Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Birthday Wine Tasting 03.23.2013 - Santa Barbara County

Hello Lovelies!

As March draws to a close, my Month-Long Birthday Extravaganza reached its fourth, and final, consecutive weekend of fun!  And what better way to end things than with a day of wine tasting?

My sister and her girlfriend were headed up to Santa Barbara County to pick up a wine shipment and invited me along.  It's very surprising that my experience with this wine region is so limited, considering it is the closest to me, but I've only been up to this area once.  Last summer, I went to a Wine Club Member BBQ with my mother at Gainey winery where she is a member and we stopped at a couple others to taste.  It was such a lovely area and I was very excited to go back!  We left around 9, which is painful on a Saturday, but with a delicious cup of coffee in hand and a nice drive up the coast, well worth it!

After hitting a little traffic and getting stuck behind a senior citizen's tour bus going approximately 5 MPH up a hill on a two lane highway (which was beyond painful, but hilarious at the same time), we made it to the Whole Foods in Santa Barbara around 11:30.  We purchased a few things for our picnic later that day and got back on the road, arriving at Firestone Winery in Los Olivos around 12:15...right in time for a lunch of wine tasting, a personal favorite of mine.

In addition to Firestone's love of wine, they are also bicycling enthusiasts.  I'd seen photos of bicycle wine racks, but I'd never actually seen one in person until this day.  I applaud whoever it was that came up with's probably the only thing that would get me on a bike!

My sister was kind enough to point out the interesting features of this bike.

Seeing a real life bicycle wine rack made me happy.  What made me even happier, was the private members area.  And, seeing as how I came with a member, we were able to sneak through this fantastic door, through the barrel room, and into a nice quiet lounge for our tasting!

The Firestone Member Lounge looks into the barrel room which was quite nice and their cork tabletops were a great little touch.  We all ended up leaving with a few bottles.  This winery makes an absolutely fantastic Sauvignon Blanc which I ended up buying and if you come here, you will definitely want to taste their Cabernet Franc, a bottle of which also came home with me.  Though I did not buy any of their Library wines, these higher end blends were also delicious!  I don't think I've ever tried Firestone wine before, but I liked everything I tried - and I award extra points to this winery for allowing me to skip the chardonnay of the tasting and taste the Cab Franc twice.  XOXO Firestone!

After Firestone, we went all the door to Curtis Winery!

Curtis is the last winery owned by the Firestone family.  Funnily enough, the winery named Firestone is no longer owned by the family, but the winery named for the owner's grandmother (Curtis was her maiden name) still is.  Speaking of, we were able to taste a very special bottle of Chardonnay that was made in her honor and named after her.  These grapes were picked by her grandchildren and only yielded 620 bottles.  While I normally avoid Chardonnay like the plague, this one was surprisingly drinkable, which speaks to how good it probably is to those who actually like this varietal.

We were all having a fantastic time with the fantastic wine and our fantastic pourer, Jason.  I was having such a great time that I decided to join their wine club!

This FANTASTIC bottle is 19% Cinsault, which is a varietal that I was not familiar with.  I will be seeking out this grape again and report back!  

Perhaps I enjoyed my wine a little too much...or I was just too enthusiastic in my aeration.  This is what the tasting menu looked like after I sopped up all the wine that was aerated by sailing out of my glass, through the air, and all over the bar and Lila's shirt.  Classy.

After Curtis, we all decided it was time for our picnic, so we drove from Los Olivos to Solvang to picnic in the park.  Though we did NOT follow this contraption in order to find the park, we were able to do that all on our own!  (PS - How uncomfortable do they all look?)

And we couldn't pass up some photos with the bust of Hans Christian Andersen, seeing as how we had just picnicked in the park named in his honor.

As a point of interest (or for a future trivia night question), Solvang and Copenhagen are sister cities.  You're welcome.

After we refueled, we walked across the street to our last tasting destination, Sort This Out Cellars.  With an Old School Rockabilly vibe, this is a fun little surprise!  Further proof that wine can be VERY fun and accessible to everyone!

I specifically wanted to revisit their tasting room because of the Vino Nostra which I featured as my first Vino Love post a little while back.  They were pouring the 2009 which I did not enjoy nearly as much as the 2008, but their Port was phenomenal, so I ended up walking away with a bottle of that.  Also, for those of you who love Mulled Wine, or Gl├╝hwein, I was blown away by theirs!  You rarely see this anywhere...and it was amazing!  They even sell a Mulling Kit that would be a fantastic gift for the holidays - though I wouldn't purchase too far in advance, since this will most likely not make it until you want to gift it to your loved will most definitely drink it yourself long before the holidays roll around!  It's insanely good!

When we were done there, we headed back into Santa Barbara and stopped at Enterprise Fish Co.  After some super yummy appetizers and one last glass of wine, we were ready to hit the road again!

As the sun set on our FABULOUS wine tasting adventure, three very happy and tired girls headed back home, excited about the next wine pickup day!

If you have not had a chance to visit this wine country, you really must!  
Happy Tasting, Lovelies!


  1. My preference for Chardonnay is limited on Chablis. Pairing it with seafood or chicken (at times) makes for my perfect night. Anyway, what a way to end your month-long celebration on such a high note! The bicycle wine rack is genius too. When I visit wineries, I always imagine myself strolling down the vineyard on a bicycle. Thanks for sharing this experience-slash-review, Melinda!

    Corey Glenn

    1. I'm a Sauvignon Blanc girl myself...and come to think of it, that would probably be perfect on a bike ride through a vineyard! Glad you enjoyed the post Corey - it really was a fabulous day!