Bernard's Wine Gallery, a wine store with thousands of old and rare fine wines for sale, welcomes both wine neophytes and grizzled oenophiles to sip from its fine vat of liquefied vinefruits. Bernard Rosenson, who owns Bernard's Wine Gallery with his wife Cynthia, also owns Coquelicot Estate Vineyard, the organically farmed vineyard featured in this tasting. Six Coquelicot wines preside in the elegant tasting room, including the 2006 Bordeaux Blend, which won a gold medal at the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition for its dark, complex taste. Guests will swirl and sip in luxury, blissfully whisking away memories of Twilight Zone episodes where clubs of giant wine bottles attended a human tasting. Tastings run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Eighty-one-thousand vines grow across Malibu Family Wines' 90-acre vineyard, producing eight varietals in total, including cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, and malbec. Once bottled and corked, many of the vineyard's Semler and Saddlerock wines end up at the tasting room in Los Olivos, a homey space with indoor and outdoor seating, occasional live music, and a large wooden tasting bar where customers are free to smell, sample, and swirl away. Those who enjoy the wines can rejoice knowing there's more where that came from?the vineyard expects to increase its vine total to 100,000 in the near future.
According to the clever folks at Giessinger Winery, the best wine is the one you like. Following that logic, they invite visitors into tasting rooms to sample the winery's many varieties and figure out which most agrees with their palate. Bestowed with the honor of Santa Barbara's Best Winery and Best Tasting Room in Santa Barbara by the U.S. Commerce Association in 2013, resident winemaker Edouard Giessinger and his associate Justin Tatum also lead groups through the nuanced process of crafting wines during comprehensive classes, wherein visitors can learn how wine is made, visit the production facility, and even taste wines.
Mike and Chris Brown's story of Cantara Cellars starts as many success stories do: with a humble beginning. Back in 2002, the husband and wife team started off with just 250 pounds of chardonnay grapes that had been hand-picked from Mike's parents' vineyard in Lodi, which eventually transformed into their first 18 gallons of wine. And like most creative endeavors, the winemaking was a labor of love, something the couple doted upon, developed, and refined over the coming years. In 2007, once they had accumulated a huge amount of knowledge?and inventory of wine?the tasting room opened to the public, where visitors could relax, snack on small plates, and enjoy vinos by the ounce, full glass, or bottle. These days, Cantara works with more than 50 tons of harvested grapes each fall, and crafts more than 10 varietals throughout the year.
As the years have led to urban expansion, only one Los Angeles winery has stood the test of time. The San Antonio Winery and Restaurant in Lincoln Heights is so beloved as a local drinking institution, it was given cultural monument status in 1966. Since then, the hidden-away winery, down a few side streets in an industrial part of the downtown area, has been quietly serving up glasses of fine wine from their Italian-style villa. Terracotta roofs and tall greenery line the exterior of this operational winery, which has been bottling since 1917. Free wine tastings and tours are available daily, and the attached Maddalena restaurant serves homey Italian food.
At Riviera Calabasas, chefs draw from local, seasonal ingredients to create dishes inspired by Italian, French, and Spanish cuisine. They even add Asian and South American twists. The result is a menu that features recognizable pillars, such as pasta, steaks, and fish, decorated with delicious flourishes. Chefs coat tender fillets of Scottish salmon in a crisp potato crust, garlic-infused lobster sauce, and vegetables that are seasonal—like freezing rain in winter or falling down despite wearing a classy outfit in winter. And Riviera Calabasas brings plenty of class to the table: white linens drape tables, and earth-tone walls reflect the warm yellow light of fixtures hanging over black-and-white booths in the carpeted dining area.
A full bar showcases wines by the glass, imported and domestic beers, cocktails, and cordials, whereas Sunday brunch presents eggs benedict, a pancake bar, french toast, and breakfast pizza. The Riviera Calabasas team doesn't neglect its guests' health concerns, though—its alternate menu catalogs a slate of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options.