Trip from Carmel to Santa Barbara
Looking for some great wineries to visit on a road trip down the coast. We belong to a ton of wine clubs from wineries in Sonoma and the Willamette for Pinots. Would like to add some other great varietals from the Central Coast wine areas.
Interested in Rhone blends, Merlots, more great Pinots (to compare with the north), etc.
Don't know if it helps, but some of our favorite wineries in Northern Sonoma County are Papapietro Perry, Lynmar, Hartford, De la Montanya, Porter Creek, Woodenhead, Williams Selyem, Gary Farrell. In the Willamette, we like Beaux Freres, Domaine Serene, Sokol Blosser, Soter.
We will probably just have one day each around Carmel, Paso Robles, and Santa Barbara for winery tours/tastings. Could use help narrowing down the choices.
For both Paso and Santa Barbara - you are going to be driving a ton. Unless you stay in town and go to tasting rooms - there aren't a ton of wineries - and they are rather spread out.
Paso Robles is the area for Rhone blends. I really like Terry Hoage's reds. Tablas Creek is great. I personally don't like L'Aventure as it is extremely "old world" or savory in style, but many really like their wines. Booker has some good wines (they need to be aged for a significant amount of time though). Caliza, right next door, has pretty good wines.
Wines I haven't tried in Paso, but are supposed to be good: Chateau Margene, Denner (not open at the moment, Linne Calodo (supposed to open in about a month by appt), and Villa Creek.
I haven't been down to Santa Barbara Wine Country in a long time - but my favorite then, and based on the wines I can still find, my favorite is still Rusack. Rusack makes excellent pinots and syrahs. They are spicier/fruitier than most Russian River Pinots, but still well balanced.
There so many wineries in the Paso area it is hard to begin.
I would get a winery map and start there.
Tons of Rhone there.
There are two basic areas, west side and east.
West is hilly, scenic and tends to have the smaller and higher end wineries.
East is flatter and tends to have the larger more commercial wineries but there can good finds there. I would try Vina Robles and Hugg Cellars.
I second Tablas Creek although I think their prices have gotten out of control.
Some other places I personally like:
For dinner I would suggest Buon Tavola.
For Santa Barbara I would stop in Los Olivos which has a good selection of tasting rooms.
I enjoyed Epiphany and Tessa Marie.
A sandwich at Panino is a must.
Drive down Foxen Canyon road which has many wineries but also very scenic.
I have heard good things about Rusack but never had a chance to go there or taste their wines.
Lots of wineries in and around Los Olivos and Solvang. Beckman is one that comes to mind.
I love both Paso and Santa Barbara, I am sure will be pleased.
Thanks for the Venteux rec! They were not on my radar - adding to my list.
To the OP in addition to Los Olivos, Lompoc has a bunch of great wineries all together. Excellent wines - but it's not a cute winery town the way Los Olivos is.
A warning to the OP about the Paso Robles winery map. I've noticed that depending on the map - some of the smaller producers are not on those maps. Also, I feel bad saying this but Paso is still young wine country and IMHO there are some really really great wineries (and priced much more reasonably than say Napa or Russian River), but there's also a fair amount of mediocre to bad ones (perhaps because they are still trying to find their legs).
Tons of great recs here already.
One more S.B. pinot rec--Ken Brown Wines.
Also, while not pinot, rhone or merlot, Turley has a nice little tasting room in Tempelton just off the 101 as you head South to S.B. from Paso.
Actually this is happening all over Paso and to Sonoma not just at Tablas Creek. "This" being the low yield problem (not necessarily the customer service problem!). With the weather in 2009-2011, smaller winemakers have both raised prices and are selling out. As a result the Tablas Creek $35 -50 (with a few limited releases at $90) a bottle price range is actually completely in line with Justin and all the recs I mentioned upthread are in this price range as well.
Actually late February/March is the perfect time to go as that's when a lot of Paso Robles wineries release wines.
Some others to add in the Paso to Santa Barbara run:
If Denner opens their tasting room again, hopefully they'll also pour wines from some of the young winemakers who make their wine there: Kinero Cellars, Brian Benson, Aaron Jackson. If you happen upon them elsewhere give them a try too.
If you find the wineries themselves too spread out, there are also tasting rooms in the towns of Los Olivos and Santa Ynez, as well as a 'wine ghetto' area in Lompoc.
By the way, one of the Cargassachi brothers runs Jalama wine in the Lompoc wine ghetto. If you go, you might see Oscar vigilantly guarding the tasting room wines.
Also in the Lompoc wine ghetto is Palmina wines, which are nicely done Italian varietals. There's also Fiddlestix for pinot and sauvignon blanc. And Evening Land, which is the winery started by some guy with Hollywood connections. He's the one who got the Seven Springs Vineyard in Oregon and booted St. Innocent, among others. They also make wine in Burgundy that they import. I liked the Evening Land wines I tasted.
Re the Cargasacchi brothers - sounds like you're familiar with them. I've met both and had both of their wines several times. It could be the fruit sourcing alone, but I've always found Peter's wine to have more depth and complexity than Mark's. They're both nice guys but two completely different personalities too. Any thoughts on the differences - in the wine I mean? Or........ whichever. ;o]
As far as Santa Barbara is concerned, you're going to get the best concentration of wine in Lompoc in the wine ghetto. It is a industrial little nook where small operations rent warehouses. Most of the tasting rooms are bare bones, but have excellent offerings. My favorites are Palmina, Fiddlehead, and Ampelos but I haven't tasted up there in ages. I know people are really excited about Samsara for syrah. If you have more time, Foxen Canyon is another great concentration of good wine. The stand outs are Foxen, Demetria (call for an appt before heading up), and Zaca Mesa has some great values on their wine. In Santa Barbara itself, the only places I like to taste are Jaffurs, Margerum, and Au Bon Climat. The rest of them have some good wines here and there, but are generally meh and a bit of a party house.
I haven't been but, Talbott vineyards and Morgan winery have decent reputations and have tasting rooms near Carmel. It's not a very developed area for wineries, so we tend to do other activities, and save the wine tasting for either further south in Paso or further north Santa Cruz Mountains/Santa Cruz.
rancho sisquac is beautiful and they have tasty wines too! it's east of santa maria on the foxen canyon wine trail. demetria winery, also foxen canyon road. fiddlehead cellars in lompoc. salisbury vineyards in avila. all are a little off the beaten track but really nice. and the funk zone in santa barbara is fun for tasting rooms, but can be crowded.