Sunday, November 22, 2009

Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail

On a clear, crisp fall Sunday, I set out on the drive north on U.S. 101 to the city of Santa Barbara.  The drive north can convince anyone to move to the idyllic, yet sprawling seaside city destination.  Many wine travelers pass through the city on their way to the popular wine destinations in the Santa Ynez Valley and often overlook the more than half-dozen wine tasting rooms on Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail.

It was only a few weeks earlier that the wineries were filled wall-to-wall with fermentation bins and the aroma of fermenting grapes. Now, the bins are gone, the barrels are full, and fermentation is well underway.  Within 5 hours, I hit 5 tasting rooms and 6 wineries searching for undiscovered Central Coast wines.  Aside from Jaffurs and Kunin, I've never visited the other tasting rooms and tasted but a few of Carr's previous vintages, so this was a great opportunity to expose my palate to new wineries. Overall, I was pleased with the selection of wines on the tasting lists, but only a few wineries and wines stood out for me.  Everyone should jump on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail and taste these wines for yourself to find your favorites.  Cheers!

Jaffurs Wine Cellars has produced highly acclaimed Rhône varietal wines from Santa Barbara County for over a decade. Jaffurs is one of my top 3 favorite Rhône producers in the Central Coast and each vintage gets better. Jaffurs sources its fruit from the best vineyards in Santa Barbara County, including Bien Nacido, Thompson, Stolpman, Larner, Ampelos and Verna's.  Selections include award-winning Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Petite Sirah.  819 E. Montecito St., Santa Barbara. Open Fri-Sun 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. $10 Tasting Fee (glass included). (805) 962-7003

Jaffurs Wine Cellars

Carr Vineyards and Winery specializes in limited production wines from Santa Barbara County.  Selections includes their wide-ranging collection of Pinot Noir from vineyards throughout the Sta. Rita Hills, Pinot Gris, Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.  It's always a party in the tasting room and during harvest, you can sip on Pinot Noir and watch the crew crush the next vintage.  414 N. Salispuedes St., Santa Barbara. Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (till 8:00 pm, Thurs-Sat). $10 Tasting Fee (805) 965-7985

Carr Winery and Tasting Room

Kunin Wines/Westerly Vineyards share a tasting room a block from East Beach and Stearns Wharf. Kunin Wines has produced hand-crafted wines from California's Central Coast for eleven years. Westerly Vineyards focuses on Rhône and Bordeaux varietals from the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA.  Kunin's selections include a spectacular, award-winning Viognier, Châteauneuf-du-Pape ("Pape Star"), Syrah and Zinfandel.  Westerly's selections include Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Syrah and Merlot.  28 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara. Open daily 11:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. $10 Tasting Fee (Kunin), $8 Tasting Fee (Westerly) (805) 963-9633

Kunin/Westerly Tasting Room

Whitcraft Winery is a family-owned limited production winery specializing in Central Coast Pinot Noir. The wines are never fined, filtered or pumped.  Whitcraft's wine selections include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. 36 A S. Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara. Open Fri-Sun 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  $8 Tasting Fee (805) 730-1680

Oreana Winery produces small lots of Pinot Noir, Syrah and blends from Santa Barbara County. The winery once housed a tire shop in this industrial section of Santa Barbara, that has become home to many other wineries.  Oreana's wine selections include Chardonnay, Verdelho, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and blends. 205 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara. Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  $10 Tasting Fee (805) 962-5857