Notes, stories and fun mishaps around winemaking.
Only a short 40 minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara, aka America's Riviera, the Santa Ynez Valley boasts award-winning wines crafted in the style of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone Valley. While there is a wide variety of wineries and tasting rooms to visit, we are often asked about other activities here in our little slice of paradise. After all, one can't wine taste ALL day AND night!
If you love the active life, you'll find an athletic Mecca that is well worth the pilgrimage. There's a reason the likes of Lance Armstrong, Tejay van Garderen, and Taylor Phinney have trained in the Santa Ynez Valley over the years. Grueling climbs on quiet roads with infinite blue skies overhead beckon cyclists like the Sirens of Greek mythology. The Figueroa Mountain loop is not for the novice rider, but like a clever mariner, a skilled cyclist can successfully navigate around its challenges. The Amgen Tour of California frequently incorporates the Santa Ynez Valley into its route. Former Olympic cyclist Chris Carmichael has established a training camp here, and Trek Travel runs multiple bike tours in the area. Several local companies offer day packages as well; check out Wine Country Cycling Tours for starters, and Dr. J's Bicycle Shop for daily rentals.
If mountain biking is your mode of exercise, check out The Dirt Club located on Zaca Station Road. With glorious views and miles of trails, there’s something for every level of rider.
Hiking opportunities range from a modest walk to the Nojoqui Falls, to more challenging hikes up Grass Mountain (shown below from the summit), Knapp’s Castle, or Gaviota Peak. A fit hiker can start early, and be up and back in time for afternoon wine tasting. Click here for a link to some local hikes. It's wise to carry plenty of water and be wary of rattlesnakes and mountain lions.
Fine wine tends to pique the interest of renowned chefs, and we are fortunate to be attracting more and more culinary artists. Featured in Food and Wine and Wine Spectator, do not miss Chef Budi Kazali of The Ballard Inn’s lamb or fish dishes. His Hamachi sashimi appetizer is a local favorite. Brother’s Jeff and Matt Nichols, formerly of Spago’s and other Los Angeles and Paris restaurants, have converted the historic Sides Hardware and Shoes building into a relaxed restaurant with a farm-to-table philosophy that translates to delicious food. On a given day you’ll see local winemakers, captains of industry, or maybe even rocker David Crosby settling in for signature breakfast beignets, lunchtime fish tacos, or a supper of Scottish salmon. The newest kids on the block are the Santa Ynez Kitchen in Santa Ynez (from veteran Toscana restaurateurs Mike and Kathie Gordon), which has already drawn glowing reviews from locals, and soon to open The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern featuring Nashville Chef Robbie Wilson.
Other local favorites: Grappolo, Root 246, Dos Carlito's, Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Cafe, Petro's, Paula's Pancakes (breakfast), Longhorn (breakfast)
You’ll find miniature horses and miniature donkeys lining the Alamo Pintado corridor, the ostrich farm that was featured in Sideways, gorgeous fields of lavender on Roblar Road, just-picked apples at Apple Lane Farm, olive oil tasting at Global Gardens in Los Olivos, eclectic jewelry at Waxing Poetic, and not-to-be-missed Danish bakeries such as The Solvang Bakery in Solvang. Grab some pastries or a to-go lunch at Panino's and enjoy a weekend picnic on the historic Ballard School grounds. And finally, when you’ve sated your wine tasting palate, check out the newly opened Barrel Works at the Firestone-Walker Taproom in Buellton, and sample some award-winning local brews (along with great food).
While we hope you come in and taste our luscious Bordeaux-style wines in our Los Olivos tasting room, we also encourage you to take advantage of all the valley has to offer. Above all, we hope you enjoy visiting our glorious Santa Ynez Valley!
Although we're blessed with a comparatively temperate climate here in the Santa Ynez Valley, Mother Nature still graces us with distinct seasons. She delivered right on time with the vernal equinox last week. Signs of the onset of spring abound. After the relatively quiet, dormant winter period in the vineyard, we are experiencing our 'rebirth' on the vines.
