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Wineries with great white wines in Santa Ynez Valley

I am taking a two-day wine tasting trip to Santa Ynez at the end of the month. I've already done research on the Chowhound boards and have found some excellent suggestions for both wineries and restaurants.

We will spend one day (a Monday) driving through Foxen Canyon, and I have Zaca Mesa, Rancho Sisquoc, and Kenneth Volk on our "must visit" list, with Tres Hermanas, Riverbench, Foxen, and Cambria as strong second choices.

--How are my choices so far???

Our second day is completely up in the air, but it looks like Lompoc Wine Ghetto is out of the question, as most of the tasting rooms seem to be closed on Tuesdays.

I am in desparate need of good white wines. I'm not really good at describing what I like, but I can say I don't care for sweet wines. I like both crisp and buttery wines, and would prefer wines in the $10-$20 range. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

(I am also posting this on the Wine board)

Lompoc Wine Ghetto
Industrial Way N 9th St, Lompoc, CA 93436

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  1. You have some good options on your list. Cold Heaven has a tasting room in Buellton (appointment only) and she specializes in Viogniers. They are excellent. Alma Rosa has some fine white wines as well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Juji

      Cold Heaven looks great. I may call for an appointment. But if I don't make it this trip, I will definitely try another time. Thank you!

    2. I don't know the specific wineries but Marsannes, Viogniers, and Rousannes are all fresh clean whites that never get to pricey. Check these out at tastings.

      1 Reply
      1. re: budnball

        I love Viognier, but I've never tasted (that I know of) Marsanne and Rousanne. I will definitely keep an eye out for these. Thanks.

      2. If you want a bit more of a drive, try the 'Far Out Wineries" in the western end of the Paso Robles group out Peachy Canyon road - they have a website for this group by that name and I thought it was chardoney country, but not into whites myself. I know Thacher winery who is part of this group who has some award winning reds was also working on a very nice Viogniers. http://www.faroutwineries.com/

        4 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          Even though the Ghetto might have closures- it is my understanding there is a common shop in the center that is open daily- that sells alot of Santa Rita Hills wine- even those that have no tasting room themselves- so call a ghetto tasting room and ask about this storefront shop- I had a winemaker tell me last week about it- and I swear she said it was open 7 days a week.

          If it were me, on the tuesday I would hit the West side of our County- Melville, Babcock, La Fond, Alma Rosa - Mosby too. All these are out towards Lompoc- which is the Santa Rita Hills.

          Have a great time and report back please!!

          1. re: OldJalamaMama

            The wine shop you're probably talking about in the Wine Ghetto is Taste of Sta. Rita Hills. I took your suggestion and called them, as it looked like a great tasting room. Unfortunately, they told me none of the tasting rooms in the Wine Ghetto are open on Tuesdays.

            On my last trip, I visited Melville, Babcock, and Alma Rosa--all wonderful. Based on the number of suggestions and my past experience, I think I'll have to revisit Alma Rosa.

            Thanks for your suggestions, and I will report back!

            1. re: brandygirl

              Taste of Santa Rita Hills- do they do wine tasting? Are they open 7 days a week? I was thinking you could go there and cover more bases....excited to hear your report!

          2. re: glbtrtr

            I don't think we will be able to drive that far north on this trip, but I plan on a Paso Robles wine tasting trip in the near future. This is good information to have--thanks.

          3. Definitely Kenneth Volk Vineyards & Rancho Sisquoc. I love Riverbench (One of my favorites) but just beware that they only produce Chardonnay & Pinot Noir so if you are not interested in the Pinot, you will only be tasting a couple of Chardonnays. Beckman Vineyards in Solvang is also be good for a visit.

            5 Replies
            1. re: OenoV

              Good to know I'm on the right track with Kenneth Volk and Rancho Sisquoc. I will try to visit Riverbench--although I am in the market for white wines, I always love tasting the reds! I went to Beckman on my last visit, and you are right--I bought a couple of bottles that were delicious.

              1. re: OenoV

                Hello! You seem to be the right person for me to ask a similar question to. I've been to Firestone, Bridlewood and Sunstone (loved em), nice and scenic and pretty and personal, went to Rideau (touristy with music, hated it). I'm bringing my mother up for a girls trip in September on a Monday-Tuesday, and all she drinks are dry chardonnays. Any thoughts on pretty, scenic, personal wineries with good Chards/whites not too far from Solvang? Maybe one option that has a great view? THANKS!

                1. re: kpal73

                  If you are looking for less touristy wineries, I would recommend Demetria Estate Winery (los olivos) it is appointment only but a beautiful place to taste wine. Also Rusack in Solvang has a charming little picnic area overlooking the vineyards. Bella Cavalli Farms is my little secret in solvang and is gorgeous during the fall. The winery sits opposite Shoestring Vineyards (also a great winery) on Highway 246 and overlooked by most tourists in the area. All of these tasting rooms pour Chardonnay and other white wines so I'm pretty sure you will find a few that you will enjoy.

                  The link to my website is posted in my profile and will give you pictures and more information on these wineries.

                  1. re: OenoV

                    Fabulous! Thanks so much! I will definitely check them out! Do you think Rusack would be a better/scenic picnic location than Sunstone?

                    1. re: kpal73

                      Hmmm, well, I think I will let you make that decision, I have attached a picture of Rusack's picnic area for your review.

              2. Los Olivos has a jillion tasting rooms, so many that it pretty much dilutes the experience and only the real estate people are happy.

