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.
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.
Star Trek producer Douglas Cramer once stored his collection of fine art inside the ivy-covered building that stands at 5249 Foxen Canyon Road. But in 1995, the Firestone family acquired the scenic property to open Curtis Winery. Today, paintings still adorn the winery's walls, but French oak barrels and stomping bins create a more rustic ambience.
Small-lot winemaking techniques are at the heart of the Firestone family's wines. Grapes are harvested by hand, gently de-stemmed, and stomped for juices that ferment in open-top bins. Visitors to the winery can sip syrah, Mourvèdre, and other varietals.
Stolpman Vineyards' vintners pluck organically grown grapes on crisp Ballard Canyon evenings when the fruits' skin insulates their robust flavors before letting their varietals age in purebred French oak. Stroll into the tasting room to stain your taste buds with various wines, which may include the 2008 originals syrah, a dark-red vino culled from the vineyard's oldest vines. Visitors may also pick the velvety tannins of the 2008 sangiovese or swirl golden glasses of robust roussanne while discussing the pros and cons of filling the Grand Canyon with jellybeans.
Even while running the Studio Grill in Hollywood, Ardison Phillips committed himself as an artist and a winemaker as well as a restaurateur. He bolstered the grill's menu by adding his own private-label wines in 1976, and their popularity with diners inspired him to found McKeon-Phillips Winery in 1982.
The winery continues to embrace Ardison's legacy by crafting single-vineyard wines with the same dedication to approachable New- and Old-World flavors. Although the selection emphasizes Bordeaux-style wines, including single-varietal bottlings of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, the current winemaker also experiments with robust Nebbiolo and silken Pinot Noir.
Besides creating crowd-pleasing wine, the staff also pays homage to Ardison Phillips's work as an artist by adorning each bottle with vibrant, impressionistic labels. The tasting room even functions as a gallery, featuring a rotating display of works by local artists and extraterrestrial postmodernists.