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Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:09

Goleta, a Good Land for Family Fun

Goleta, Santa Barbara’s neighbor to the north is a respite for families, offering countless activities for those who want to explore more of Santa Barbara County. From the undiscovered treasure of the Goleta Butterfly Grove to Goodland Organics, the continental United States’ only coffee plantation, there is something for every family.Goleta Sandpiper GC PicmonkeyApproach to bunkered green at Sandpiper is scenic, but formidable. Photo: Aidan Bradley

Families that don’t mind getting a little dirty will appreciate Goleta’s outdoor offerings. Hike the bluffs in the Ellwood Mesa with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean en route to the Goleta Butterfly Grove. Every winter (mid-November to mid-February) thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate to their winter home in the hidden eucalyptus groves along the interior of the Ellwood Mesa. The area is never crowded with people, so you can sit back and enjoy watching these beautiful creatures as they flutter overhead, and if you are lucky enough, a butterfly may land on your shoulder. Prefer to be more active? Take advantage of the free parking at Goleta Beach, one of three beaches where Channel Island Outfitters rents equipment such as stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and surfboards. For those who prefer to stay on land, there are volleyball nets and a fishing pier to keep busy.

The ocean and mountain views at the Sandpiper and Glen Annie Golf Clubs are so spectacular as to sometimes make it hard to concentrate on one’s golf swing. Both these courses offer discounted rates for junior golfers.. Later in the day you can cheer on the UCSB Gauchos as they take on their rivals in soccer, basketball and other sports.

Goleta RR Museum PicmonkeyKids visiting the South Coast Railroad Museum may experience trains for first time. Photo: Jay Sinclair

Ride Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner throughout Santa Barbara County and then learn about the history, technology and adventure of railroading at the South Coast Railroad Museum. While there, be sure to check out the historic Goleta Depot. This Victorian-styled country railroad stationhouse was built over 100 years ago (1901) by the Southern Pacific Railroad during completion of the Coast Route, which joined San Francisco and Los Angeles. Parents will want their camera handy to capture their child’s smiling face aboard a train ride on the Goleta Short Line miniature train. Model train aficionados will appreciate the model railroad exhibit “Railroading on the South Coast,” which depicts the railroad areas of Santa Barbara and Goleta during the late-steam/early-diesel era.

No smart phone? No television? No problem. Show your children what life was like in the 19th century by taking a tour of the Stow House. Adjacent to the South Coast Railroad Museum is Rancho La Patera and Stow House, historic for its role in the Goleta lemon trade. Today, children can learn how people used to live (without Wi-Fi!) on a tour of the Stow House - a museum displaying the family’s photographs and furniture from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.Family picking lemons in Goleta PicmonkeyThis family enjoyed picking lemons in a Goleta grove. Photo: Visit Santa Barbara

With so many activities to fill the day, a caffeine jumpstart for the parents and a snack for the kids may be required. If so, the Coffee Educational Tour (offered seasonally) at Goodland Organics is in order; tour the continental United States’ only coffee farm with a cup of Joe in hand. Situated in the coastal foothills of Santa Barbara, this certified organic farm also cultivates exotic crops such as cherimoyas, lychee, dragon fruit and finger limes. Continue exploring the culinary side of Goleta with a trip to Fairview Garden Farms and Goodland Kitchen & Market. For a healthy snack, you can purchase organic fruits and vegetables grown at Fairview Garden Farms own farm stand. Producing over 100 different fruits and vegetables on its 12.5 acres of land, children will love seeing the goats and chickens during a docent or self-guided tour of this non-profit educational farm. Not sure what to do with all of the great food products purchased in Goleta? Take a culinary class at the Goodland Kitchen & Market. Classes are periodic at this Old Town Goleta establishment, but year-round it is a grab-and-go eatery specializing in delicious, locally-sourced, and affordable meals. The food is prepared in small batches and comes from local farmers to provide an exceptional culinary experience.

