Choose two flights, consisting of three to five 1-ounce pours, which can be selfishly indulged or reluctantly shared among multiple sippers in Malibu Wines' outdoor tasting room. The Saddlerock Ranch Flight ($10) includes wines sourced from multiple vineyards throughout the central coast of California, expertly coalesced for complex varieties disguised as chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, and old vine tawny. The Semler Estate Flight ($12) consists of wine from Malibu Wines' very own vineyard just steps from the tasting room, and includes a sauvignon blanc and three cabernet sauvignon swishables that gracefully lube up a locavore's gullet. Bring along a good friend, a romantic partner, or a sentient Muppet, and discover a new and indulgent way to relax.
At tastings held daily from June to August, Jaffurs Wine Cellars tempts oenophilic tongues with five Rhône varietals. Growers in the fertile Santa Ynez, Santa Rita, and Santa Maria wine regions carefully cultivate the future intoxicants on small lots, observing high farming standards and ancient Bacchanalian rituals. With a limited production of about 5,000 cases each year, Jaffurs' winemakers can thoroughly inspect each individual grape, screening out overripe fruitlets and anthropomorphized raisins. The results are red and petite syrahs, grenache, and mourvedre wines that play pleasantly atonal chords of fruit across the palate, an aromatic white viognier with floral and peach intonations, and other varieties that croon seductive verses to receptive taste buds. A private tasting appointment, necessary for groups of more than six, may incur an additional fee ($5/person).
The vino aficionados at Bernard’s Wine Gallery stock their cellars with a multifarious collection of wines from around the world, including a broad selection of local Santa Barbara County vintages. Currently, the gallery inundates taste buds with a mélange of locally produced Coquelicot beverages cultivated using organic farming principles, such as zero chemical pesticides, regular composting practices, and hemp-woven tuxedos for every employee. Samples of Coquelicot Vineyard’s fermented delights—including chardonnay, sangiovese, and cabernet franc—dart across tongues to invoke an array of tones and flavors. Additionally, free plates brim with rich cheeses that help support the rich, sugary notes of the wines by spontaneously animating and leading a pep rally.
Agua Dulce Winery unfurls its trellised vines and winemaking facilities across 90 acres of the Sierra Pelona Valley. The grapes rely on the valley's cool evening breezes and alluvial soils to maintain the earthy, peppery flavors and restrained acidity that characterize the region's wines. Medium- and high-toasted barrels from France, Hungary, and the United States each lend their own influence to the freshly fermented creations, aging the juice and subtly tweaking the flavorful interplay of rich fruit and restrained spice. The winery's selection includes a robust zinfandel that can pair with smoky barbecue or grilled meats and a bold cabernet sauvignon, which spent two years contemplating its escape from an international mixture of oak barrels.
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.
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.