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).
Mike and Chris Brown's story of Cantara Cellars starts as many success stories do: with a humble beginning. Back in 2002, the husband and wife team started off with just 250 pounds of chardonnay grapes that had been hand-picked from Mike's parents' vineyard in Lodi, which eventually transformed into their first 18 gallons of wine. And like most creative endeavors, the winemaking was a labor of love, something the couple doted upon, developed, and refined over the coming years. In 2007, once they had accumulated a huge amount of knowledge?and inventory of wine?the tasting room opened to the public, where visitors could relax, snack on small plates, and enjoy vinos by the ounce, full glass, or bottle. These days, Cantara works with more than 50 tons of harvested grapes each fall, and crafts more than 10 varietals throughout the year.
Oreana Winery's festive, eclectic style is embodied in its facilities, housed within a revamped historical tire shop. While in the tasting room, dabbling imbibers will enjoy dipping their senses into a rotating selection of six different wines, ranging from charming chardonnays to mystical merlots (a $10 value per person). Each tippling pair will receive a bottle of signature 2007 Oreana pinot noir, in which aromatics of wilted rose, strawberry, and wild berry bolster an elegant structure and dimension before fading to a delicate finish (a $30 value). After bathing tongues in sophisticated flavors on Oreana Winery's outdoor patio and attempting to describe a particular sensation as "supernatural taffy," tour the wine shop, gourmet gift market, and fully functional winery.
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.
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).
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.