Thanks to Southern California's dry summer days and cool nights, the grapes around Antelope Valley Winery enjoy a long growing season with ideal temperatures and conditions. This translates into a variety of wines that run the gamut from robust reds to sweet sparkling concoctions perfect for toasting raisins who escaped the press. And although wine is Antelope Valley Winery's main focus, it's not their only one. In addition, they sell grass-fed buffalo meat hailed for its low-cholesterol goodness, and run a farmers' market from May through November, where shoppers can pick up exotic meats, organic juice, and locally-made goat cheese.
To craft their signature dish—The New York Sizzle— the chefs of Steak & Grape Restaurant hand carve a choice cut of Angus steak. They sizzle up the meat in an infrared broiler until it's juicy and tender, and then serve it on a 600-degree plate with a decadent garlic butter. Servers bear the premium cuts out into the airy, rustic dining room, along with plates of handmade specialty burgers, fine pastas, and fresh seafood. Bartenders bustle about behind the sleek wood bar, uncorking bottles of fine wines beneath the glow of flat-screen TVs.
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.
Robert Reyes had envisioned something small: a little parcel of land in the Sierra Pelona Valley with a handful of vines, the grapes from which he would transform into small batches of premium wine and perhaps a California Raisins cover band. But when he found 16 acres of sunny, sloping land in 2002, his vision shifted from fulfilling a personal passion to building a thriving business. Two years later, Robert and his family planted five varieties of grapes, and Reyes Winery was born. Today, the winery welcomes visitors for all types of events, ranging from basic tastings to half-day wine-fueled hiking excursions through the surrounding hills.
Winemakers Steve Lemley and Nate Hasper know that you can’t make interesting wines from uninteresting grapes. That’s why the creative duo behind Pulchella Winery actively sources all of the winery’s Paso Robles grapes from small vineyards that exhibit singular characteristics often overlooked by high-production wineries. These rare traits lend a depth of flavor complexity to the boutique wines that has resulted in a strong cult following.
Fermented either from single varietals or blends of grapes that have proven they play well with others, each small-batch vintage has a limited production of 100 cases or fewer. Visitors to the winery can sample these rare ferments in a dragonfly-themed tasting room managed by a certified sommelier and often frequented by the winemakers themselves.
All of Spumoni's homey restaurants brim with Old World ambience and warm zephyrs laden with the aromas of a broad selection of mouthwatering pastas and pizzas. Enjoy extravagant culinary indulgence not seen since the reign of Emperor Boyardee with a delectable antipasti dish, such as the Veggie Tower & Prosciutto, a shuffled deck of tomatoes, eggplant, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, and succulent Parma prosciutto ($9.95). For a bigger bite, wrap mouth muscles around the Gnocchi Fradiavola, piquant shrimp and white wine cradling tender spud-infused pasta as beautiful as a litter of Mr. Potato Heads ($16.95). The Herculean array of pizzas, such as the Capricciosa, studded with artichoke, ham, mushroom, and mozzarella ($17.95/12" pie), goes down much easier after a few glasses of muscle-loosening wines, including Sangiovese ($6/glass) and Moretti ($5/glass).Though this Groupon does not cover the $2.50 charge, Spumoni's expedient food runners deliver to homes, businesses, and Muppet-infested trashcans.
Before they could move into their dream winemaking facility, the proprietors of Casa Barranca Winery Tasting Room had to exhume it. The team dug 15 feet into the earth and hacked their way through two feet of stone in order to gain access to a century-old stone water cistern, which they subsequently converted into a solar-powered underground winery. Today, the winemakers handcraft Old World–style varietals from organic grapes that flourish in the Ojai Valley's warm climate.
Grown and farmed without pesticides or herbicides, the grapes are part of the natural, sustainable practices that earned Casa Barranca the first organic certification for a winery in the Santa Barbara region. They're also what give Casa Barranca's critically lauded and award-winning wines their fruity, earthy flavors. Visitors can sample these bouquets amid murals of the local wine region in the winery's tasting room, located in downtown Ojai's Historic Arcade.