SANTA BARBARA/LOS OLIVOS/SANTA YNEZ WINERY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WINE TASTING?
we are heading up right before new years and would like to find some really beautiful and quaint wineries for nice tastings. PLEASE no huge wineries with masses of people..weve done that and didnt enjoy it. Smaller intimate wineries where the owners are present to talk and educate...we prefer smooth bold reds in general but we are not afficianados by any means. we are staying in solvang and really want to see more of the charming places and beautiful tasting rooms and vineyards thanks!
We always make the drive out to Rancho Sisquoc which will be stunning after the rains green up the hills. It is a beautiful country drive to a rustic but elegant setting and some decent reds. We like their RiverRed blend which changes from year to year - not showcase stellar wines but the whole package of wonderful drive, historic setting, lovely outdoor gardens and intimate tasting room with a family sense of pride and knowledge keeps this winey at the top of our favorite regular visits.
Bring your own picnic lunch, buy one of their reds and enjoy life on the farm with sweeping views and a million miles away from everything feeling. It is the futhermost out winery in this SYV circuit but if you have the time to just wander and explore out back country a bit, this is worth the extra drive. http://www.ranchosisquoc.com/ They also have small treats and nibbles for purchase but no real food.
Oh goodie. Something I know a lot about. Rusack Vineyards has a beautiful patio, it is on Ballard Canyon off the beaten path and tends to be less crowded. Carhartt in Los Olivos definitely fits your profile too but all of the tasting rooms in LO are likely to be crowded in the week between Christmas and New Years and they are tasting room only. You do not visit the winery.
Wes Hagen, the winemaker at Clos Pepe, does an excellent tasting and tour. Private, by appointment only. Usually only at 10am on Saturdays. I would hop on that website right now and see if you can get an appointment. The others mentioned below, Demetria, etc. are all private and you will need an appointment.
On Foxen Canyon Road everyplace will be pretty busy but Riverbench, Foxen and Tres Hermanas are favorites of mine. Koehler is also great.
If you are in Solvang at night, Tastes of the Valleys has Au Bon Climat, Margerum, Arcadian and other smaller producers. Open till 8pm and Friday/Sat till 10pm.
On Santa Rosa Road don't miss Alma Rosa (Richard Sanford is the winemaker...he is no longer the winemaker at Sanford). Out on 246 towards Lompoc Melville and Babcock and Dierberg have some excellent wines.
In fact, I would go to Clos Pepe on a morning (if possible) and then go to Melville and Babcock and Dierberg on the way back to Solvang.
From what you describe skip Firestone, Fess Parker...
2416 K St, Sacramento, CA 95816
Tastes of the Valleys
1672 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA
Make sure to take 1 day and do the Foxen Canyon Rd trip. From Los Olivos, drive North on Foxen Canyon, a beautiful drive, maybe as far as Cottonwood Canyon (owner was pouring when I was there), then turn around and start tasting on the way back. It's a full day, so"ll you'll need to take a picnic style lunch. Zaca Mesa has the smooth reds you desire. IMHO the most beautiful way to soak up the feel of Santa Barbara county wineries.
It will be busy on the weekends during the holidays, no matter where you go. Is it possible to come during the middle of the week- thats your best shot to find small crowds and personable service.
I agree with the Lompoc Ghetto and Orcutt area newer wineries rec- there are new ones every week it seems. It is worth calling the wineries you really want to visit to ask for a private tasting- or if they recommend a certain time to visit to find the best experience...
Maybe there is a winemaker dinner happening while you plan on being here? Check the Santa Barbara County Vintners Assoc. page for fun things happening perhaps.
I've had very nice experiences at Prodigal and Demetria, be sure to call for an appointment. You might want to also contact Clos Pepe about a tour, I've heard that's wonderful. I also like Zaca Mesa, Cottonwood Canyon, Rideau, Beckman and Alma Rosa. Foley and Melville are a bit on the bigger side, but still very nice to visit, I think. Some of the less picturesque but still great tasting rooms that are worth checking out are the ones in the Lompoc wine ghetto as well as Core Wines in Orcutt. Ken Brown and Cold Heaven in Buellton are also very good.