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.
According to the clever folks at Giessinger Winery, the best wine is the one you like. Following that logic, they invite visitors into tasting rooms to sample the winery's many varieties and figure out which most agrees with their palate. Bestowed with the honor of Santa Barbara's Best Winery and Best Tasting Room in Santa Barbara by the U.S. Commerce Association in 2013, resident winemaker Edouard Giessinger and his associate Justin Tatum also lead groups through the nuanced process of crafting wines during comprehensive classes, wherein visitors can learn how wine is made, visit the production facility, and even taste wines.
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.
The first chapter of Brett Escalera’s and Tom Daughters’ foray into the wine industry begin in 1999 when they released their first varietal under the Consilience label—a 1997 Santa Barbara County Syrah. Eight years later, they partnered with Tom's brother Ken to found the sister label, Tre Anelli. Comparatively speaking, the two labels are very different, with Consilience drawing upon the intensity and depth of Rhone varietals and Tre Anelli emulating flavors from Italy and Spain. Both, however, are produced with grapes sourced from Santa Barbara County's top vineyards. At their shop, Brett, Tom, and Ken host daily tastings and dramatic recreations of famous spit-takes within their spacious, dog-friendly tasting room.
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.