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).
Whitcraft Winery practices Old World wine traditions and lets nature run its course to fermented-grape-juice perfection, crafting its vegan-friendly wines only from handpicked grapes, yeast, and a bit of sulfites. During the tasting, guests sample four to seven of the winery's signature wines, which are never fined or filtered so as to remain true to the grape varietal's flavor. While hand-bottling a wide assortment of foot-crushed reds and lightly pressed whites, Whitcraft specializes in chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah, and grenache. The 2008 Aubaine pinot noir hints of blueberries, blackberries, and white pepper, and the 2009 Kick-On Ranch chardonnay keeps white-wine enthusiasts happily krumping long after the chalice is empty. Customers can check the current wine offerings and purchase their favorite flavors at 20% off (prices range from $26 to $75 for vintages from 2007 to 2009).
Fresh Fest 2012 treats hip-hop and electro fans to a night full of funky beats and throbbing lasers fit for all ages. Master mixers and mash-up maestros DJ Eon and DJ Flamezz keep strobe lights stoked and frisky feet dancing with a surplus of pulsating club beats. Grab some glow sticks at the door ($5, not included in today's Groupon) and dance to the laser lightshow before preventing sweat droughts with available water, pop, or energy drinks. Unlike most dance parties, no alcohol is allowed at Fresh Fest 2012, allowing crowds to have fun without the threat of an intervening Eliot Ness.
Telegraph Brewing Co. uses locally grown ingredients to handcraft artisan American ales that reflect the regional brewing traditions of California's early pilsner pioneers. Set forth on a journey of sud discovery in the tasting area, an impressive collection of 18-foot fermentation tanks housing an array of award-winning drafts. The brewers themselves will pour you pints of white ale, a classic, unfiltered Belgian-style blend of coriander, orange peel, and chamomile flowers that Wine Enthusiast Magazine named one of the top 25 beers of 2010, allowing you to ply the experts with questions such as, “Why are they called hops if they’ve got no feet?” Sample the intricacies of the California ale, Telegraph’s signature medium-bodied brew featuring an earthy aroma and a good head on its shoulders. Or, tipple the Gypsy ale, a blend of rye, unmalted wheat, and local plums, before requesting a 10 oz. glass of your favorite. Sourdough pretzels are provided as a palate companion, and ale aficionados are encouraged to bring their own eats to pair with lonely lagers.
Having just completed his studies in winemaking at UC Davis, Mark Cummins headed to San Luis Obispo in a 1970 Volkswagen bus, his belongings wedged into the back. Originally intending to pursue a career in music, his plans changed after taking a grape-crushing job at an area winery and meeting a girl named Andi, who later became his wife.
Today, Mark and Andi share their love of wine with others as the winemakers, tasting guides, and operators of Drake Wines. Since 2008, they’ve produced limited bottlings of small-batch varietal wines culled from designated blocks at local vineyards. They press and age these wines themselves, using grapes from each vineyard's pinot noir, chardonnay, and viognier plantings.
In their downtown tasting room, Mark and Andi, often joined by their two sons, guide guests through tastings of their wines. They pour libations into conventional wine glasses, growlers, or old-fashioned test tubes amid eye-pleasing decor that includes a wood-paneled and painted bar and modern, star-shaped chandeliers. Regular performances by area musicians accompany tastings, with Mark sometimes taking the stage himself to play guitar.
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.