Cocktail Corner: Experiencing the Vineyard at Zaca Mesa

A drone view of Zaca Mesa Vineyard, courtesy Zaca Mesa.

A drone view of Zaca Mesa Vineyard, courtesy Zaca Mesa.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Venturing into Santa Barbara County wine country is always a treat, but if you want something extra special, the Vineyard Experience at Zaca Mesa is a must-see. My husband and I recently took the tour and had such a lovely day. 

First of all, the sustainable estate winery and vineyard is gorgeous, with sweeping views as far as the eye can see. In his air-conditioned vehicle, Garrett Black, who is the company’s Brand Ambassador | Special Events, as well as a Certified Sommelier, CMS, took us through the history of the renowned 750-acre property, which was planted in 1973 and only the third winery in Santa Barbara County at that time.

Zaca Mesa Vineyard, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Zaca Mesa Vineyard, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

As an added and very clever part of the tour, as we stopped at various points in the vineyard and tasted wines among the very vines that they came from. Believe me when I say that Zaca Mesa’s famous Black Bear Block Syrah—the oldest Syrah block in the Central Coast—is even more delicious when you’re sipping among the vines! 

Zaca Mesa served as the training ground for many great winemakers. Ken Brown was Zaca Mesa’s first winemaker (he later started Byron in Santa Maria Valley). Adam Tolmach, Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist worked at Zaca Mesa before venturing out on their own to start Ojai Vineyard, Au Bon Climat and Qupé, respectively. The current team produces excellent Syrah, Viognier, and other Rhône varieties and includes Director of Vineyard and Winery Operations Eric Mohseni and Winemaker Kristin Bryden.

Zaca Mesa Winemaker Kristin Bryden, courtesy photo.

Zaca Mesa Winemaker Kristin Bryden, courtesy photo.

Our experience (2+ hours) included an in-depth tour of the vineyard and production facility, personalized tours of the crush pad, tank rooms and barrel rooms, and a delicious wine country picnic lunch (ours was delicious and from Industrial Eats) with a guided tasting of current releases.

It was so much fun. The Vineyard Experience is $100 per person, and is available only to groups of 4-13 people. If that’s not quite in your budget, or time constraints, Zaca Mesa also offers a Winery Tour & Tasting, where guests can enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the winery and production facility in an hour-long experience that spotlights Zaca Mesa’s history and the winery’s annual journey from vine to bottle. The Winery Tour & Tasting is $30 per person and includes a sampling of current releases.  

Some snippets from our tour of Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard, photos by Zak Klobucher.

Some snippets from our tour of Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard, photos by Zak Klobucher.

Both tours are available by reservation. Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard is located at 6905 Foxen Canyon Rd., Los Olivos, 805/688-9339. For more information about tastings and tours click here.

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Zaca Mesa Vineyard, photo by George Rose, courtesy Zaca Mesa.

Zaca Mesa Vineyard, photo by George Rose, courtesy Zaca Mesa.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on May 25, 2018.

Cocktail Corner: Wine & Fire Weekend

Wine & Fire Weekend, courtesy Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance.

Wine & Fire Weekend, courtesy Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance hosts the annual Wine & Fire Weekend Aug. 18-20. In addition to special events and tastings throughout the weekend at member wineries, there is also a Barn Party at Dierberg Star Lane on Friday Aug. 18, where member wineries will share their library stashes, large format bottles and small production wines to get you warmed up for the weekend.

Participating Wineries include: Babcock Winery, Bratcher Winery, Brewer-Clifton, Byron Winery, Crawford Family Wines, Dierberg, Fiddlehead Cellars, Flying Goat Cellars, Foley Estates, Hilliard Bruce, Hitching Post Wines, Ken Brown, La Voix Winery, LaMontagne, Loring Wine Company, Lutum Wines, Montemar, Peake Ranch, Sanford Winery & Vineyards, Seagrape Wine Company and Spear. Plus, antipasti and wood fired pizzas by Bello Forno, a cheese buffet presented by Central Coast Specialties and great music by the T-Bone Ramblers will set the pace for a weekend of wining and dining.

