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.
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.
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.
Quaint stone buildings, cool dark cellars full of oak barrels, and fertile fields of grapevines?these are the images that Carina Cellars hopes to evoke with its European-style wines, which celebrate grapes that originated in the Rhone region of France. The winery sources its favored grapes from vineyards all along the central coast, especially Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley. In the late 2000s, Carina also purchased 83 acres of land it called Rancho del Cielo??ranch of the sky,? after its steep slopes?to grow its own vines of viognier, syrah, grenache, and other grapes.
Though Carina Cellars? wines are manufactured using Old-World techniques and grapes, the terroir of California?s central coast shines through to define each style. Its whites feature a smooth 2006 viognier from Stolpman Vineyard, whose limestone soil adds a hint of minerality to the flavors and aromas of fruit before a butterscotch finish. In addition to several single-vineyard reds and carefully harmonized red rhone blends, Carina Cellars cultivates a list of reserve wines that includes Iconoclast, its rich flagship blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah. Iconoclast's initial earthy aroma gives way to lush currant notes and a mocha finish, showcasing the care with which it was aged in small batches.
Vintner Joey Tensley found his calling at the tender age of 12, when a radioactive wine bug bit him in a Bordeaux winery. He broke into the business 10 years later in 1993, eventually establishing his own brand that exclusively creates vineyard-designate syrahs. In 2002, he partnered with longtime enophile and businessman David Hardee to create Carina Cellars.
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.
The oak trees surrounding Roblar Winery never lose their leaves, standing as a pastoral testament to the mild climate of the Santa Ynez Valley. It's this same climate that attracted winemakers Kerry Damskey and Brian Davison. At this bucolic vineyard just 30 minutes from Santa Barbara, they turn varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Sangiovese, and Grenache into wines praised for both their complexity and drinkability. These wines draw enthusiasts from all over to the lodge-style winery, where a 5,000 square foot tasting room hosts regular showcases of Damesky and Davison's creations. Though it's a commanding space, the tasting room is just one welcoming environ of Roblar's estate; guests can also take a glass on a patio shaded by trellised vines, or decamp to the rentable Barrel Room for banquets, conventions, or private parties.