A couple of weeks of warm weather coerced most of our grape varieties into budbreak. There's no 'Beware the Ides of March' for us. Mid-March is the exciting time when we begin to look for signs of our new vintage on the vines. WIth the winter work of pruning the vines (we employ both cane pruning and spur pruning methods), and the planting of cover crops behind us, we anxiously await those first signs of new life, when tiny bulges appear between the leaf stalk (petiole) and the shoot stem.
As you can see from the photos, the 2013 vintage has announced itself. We see bud break on the Sangiovese vines, but don't let it fool you. This Italian variety takes its sweet time to fully ripen. The Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec are also introducing green to the ashen colored vines, while the Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc have not yet awakened.
As the buds begin to spread their leaves, the knee-high cover crops are being turned under. They're now ready to contribute nutrients to the soil and aid in water conservation. By incorporating the stems into the dirt, we open up pathways in the soil for vine roots, air, and water.
We'll keep you posted as the grapes edge toward inflorescence and flowering. In the meantime, enjoy spring with a nice glass of wine!
Have you read Peter Mayle’s novel A Good Year? It was published in 2004, or roughly when we were getting knee-deep in the business of growing wine grapes. In it, the protagonist (Max Skinner), parachutes out of London banking into the world of wine when his late uncle bequeaths a Luberon Valley vineyard to him. The novel traces Max’s evolving passion for the vineyard and winemaking with elements of romance and humor. But the central intrigue revolves around a mysterious portion of the vineyard known as ‘Le Coin Perdu’ (the godforsaken spot). At first glance, Max sees it as scorched earth; a place where only the most hearty of vines could possibly eke out an existence. As you might guess, it turns out that this rocky, forlorn patch of vines is turning out the most exquisite wine on the estate.
Which brings us to our Le Clos Secret vineyard. Visible only to one neighbor, it is tucked away in a hidden portion of the ranch. In fact, its closest neighbor is an olive tree orchard. Planted on steep, rocky soil, its locale evoked images of Le Coin Perdu, where the crusty winemaker Roussel had planted, “…the best Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Merlot.” Here we planted two clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, 08 and 337. Roughly translated, Le Clos Secret means the secret enclosed vineyard.
Though challenging to farm due to the rocky soil, and difficult to get to with our tractors in inclement weather, it has been producing beautiful fruit and luscious wine. We crafted a Bordeaux blend that relies heavily on our Cabernet Sauvignon from this vineyard, as well as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Our 2007 Le Clos Secret earned 92 points from Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Steve Heimoff who called it, “…one of the best and most delicious Bordeaux blends to emerge from that warmer area…” And our 2008 was christened with 91 points and written up by Marc Hinton of Enobytes, “This is one of those wines whose blend obtains a singular expression where the final blend exceeds the sum of its parts. The aromas are expressive and the flavors are refined. The finish is all finesse, no fooling, a very serious wine worth seeking out.”
We suppose that perhaps Mother was right, all good things worth having come from hard work.
Whether you’re wine tasting in Santa Ynez Wine Country for the first time, or whether you’re a veteran Santa Ynez wine tasting aficionado, our new Los Olivos tasting room has something unique to offer.
Our wines are handcrafted from estate grown grapes from our Happy Canyon Three Creek Vineyard. Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara is the newest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Santa Barbara County, and Cimarone is the first (and only) Happy Canyon winery to open a tasting room in the charming town of Los Olivos.
While many older Santa Ynez and Los Olivos wineries are focused on Rhone and Burgundy varieties, we are intensely dedicated to grapes hailing from Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc). Our Happy Canyon climate and terroir are ideally suited for their optimal growth, mirroring geologic and temperate elements of Napa and Bordeaux. We also feature a lovely Sangiovese because the feisty Italian loves our terroir as well.
Santa Ynez Wine Tasting, Los Olivos WineriesDon’t be fooled by our youth…major wine critics such as Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast Magazine have already awarded scores of 90, 91, and 92 for our efforts. In fact, Mr. Heimoff called us, “A brand to watch.” But the best judge is always your own palate, so come sample the fruits of our labors for yourself!
Visit us! Look for our logo dog, Kali, on the sign.
2982 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Hours: Thursday – Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.