Wine & Fire Weekend, photo by Jeremy Ball, Bottle Branding, courtesy Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance.

Wine & Fire Weekend, photo by Jeremy Ball, Bottle Branding, courtesy Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance.

Next up on Saturday morning is a Focused Tasting and Lunch Featuring the Vineyards of Santa Rosa Road. The morning will begin with a Sparkling Reception, followed by a “virtual” tour as you travel through the mile markers of Santa Rosa Road. The event takes place at El Jabali Vineyard and Matt Kettmann, from Wine Enthusiast, will act as tour guide.

Vineyards and producers representing: Bentrock – Bratcher, Babcock, El Jabali – Alma Rosa, Fe Ciega – Longoria / Fiddlestix Vineyard – Dragonette, Fiddlehead, Hitching Post / La Rinconada – Sanford / Lafond Vineyards – Lafond, Sweetzer Cellars / Peake Ranch – Peake Ranch Wines / Quinta Santa Rosa Vineyard – Prodigal / Radian – Ken Brown, Crawford Family Wines, Montemar / Rancho La Vina – Seagrape, Temperance Cellars, LaMontagne / Rio Vista Vineyard – Thorne, Flying Goat, Montemar, Temperance Cellars / Rita’s Crown Vineyard – Babcock,  Sweetzer Cellars / Sanford and Benedict Vineyard – Hitching Post, Sanford and Ken Brown.

Wine & Fire Weekend, photo by Jeremy Ball, Bottle Branding, courtesy Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance.

Wine & Fire Weekend, photo by Jeremy Ball, Bottle Branding, courtesy Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance.

After the tour is lunch and a sampling of Rose wines produced by the members.

Finally, on Sunday, Aug. 19 is the Grand Tasting, where more than 40 wineries and sizzling local chefs and farmers will be on hand for an evening of chilling and grilling at the beautiful, historic La Purisima Mission, located on the edge of the AVA. Babe Farms, Campbell Farms, Central Coast Specialty Foods, Homegrown Cowboy, The Hitching Post II, Los Amigos BBQ, Tollhouse BBQ, Scratch Kitchen, The Ballard Inn and the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers will be serving up an amazing selection of local food favorites!

Participating Wineries: Alma Rosa, Ave, Babcock, Bratcher Winery, Brewer-Clifton, Byron Winery, Buscador, Clos Pepe Estate, Crawford Family Wines, Dragonette, Fiddlehead Cellars, Flying Goat Cellars, Foley Estates, Hilliard Bruce, Hitching Post Wines, Ken Brown, Kessler-Haak Wines, Kitá Wines, La Voix Winery, Lafond Winery, LaMontagne, Liquid Farm, Longoria, Loring Wine Company, Lutum Wines, Montemar, Moretti Wines, Pali Wine Company, Peake Ranch, Sanford Winery & Vineyards, Seagrape Wine Company, Spear, Sweetzer Cellars, Temperance Cellars, Thorn – The Prisoner Wine Company, Transcendence and Zotovich Vineyards & Winery.

For more information, visit staritahills.com/wine-fire.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on August 18, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: In the Beginning—The Early Years in the Santa Barbara Wine Country

Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Wine Festival. The event takes place Jun. 25 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

“In the Beginning: The Early Years in the Santa Barbara Wine Country” is a bookend event for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s signature Santa Barbara Wine Festival. Courtesy photo.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

The history of Santa Barbara County’s wine industry takes center stage at The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on October 23, with an autumn symposium featuring an all-star panel of Santa Barbara winemakers.

Panelists include Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat), Fred Brander (Brander Vineyards), Ken Brown (Ken Brown Wines), Bob Lindquist (Qupe), Lane Tanner (Lumen Wines) and Rick Longoria (Longoria Wines)—all of whom are pioneers in the industry. The moderator is Antonio Gardella, a local fine wine specialist.