For family friendly nightlife, go back in time to a different era with Goleta’s West Wind Drive-in movie theater. Showing first run movies nightly, movie-goers can stick around for the double-feature for the same price. Pajamas welcome. Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond is another popular family activity, and one of only two bowling alleys in Santa Barbara County. Families of all ages and skill levels can bowl together – ramps and bumpers are available for the little ones, and teenagers will love Glow Bowling with a live DJ on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

About Goleta

Less than 10 miles north of Santa Barbara, Goleta was incorporated as a city in 2002. Initially named “The Good Land” by the Spaniards, the official name changed to Goleta after a schooner with the same name arrived in the area in 1822. A prominent lemon growing region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, today Goleta is a family-friendly community honoring its roots with the annual California Lemon Festival every fall. The climate is mild and sunny all year, with an average daytime temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 and 21 degrees Celsius). Goleta attire is generally California casual, and transportation and sightseeing services are abundant.

Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to this beautiful part of California, first visit the Central Coast listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area wineries and craft beer specialists.

Fess Parker as Daniel Boone Picmonkey 

TASTE News Service January 27, 2014 - Americans who watched TV in the 1950s and '60s, will instantly recognize a photo of Fess Parker in a coonskin cap. Older folks might say it's Davy Crockett, a role he played in 1954-55 for Walt Disney. Others would see him as Daniel Boone. Different American heroes, but both were frontiersmen and the look was much the same. Parker played that Daniel Boone role on NBC television for six years and the Santa Barbara hotel he founded in 1986, The Fess Parker, now a Doubletree by Hilton Resort, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his debut as Daniel Boone. Guests opting for the "Celebrity Package" receive a bottle of Parker Family Reserve wine and even have the option try a cocktail made from Cutler's Bourbon--distilled not in Kentucky, but right in the city of Santa Barbara.

The Fess Parker property is a 24-acre beachfront resort, which has undergone recent renovation and has earned a Four Diamond rating from AAA. The hotel welcomes pets and is situated close to the Cabrillo bike path and lots of nearby hiking trails. Its kitchen even has dog and cat-friendly specialties which they prepare to order (for consumption not in the dining room, but delivered via room service).

Fess Parker Family PicmonkeyFess with family

Fess served in both the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps in the waning days of World War II. In 1950 he graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in history and came to California to study drama at USC. Though he died in 2010 at age 85, his family is prominent in Santa Barbara County, operating the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa in Los Olivos and the Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard, which produces quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rhone varietals.


Editor's note: Readers planning a visit to Santa Barbara can check out the Central Coast listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Included are links to the websites or hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area wineries and craft beer purveyors.

Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:09

Andrew Murray Vineyards Finds New Home


AdamFirestone Left AndrewMurray Right PicmonkeyOld pals Adam Firestone and Andrew MurraySanta Barbara, CA January 16, 2013 – “My life has been a series of fortunate events,” says winemaker Andrew Murray, who recently announced that he will be leasing the former Curtis Winery estate vineyard and winery, including the production facility and tasting room, from long-time friends, the Firestone family. Located near the crossroads of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail and Zaca Station Road, the former Curtis Winery facility will be Murray’s new winemaking home, where he will remain focused primarily on the production of small-lot Syrahs and Rhone-inspired blends.

Murray, who started his winemaking career further up the Foxen Canyon road nearly twenty-four years ago, struck out on his own and moved into a warehouse-style production facility known to locals as Area 51; the former Firestone Walker brewery, located far back into the canyon lands behind Firestone Vineyard.

While at his Area 51 production facility, Murray evolved as both a farmer and winemaker over the years, maturing into one of America’s most respected Rhone Rangers. As much as Murray flourished on his own, he says, “We’ve never been right where we wanted to be.” Not until now, that is.

Murray became intrigued when long-time friend and confidante, Adam Firestone, asked him, “How are you doing at Area 51? Have you outgrown it yet?” This question led Murray to ruminate on the trajectory of his career and winery, and where both might be headed.

At the time that Firestone posed this question, Murray was, he says “in the unfortunate position where we were selling out of our wines too soon; three, four, six months after releasing them. Pure economics says there’s two things you can do. You can raise prices, and slow distribution down. It may be a more profitable way, but I think that’s the safe way to grow.”

He continues, “The less safe way, the one that gets all of the butterflies going again—the one that feels like I’m starting in the wine business again, like I’m  falling in love again, is to say: ‘Okay, grow. Reach more people. Reach more states.’ And that’s what we decided to do with this opportunity.”

