pouring staff. 1819 Ballard Canyon Rd., Solvang

Shoestring Winery:  I really appreciate this winery.  The Craigs have done a wonderful job of producing wine.  Their Cabernet Franc was spectacular!  I really enjoy their tasting room...stacked barrels of wine and tables made of planks stacked on barrels.  It feels like Italy or France, not Santa Ynez, but I’m grateful for their proximity.  Be sure to visit.!  800 East HWY 246, Solvang

Hope that some of you visit these wineries and have a great time!  

"Tom Da Wine Guy"


At February 27, 2011 at 3:23 PM , Blogger ShoestringWinery said...

We are currently pouring 2008 Syrah Rose, 2008 Pinot Grigio, 2006 Sangiovese, 2007 Merlot & 2005 Syrah, so please stop by & taste. We are open Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. Stop by Trader Joes, get some great cheese, bread & fruit & have a picnic on our lawn area shaded by olive trees!

At February 27, 2011 at 3:26 PM , Blogger ShoestringWinery said...

Email for more info or buy direct from the web site


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