Attendees will first mingle with the winemakers at a tasting from 1-2 p.m., followed by an hour Q&A and finished with two hours of socializing and tastings.

“These six winemakers have a wealth of information that they will share with the intimate group of guests and guests will have a chance to interact with all of them during the tastings,” says Meridith Moore, the museum event manager. Being in the presence of all of these heavy-hitters in such an intimate setting is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone with the slightest interest in the wine industry.

The panelists will have their wine on hand, as well as additional wines from Zaca Mesa, Mosby Winery and Whitcraft. Sweet and savory bites from local food purveyors Village Modern Foods, Pete Clements Catering, Jessica Foster Confections, Pico Restaurant, C’est Cheese and The Shop Café will also be on hand.

“In the Beginning: The Early Years in the Santa Barbara Wine Country” takes place on October 23 from 1-5 p.m. in Fleischmann Auditorium at the Museum of Natural History’s Mission Creek campus (2559 Puesta del Sol). Tickets are $75 for members and $100 for non-members, and are available now at www.sbnature.org/tickets 

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

This story was originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 7, 2016.

Cocktail Corner: Santa Barbara Wine Festival

"The Magnificent Seven" (left to right) Ken Brown, Bob Lundquist, Richard Sanford, Jim Clendenen, Drake Whitcraft, Doug Margerum, and Fred Brander - a veritable 'who's who' of Central Coast winemakers, will all be at this year's Santa Barbara Wine Festival again – for the 28th year. Photo by Joni Kelly.

“The Magnificent Seven” (left to right) Ken Brown, Bob Lundquist, Richard Sanford, Jim Clendenen, Drake Whitcraft, Doug Margerum, and Fred Brander – a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Central Coast winemakers, will all be at this year’s Santa Barbara Wine Festival again – for the 28th year. Photo by Joni Kelly.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

The beautiful grounds of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History are a wonderful spot to appreciate being out in nature, and what better way to enjoy a summer weekend than sipping wine underneath the oaks along Mission Creek? Especially when the proceeds go to support the work of the museum.

Santa Barbara Wine Festival, photo by Bob Dickey

Santa Barbara Wine Festival, photo by Bob Dickey

“Santa Barbara Wine Festival is a wine-focused festival,” says Festival Chair, Meridith Moore. Indeed, more than 50 wineries will be pouring at the museum, including some of our favorites like Santa Barbara Winery, Arthur Earl, Grassini, Kita Wines (Chumash Tribe), Palmina, Alma Rosa, Koehler, Au Bon Climat, Babcock, Sunstone, Fess Parker, Andrew Murray, Margerum, Jamie Slone, Beckmen and Whitcraft, to name just a few.

There are plenty of tasty bites at Santa Barbara Wine Festival as well. “We have a large array of top-shelf food purveyors, many of whom are especially paired with wineries that complement one another,” says Moore. “It is exciting because many of the winemakers and chefs are present and available for the guests to meet and discuss the qualities of their varietals and menu items–just another example of why this has become one of the most beloved wine festivals on the Central Coast and the one to attend.”

Scrumptious samples from local food purveyors will complement the wines poured at the Museum's annual event. Photo by Valentin Mendoza.

Scrumptious samples from local food purveyors will complement the wines poured at the Museum’s annual event. Photo by Valentin Mendoza.

Among the yummy items on the menu are: Braised Short Rib Meatballs (Michael’s Catering); Oyster Shooters (Brophy Bros.); Homemade Tamales (Santa Barbara Tamales To Go); Sage and Butternut Squash Raviolis (Ca Dario); Cheese Tastings from around the World (C’est Cheese); Hand-rolled Truffles (Jessica Foster Confections); and Mini Cupcakes (Coveted Cakery), to name a few.

Santa Barbara Wine Festival takes place at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559 Puesta de Sol, 805/682-4711, sbnature.org) on Saturday, June 27 from 2-5 p.m.

For more information and to purchase admission for the Santa Barbara Wine Festival, please visit sbnature.org/winefestival.

Hope to see you there. Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on June 19. 2015.