Says Firestone, “Andrew has been a longtime family friend, and an incredible partner and tenant for the past 10 years. We view this as a new branch of our family’s winemaking tradition, and as a continuation of the estate’s reputation for producing remarkable Rhône-style wines. We are excited to further expand our relationship with Andrew.”

The Firestone family will continue to farm the estate’s 200 vineyard acres. Murray’s focus will remain on Rhone varieties, with an emphasis on syrah, mourvèdre, viognier, grenache blanc and roussanne. Other estate varieties will be used for making Jarhead and Curtis wines, and additional fruit will be sold to local wineries.Andrew Murray Syrah bottle Picmonkey

Perhaps one of Murray’s best known wines is his Tous les Jours, a new world rendition of a Crozes-Hermitage, made to be enjoyed as an everyday wine. Available nation-wide on the broad market, Murray says, “I am calling it my homecoming wine now, because the fruit for this wine is coming from within a three-mile radius from where I sit now. I’m getting fruit from focused and dedicated farmers that are a stone’s throw from where I started my career, because for me, that represents the quintessential Santa Ynez Valley Syrah. I am so proud to have released our 2012 vintage of Tous les Jours, because it’s 100% Santa Ynez Valley fruit, and 99% of that is grown within this narrow band where we started our life in wine. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.”

By finding a new home within the former Curtis Winery, Murray adds, “We have this great opportunity to serve our existing customers in this great new environment, and to capture the people who’ve fallen in love with Curtis wines over the years; a new audience that will stumble upon us. We want to be able to say, “Come see what we can do in this new home with expanded winemaking capacity, and access to additional estate grown vineyards."

The Curtis label will continue in the form of limited-production bottlings made by Andrew Murray Vineyards in arrangement with the Firestone family. Andrew Murray Vineyards will also produce the family’s Jarhead line of wines, which continues to grow in acclaim and popularity.

Editor's note: Planning a visit to Santa Barbara's wine country? Check out the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. In it you will find links to the website of Andrew Murray Vineyards and other area wineries, as well as links to the sites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options. There's even a new section devoted to craft beer purveyors.

Santa Barbara, CA January 15, 2013 – The Terlato family has announced the opening of the Sanford Winery tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara. The facility is expected to attract tourists and locals, who are increasingly frequenting and following Santa Barbara’s celebrated Urban Wine Trail, which includes a wide array of wine tasting rooms situated in the very active downtown area of Santa Barbara. Sanford tastingroom LaArcada PicmonkeyEvening view of La Arcada tasting room captured by Barron Spafford

“Since 2005, our family has been leading the efforts at Sanford Winery and its historic vineyards—we set down roots in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation and Santa Barbara County,”said John Terlato. “In 2007, my family and I acquired the historic Sanford and Benedict vineyard and added it to the estate. We made this additional commitment to the Santa Barbara area through the purchase of this historic vineyard because we love the Santa Rita Hills and the wines capable of being crafted in this area. Building this tasting room in Santa Barbara only deepens and furthers our commitment to the region and the community. Our goal is to put the beautiful and amazing wines of the region into the mouths of wine lovers so that they can enjoy and experience, firsthand, the quality wines coming from Santa Rita Hills AVA”

Within walking distance from theaters, Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Alma Del Pueblo Public Market, the new tasting room is intended for locals as much as visitors to Santa Barbara’s celebrated coastal shopping district. “We chose La Arcada because we like the feel and accessibility of this section of State Street and La Arcada – this coupled with the old world feel of La Arcada made for an easy decision,” commented Terlato. “This is a place where locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy a glass or bottle of Sanford Chardonnay or Pinot Noir before they head off to the theater, shopping, dinner with family or a night out with friends.” .

Sanford winery is the pioneering California wine producer that first established the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County as one of the world's great regions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Winemaker and General Manager Steve Fennell is excited to share the Sanford wines with a new audience, noting, “We are so pleased with the warm reception we’ve received so far from local businesses and residents. We are looking forward to settling in and becoming a part of the vibrant State Street community here in Santa Barbara.”

Editor's Note: Those planning a visit to Santa Barbara will want to check out the Central Coast sections of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of Sanford and other area wineries, as well as links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options. There's even a new guide to craft beer specialists on the coast, as well as around the state.

