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).
As a significant stop on the Urban Wine Trail, Margerum and Au Bon Climat curate an experienced team of vintners who bring the best of their vineyard-grown gems to downtown Santa Barbara. Glass tippers can traverse the neighboring spaces of the Au Bon Climat and Margerum tasting rooms in whatever order they wish, guiding palates through a tasting tour that includes one full flight of wine from each winery. Flatbread and cheese plates from the nearby Wine Cask Restaurant provide ideal escorts for lonely glasses of handmade vino. In each room, guests savor the complex tastes of a flight of a rare or limited-edition vintage, from classic Burgundian-style beverages to estate-grown nebbiolo, teroldego, and petit verdot.
The California Wine Festival – Monterey Peninsula celebrates the Golden State's vintners by allowing attendees to sample a selection of more than 250 Californian wines. The event includes winemakers and representatives from 53 wineries—including Grgich Hills Estate, Bernardus Winery, and Paraiso Vineyards—as well as booths with artisan cheeses, fresh fruits, and barbecued meats from local, gourmet restaurateurs. Spread across two afternoons and evenings, the festival encourages guests to revisit their favorite wineries or discover obscure gems at a new booth or through a trap door connected to a hidden cellar. The California Wine Festival – Monterey Peninsula aims to support the community by donating 100% of the net proceeds from the Silent Auction to The Food Bank for Monterey County, which distributes food and provides antihunger education throughout the region.
With an adventurous spirit and love for California's central coast, Captain Jack began his tour company to give him a platform to share his passion with others. After gathering the best team of tour guides he could find, each exhibiting the same enthusiasm and upbeat outlook he has, he devised tours that got people outdoors to experience physical activities such as kayaking the sea caves at Channel Islands or paragliding over Santa Barbara's verdant, rolling landscape. The tour ideas he has in mind know no bounds, involving everything from wine-tasting tours and glider rides to whale watching, sailing, and fishing the deep sea for the sneakers that fell out of Davy Jones's locker. To ensure safe and memorable outings, Captain Jack backs up his guides and tours with required licenses, insurance, and years of experience in various backgrounds.
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.
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.