                That said, at the north end of Main (or whatever the main street is, Grand?)off Highway 154 is the tasting room for Qupe, which makes an excellent Marsanne and Marsanne/Chardonnay blend, both crisp and lively. The space is shared with Verdad, Spanish varietals made by the wife of the Qupe winenmaker/owner , and she makes excellent Grenache Rose and Albariino (a stellar white Spanish varietal) at fair prices.

                If you find it, try the Marsanne, etc. from Au Bon Climat.

                There's a small market across the street from the Qupe tasting room that makes solid trip tip and BBQ chicken sandwiches at lunchtime.

                3 Replies
                1. re: MRMoggie

                  Au Bon Climat now has a stand alone tasting room in Santa Barbara- next to the renewed Wine Cask restaurant. They have alot of product you might never have heard of (unless you a total fan)- and a good inventory.

                  If you can only visit the area of Solvang for tasting- Au Bon Climat has tastings at Tastes of the Valley tasting room. They also carry a good amount of high end local wine, and are open till 8pm.

                  Beckman Winery is in Los Olivos off of Roblar, its a great place to take lunch and relax- they have a pond area to sit at, as well as a deck off their tasting room.

                  Wine Cask
                  813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

                  Tastes of the Valleys
                  1672 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA

                  1. re: MRMoggie

                    Qupe is a winery I wanted to try on my last trip but didn't have time for. This looks like a good one to add to out list, as I want to try Marsanne, and I love Albarino.

                    And thank you for the Au Bon Climat recommendations. We're probably spending a little time in Santa Barbara on our way up on Sunday, so this would be an excellent tasting to start our weekend!

                    1. re: brandygirl

                      To my taste, Alma Rosa, Qupe and Au Bon Climat are all "top shelf". However, I found Rancho Sisquoc wines, to borrow a term, rustic. It is a great place for a picnic though. On that road, I found Zaca Mesa wines impressive.

                  2. Just tasted the 2009 Curran Grenache Blanc this week and thought it was excellent. The winery is in Lompoc but they have a tasting room in Solvang.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: PolarBear

                      I just looked this one up, and it looks great. I think I remember reading an interesting article about the winemaker. Thank you.

                      1. re: brandygirl

                        Might want to check out Palmina (and others) in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, they have a couple of interesting whites, Arneis, Tocai Friulano, Malvasia Bianca, etal.


                        16965 Monterey St Ste 106, Morgan Hill, CA 95037

                        Lompoc Wine Ghetto
                        Industrial Way N 9th St, Lompoc, CA 93436

                    2. For a future trip you should consider the Edna Valley, easy to reach from Pismo Beach or San Luis Obispo.

                      Just made a quick visit to the Baileyana tasting room -- they also pour wines from related brands, including Tangent, which makes nothing but beautifully balanced, crisp white wines. All are around 13.5% alcohol, fermented in stainless with no oak or ML. Lovely wines, including the best Viognier I've had in years, a quite good Sauvignon Blanc, and a Pinot Gris we really enjoyed.

                      A sister brand is Zocker, which only produces Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, the Austrian variety loved by sommeliers because it's so food friendly and versatile. The 2010 Zocker is a beautiful wine, easily one of the best new releases I've tasted this year. At $20 it's in the ballpark easily with the best imported versions.

                      All the Tangent wines are around $17 and very good values. The entire lineup is excellent, not a clunker in the group.

                      Wasn't in the market for Chardonnay, so only tasted the Baileyana 2008 Firepeak Pinot Noir, $33. Excellent with a pretty nose, well balanced palate. Also bottled under screwcap (hurray).

                      Making all the wines is Christian Rougenant, well-respected winemaker originally from Burgundy, with sparkling wine experience as well, who has been in the Central Coast area for 25 years and the knowledge and skill are apparent.

                      These wines have an ongoing place on our shopping list.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MRMoggie

                        I totally agree about Tangent. Amazingly good aromatic white wines at a more than fair price for the west coast. My wife is a nearly complete and total red wine bigot and willingly , even eagerly, drinks their wine. Very highly recommended.

                      2. I just returned from our trip and tasted wonderful wines. On our arrival date, we just went to the HITCHING POST for their wine tasting. All three of us agreed that St Rita's Earth was our favorite, so of course we had to buy a bottle for our steak dinner.

                        The next day, we hit four wineries. First stop was ZACA MESA. This was one of our favorite stops this trip. They had a nice dry rose and and a few whites I stocked up on. Next was KENNETH VOLK. We loved stopping here for their "heirloom" wines, which were delicous. Although I was specifically in the market for whites, I wound up buying more reds from them. The two I liked the most were Touriga and Aglianico, two varietals I've never heard of before. I can't wait to open them! After Kenneth Volk, we visited RIVERBENCH. Again, I found a nice dry rose and liked their Chardonnays. Finally, we went to RANCHO SISQUOC for our picnic lunch (fabulous sandwiches from Panino's) and our last tasting of the day. Although enjoyable, we all agreed that we prefered the other wineries. I did walk away with a nice Malbec.

                        On our last day, we only had time for one tasting before heading home, so we went to ALMA ROSA. Their wines were all terrific. I bought a couple of Pinot Gris and a couple of Pinot Blanc to take home.

                        What made this trip really fantastic was not just the quality of wine, but importantly the people behind the counter. Everyone was so nice, personable, and knowlegable about the wine. We just enjoyed talking with everyone. so much.

                        Thank you, Chowhounds, for your recommendations!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: brandygirl

                          Glad you enjoyed your visit- sounds like a wonderful day out on Foxen Canyon!

                          Glad you found Kenneth Volk... and aren't dry Rose wines THE BOMB? There are quite a few produced locally- it is fun to pour a bit for a person who protests...and to see their face when they taste how fantastic it is!