Saturday, 21 December 2013 23:49

December 20, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Koehler Riesling bottle Picmonkey

2011 Riesling


Producer: Koehler Winery

Appellation: Santa Ynez Valley

Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $14


“Aromas of melon, peach and a bit of honeysuckle in this Riesling from a cooler region of Santa Barbara County. At 1% residual sugar (RS), it's well within dryness profile to qualify as a food wine. There's a reasonable presence of acidity to offset the sweetness. More papaya and tropical fruit characteristics than apple. Surprisingly light considering the alcohol level, yet balanced and a wine we found delicate and attractive.”

Food Affinity: “Could be used as a pre-dinner aperitif with nuts or crackers and soft cheese with chives, or after dinner with pieces of fruit for an alternative to rich and sticky pie or cake desserts. Could also accompany main courses that had a little 'bite' to them (chicken breast slices in a light cream sauce with Mandarin orange sections and sliced almonds?) or spicy Szechwan or Thai dishes.”


Wilson Banks Matteis Tavern PicmonkeyChef Robbie Wilson and wife Emily Perry Wilson join Ali and Charles Banks in toast to new venture. (Kara Block Photography)

Los Olivos, CA November 13, 2013 - Los Olivos, the small township at the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country, recently celebrated the opening of Mattei’s Tavern, a restaurant housed in an historic stagecoach stop originally founded in 1886. Felix Mattei, the property’s first restaurateur and hotelier, provided sustenance to travelers in the early days of the Southland.

New owners, Charles Banks and wife, Ali, (Terroir Selections, Mayacamas Vineyards) and Chef Robbie Wilson and wife, Emily Perry Wilson, have re-imagined Mattei’s Tavern, the result of which is a modern, warm and inviting interior that marries a luxe country aesthetic with contemporary design elements.

The new Mattei’s Tavern menu, conceptualized by the highly creative Robbie Wilson, features two culinary chapters, if you will, highlighting fare inspired by Felix Mattei, under the title “1886” and whimsical, modern fare under the chapter “2013”.

The “1886” chapter of the menu features, among other dishes, a thirty-two ounce, dry-aged Cote de Boeuf for two. The “2013” chapter of the menu features “Morro Bay’s Greatest Hits,” a dozen fresh oysters served on a vintage turn table with sweet shrimp, hamachi and a Tabasco “slushy”; “Crunchy Sea Creatures”, featuring a selection of fresh seafood prepared in a masa tempura, is served in an informal seaside sand bucket, with an uni tarter sauce, among other contemporary creative selections.

A born and bred Texan, Managing Partner and Chef, Robbie Wilson, has manned the stoves of some of the globe’s most lauded restaurants, including Maison Troisgros, Craft, and The French Laundry. Wilson also served as Executive Chef of Matsuhisa in Aspen. Under him, this branch of the world-renowned brand secured its highest Zagat rating.

In 2010, Wilson was sought by an emerging restaurant group in Nashville, Tennessee—M Street Entertainment Group--to head the culinary development of several yet-to-be-opened restaurants, and improve upon those in existence. From inception, Wilson designed, inspired and created the culinary aspects of celebrated spots Kayne Prime and Tavern, and enhanced the local favorite Whiskey Kitchen and decade-old Virago. As Culinary Director of the company, Wilson helmed this collection of diverse concepts as each one flourished in the press and with patrons.

Joining Wilson on the floor at Mattei’s Tavern is wife, Emily Perry Wilson and General Manager, Jason Smith both whom set the tone for friendly, warm hospitality.

Wine & Beverage Director Stephane Colling has created an international wine list, featuring local wines, as well as rare and coveted wines from around the world. Colling, who was born in Alsace, near Stasbourg, France, studied at Oxford University. His pedigree includes successful stints at the Michelin three-star Waterside Inn in Bray, England, The Castle in Tarrytown, New York, Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, and The Modern, where he served as Wine Director. In 2006, The Modern earned the Wine Spectator “Best of” Award of Excellence.

The restaurant property includes bocce ball courts and an outdoor pizza oven, as well as a dining area situated romantically within a small cornfield. “My wife Ali and I arrived here in the Santa Ynez Valley 13 years ago, says Banks. “Since then, we’ve planted some deep roots here. There are tremendous resources in this area for locally grown vegetables, fruits as well as great local purveyors of olive oil, meat, eggs, honey…you name it. It will be exciting to see what Robbie can create from the bounty Santa Ynez Valley provides,” he continues.

