The snug's the thing, at least according to Rooney's owners Tim and Jane. A good Irish pub contains plenty of snugs—cozy little nooks, typically tucked near the fireplace—where "conversations flow and revolutions ferment" around a table topped with pints. Most importantly, snugs grant an atmosphere of intimacy even when the place is packed, much like the honeymoon suite found inside most clown cars.
Rooney's snugs hold to the traditions of Eire's famed watering holes, but Tim and Jane have crossbred those traditions with central California culture, most notably in Chef Anthony Endy's hearty gastropub cuisine. This melding of old and new has snagged the attention of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, which in 2012 named Rooney's Irish Pub the best Orcutt restaurant. The menu's most popular dish, "The Lost" shepherd's pie, exemplifies the blend by replacing ground beef with Guinness-braised Angus short ribs. Similarly, old sod standbys such as Guinness and Harp pour out of taps next to Rooney's own microbrews, such as the Bonny Blond Ale and the Irish Ambush IPA.
Rooney's has established some of its own traditions as well. The trivia-night league convenes on Wednesdays for no-holds-barred fact downs. Each Friday, Chef Anthony stacks california red oak into a 10-foot smoker to slow cook brisket, ribs, and whole hogs—some of which are locally raised on grains recycled from the microbrewery. The staff dishes out the meat to pub patrons on Smokin' Saturday, and also uses it for catering events or parties of up to 100 guests in the banquet room. Smokin' Saturday devotees can nurse their heads the morning after with "Bloody Sunday" brunch, where they get to doctor up their own cures at an award-winning bloody mary bar.
Wandering Dog Wine Bar curates a collection of brews and vintages sourced locally and from around the world, dispensing them by the glass or flight along with light, savory pairings. Visitors choose from a selection of nearly 50 wines available by the glass each day, sizing up their distinctive aromas, colors, and hair-dying capabilities in varied tasting flights. Beers hailing from Germany, Belgium, and England politely doff their caps and dispense their amber insides for beer-sampling sessions. Light plates of cheese, chocolate, and antipasto complement the flavor profiles of each taste and prepare palates for their next adventure.
Sort This Out Cellars combines the wine selection of a boutique specialty store with the aesthetic of a Vegas diner in the 1950s. Chrome and red stools line up at the bar, and sleek vinyl loveseats are juxtaposed against wine barrels in the lounge. The winery’s aesthetic was inspired by a 1961 Rat Pack photo that recalled times of unapologetic fast living, glamour, and gambling. Because the founders wanted to avoid the sleepy, pastoral vibe of most wineries and all roadside hay-petting zoos, they embraced the rockabilly aesthetic to ensure that their digs were as exciting as their customers and wines.
Those small-batch wines are created from grapes purchased from Californian vineyards and crushed by Sort This Out’s proprietor. “This means,” a writer for Wine Country This Week noted, “he can search the state for the best grapes to crush, or in some cases the best juice from another winery to purchase, and then finish it into his own wine.” The aesthetics surrounding the wine are also important. Mid-century gentlemen’s playing cards inspired a line of bottles with pin-ups on the label matched to flavors within. Other elixirs borrow their names from poker and Vegas table games, hinting at inventive combinations of pinot grigio, viognier, and sauvignon blanc grapes. Some evenings, toasting glasses punctuate the sounds of live music. True to form, the guest bands play oldies and rockabilly tunes.
Committed to providing fresh pours, the winetenders of Gather Wine Bar uncork only 25 to 35 of their carefully curated central-coast wines each week. Knowledgeable staff can recommend a bottle for customers to pair with charcuterie plates, flatbread pizzas, and gourmet pub snacks such as bacon-wrapped dates. Alternatively, themed wine flights can provide a cross section of a single varietal or eclectic tastes from an array of vines. Live music acts and singles events create an upbeat atmosphere on many nights, and catered parties can gather small groups around a fire pit or feed 100 or more people with unlimited appetizers from the bar.
In 1968, bearing a degree in geography and a taste for fine wines, Richard Sanford set out to find the perfect location to grow pinot noir grapes. He dreamed of a climate zone similar to France’s Burgundy region, often poring over maps and statistics in search of a similar locale in his native California. Upon discovering the Transverse mountain ranges of Santa Barbara County, Richard felt his shovel thump the lid of a potential treasure chest. With mountains running east to west, the range allowed the ocean air to rush down the Santa Ynez Valley and keep the climate right where he needed it. Since his discovery, Richard has worked with his wife, Thekla, for more than 40 years on 100 acres of certified organic vineyards, using the literal fruits of their labor to craft delicate versions of pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, and vin gris wines.
Founded in 2010 by father-and-son team Jim and Jaime Dietenhofer and brewer A.J. Stoll, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. has quickly proved its mettle by winning a series of medals, including five golds, from prestigious contests such as the Denver International Beer Competition. Visitors can peek at the brewery’s inner workings on tours, learning about the origins of such beers as Paradise Road Pilsner, Davy Brown Ale, and Hurricane Deck Double IPA. They can also view the towering stainless-steel tanks in which beer is born as a mash and undergoes an awkward adolescence as a root beer. Back in the tasting room, guests sit beneath a wood and sheet-metal awning as they sip samples of the alcohol alchemists' nine beers. The tasting room is often host to events, with live music on the weekends and quiz and darts nights on alternating Wednesdays.
For all its contributions to the wine industry, it's hard to believe that Core Wine Company is just a two-person operation. One half of that operation is David Corey, whose first position in the industry was as a pest-control advisor. He eventually moved from protecting the grapes to producing them himself, and in 2001, he founded Core alongside his wife, wine-pairing expert Becky.
Together, the Coreys have concocted several different labels, including Core, Kuyam, and Turchi. Each of those labels features a different background story, and each bears Becky's original artwork and loving fingerprints on its labels. The Coreys share their creations at their Old Town Orcutt shop, where they frequently host events, such as educational tastings of an extraordinarily wide range of wines on the second Wednesday of every month.