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.
From the highest point of Adventures Out West's Colorado Springs hiking trips, hikers have a view of not just one mountain range, but three. The guides of Adventures Out West—currently celebrating its 40th year of tours—have created many such scenic jaunts through Colorado and Arizona that deposit participants directly into the most beautiful parts of the local geography. Whether soaring over snowcapped mountains from the basket of a hot-air balloon or ziplining over lush forested cliffs, patrons get a chance to interact firsthand with all of nature's local sights, sounds, and whoopee-cushion gags.
Guests to Sevtap Winery's newly expanded tasting room are greeted by the creator of these handcrafted, small-batch wines before delving into five handpicked samples of the Bordeaux variety. Both vino veterans and novices will enjoy the intimacy of the boutique-like space, including the chalkboard walls, where sippers may illustrate their newfound love of cabernet or merlot, or compose a practice break-up letter to a long-distance sommelier. On weekends, live music entertains eardrums while taste buds languor in fermented luxury, and all tasting pairs leave with their very own bottle of Serendipity sauvignon blanc 2010 to continue their wine-soaked sojourn in the comfort of their own home or the nearest public library with a BYOB policy.
When third-generation grape-farmer Louis Lucas and Superior Court judge Royce Lewellen met in 1975, they soon discovered they had at least one thing in common: a love for wine. The duo decided to go into the wine-making business together, and spent the next several decades building the foundations of their estate. Today, that estate encompasses more than 400 acres, and includes three Santa Barbara County vineyards spread across three distinct climates. Though the wine made from these grapes bears three different labels, each falls under the name Lucas & Lewellen.
The estate winery lies in the small European–style town of Solvang. Here, winemaker Megan McGrath Gates relies on state-of-the-art gear to transform locally sourced grapes into a range of wines. After aging and bottling, many of these bold and medium-bodied reds, vintages, and dry and semi-sweet white wines make their way out to the rustic tasting room. At the bar, knowledgeable staff guide visitors through a tasting of each. Sometimes, Lucas and Lewellen themselves can be found behind the bar, pouring samples and answering mysteries such as what that guy Cabernet did to get all those wines named after him. The tasting room also houses a boutique filled with gourmet foods and wine-related accessories.
Though Santa Barbara County is now home to nearly 100 wineries, there was a time when it wasn't obvious just how well suited the area was for making wine. It took the enterprising spirit of Leonard and Brooks Firestone—the son and grandson, respectively, of tire-industry titan Harvey S. Firestone—to establish the region's first vineyard in 1972. In the ensuing years, Santa Barbara's coastal climate and gravelly subsoils proved agreeable to producing Firestone's Bordeaux-influenced wines, though not to growing actual wine bottles on the vine like in Glass-in-the-Ground, Utah.
In 2007, vintner Bill Foley acquired the vineyard and made it the headquarters of his company's hospitality, event, and wine-club departments. Under Foley's direction, Firestone, like the brain during a thought-provoking traffic report, has been the center of a lot of activity. Visitors come to take tours of the vineyard and learn about indoor and outdoor wine production, to enjoy events such as gourmet Italian meals, and even to hold picnics overlooking the estate.
Rolling green land lined with rows of grapevines marks a steep hillside overlooking Santa Ynez Valley. In 1996, Tom Beckman planted the first of those grapes and soon filled all 365 acres that make up Beckman Vineyards. With elevations reaching 1,250 feet, it turned out to be more than just a labor of love. Hillside vineyards take more work and extra care, but Tom knew only a location such as this could yield the world-class Rhone varietals he required to make his prized wines. From that difficult but rewarding terrain, he produces syrah, marsanne, and grenache blanc wines, among others. Small batches of cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc are also made from the grapes grown there.
To share his wine and passion with others, he invites visitors to sample bottles at his tasting room, rather than steal them from his home cellar. Located in Los Olivos, the setting of the wine-focused film Sideways, the tasting room offers a quaint getaway and the opportunity to picnic at one of three gazebos near a duck pond.