Wake and Wander Splits for Wine Country

Something that’s really amazing about Santa Barbara (and most of the Central Coast): Some days, you have your choice of a few different climates.

Sunstone Vineyard.

For example, when I woke up to an overcast sky on Saturday morning, I drove forty minutes and the clouds broke apart, the sky turned blue, and the temperature rose almost 20 degrees.

It was gray and in the mid-sixties in Santa Barbara, but it was 85 and sunny in the Santa Ynez Valley – wine country – just on the other side of the mountains.

It was truly a blessing to escape the dismal weather – a shot of sunshine can certainly turn a day around. I was interested in checking out a few wineries, taking in all the details. There’s some awfully nice scenery up there – lots of open fields, panoramic mountain views, and beautiful vineyards.

My first stop was Sunstone Winery on Refugio Road. I’ll be honest: I had a free pass that I got as a tip from a customer when I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car (I recently found it in my drawer).

It’s a really small place – not much room to wander – but I was quite pleased with what they did with the limited space. There is a nice patio area and they now have two pouring stations – one outside and one inside. It was nice to sit outside, then retreat in when the red wine began to heat things up. The staff was all really nice and friendly – I had several conversations – and the wines were tasty (my favorite was Eros, a red blend).

One big party foul, though: They only had one white wine to taste.

It was in the mid-eighties with a hot sun and a cool breeze, and only one white wine? That’s just silly, man.

The next stop was Roblar on the 154 – a ten-minute drive from Sunstone.

Roblar Vineyard.

Roblar has a better tasting selection than Sunstone. For $10, you can pick any six from a list of close to twenty wines (whereas you cannot personalize it at Sunstone).

I found some comfortable patio seating out back and started with two whites: the 2009 Langosta and the 2009 Estate Semillon. Both were excellent in the sun and very similar (the Langosta is 20% Semillion, 80% Sauvignon Blanc).

There are two strategies you can employ at a place like this: You can pick wines to taste that are in your price range, or you can do what I did and try the most expensive ones on the menu.

I was fully aware that I would never buy a bottle of the $60 Grassetto (38% Sangiovese, 62% Cabernet Savuignon), but the pourer told me it was his personal favorite, so I had to get involved.

Although it did not fit with the weather, it was full of flavor and deep. I also tried the other big boys: 2009 Triomphe ($54) and the 2009 Cab Franc ($60).

I’ll put it this way: All three were really good and fun to taste, but not necessarily worth the high price tag – I didn’t find them that good or different, and you could probably find better value elsewhere.  (But if money is not an issue for you, fire away…it’s good wine.)

Great day, though – very relaxing and calming. I had to go back into the overcast – putting up the windows was painful – but when I got home there were some good friends waiting with food and drink, and it was at that point that I stopped worrying about the weather.


View of Santa Barbara on the way back from wine country.
Sunstone Vineyard.
Sunstone Vineyard.
Sunstone Vineyard.
Roblar Vineyard.
Roblar Vineyard.
Roblar Vineyard.
Roblar Vineyard.
The feast after a day in wine country.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the great winery reviews. I visit Santa Barbara often so I am always looking for new wineries to try. Next time I camp at El Refugio I will be sure to check out the first winery you mentioned. Thanks again and happy travels!

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