Wilson adds, “Our collective vision is to add to the food, wine and lifestyle culture of Los Olivos in ways that will honor its history, while also adding value to its vibrant future. This is a great American town, and it’s been a privilege to become a part of this community.”

Editor's note: If you'll be visiting Santa Barbara County, you may want to check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of area wineries and craft beer specialists.

LosOlivosCafeWineMerchantInterior2010 PicmonkeyInterior at the Los Olivos Cafe

October 24, 2013 Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County, California – The Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café has been named one of the “Top 100 restaurants with the most notable wine lists in the USA” by Opentable.com diners.

Owned by Sam and Shawnda Marmorstein, The Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café was also the winner of the 2012 Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence”— one of only 878 restaurants in the world that received this coveted ‘two wine glass’ award.

Of the latest Opentable accolade, Sam Marmorstein said, “We are so proud to be honored as the only restaurant in Santa Barbara County; and one of only 21 restaurants in California out of 100 nationwide to be recognized this year. This is our second year in a row to be named to this prestigious list.” The Opentable award reflects the opinions of more than 5 million reviews for more than 15,000 restaurants between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013. (entire winners list)shawndasam marmorstein--owners of Los Olivos Cafe PicmonkeySam and Shawnda Marmorstein

The casual yet elegant Café (as seen in the 2004 award-winning movie Sideways) serves fresh, local wine-friendly cuisine for lunch and dinner daily. The Wine Merchant features over 500 local and international vintages and is the exclusive distributor of owner Sam Marmorstein’s Bernat Wines.


Editor's note: Planning a visit to Santa Barbara County? In Taste California Travel's Resource Directory you'll find a link to the website of the Los Olivos Café, as well as links to the sites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as those of Central Coast wineries and craft beer specialists.



CharlesBanks BobLindquist ByJeremyBall PicmonkeyCharles Banks and BobLindquist in photo by JeremyBall

Santa Barbara County, CA October 14, 2013 - Charles Banks and Terroir Selections have acquired a majority stake in Santa Maria Valley’s iconic Qupé winery, long considered one of America’s finest Syrah producers. Founder and winemaker, Bob Lindquist, will assume the role of partner, while Louisa Sawyer Lindquist will continue to assist with sales. Moving forward, both parties are committed to improving quality at Qupé.

“I am thrilled to work alongside a gifted winemaker and legend like Bob Lindquist,” says Banks. He continues, “Bob has been a steadfast visionary of Syrah for decades. Few have done as much as Bob to advance awareness for Syrah in the United States. I love Syrah and have wanted to work on a meaningful Syrah project for a number of years now. With an infusion of capital from Terroir Selections, Bob and I are both confident that we can strengthen Qupé’s future allowing it to remain the benchmark in American Rhone-inspired wines.”

Lindquist has long been considered one of Santa Barbara wine country’s visionaries. While a tour guide in the late ‘70’s at Zaca Mesa, Lindquist learned to make wine from his co-workers and friends; Jim Clendenen, who at the time was assistant winemaker, Ken Brown, who was winemaker, and Adam Tolmach, who was the enologist. All three, who became successful winery owners themselves, worked at Zaca Mesa during Santa Barbara wine country’s nascent era.

Founded in 1982, Qupé will continue to share a winery with Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat on the esteemed Bien Nacido vineyard; an agreement that was made between Lindquist and Clenenden in1989, when they brought their winery projects together under one roof. Lindquist and Clendenen continue to mentor a new generation of winemakers, including Paul Lato, Gavin Chanin, Gary Burk, Josh Klapper and Rajat Parr, among many others.

Banks adds, “My wife, Ali, and I have been in Santa Barbara County for 13 years, and we’ve set down some roots here, first with Jonata, and later with Sandhi and Mattei’s Tavern (a four-way partnership between Ali and Charles Banks, and Emily Perry Wilson and Chef Robbie Wilson) and now with Qupé.

Qupé Winery will join Banks’ Terroir Selections portfolio, which includes Sandhi (Sta. Rita Hills, with celebrated sommelier-turned-winemaker, Rajat Parr), Mayacamas and Leviathan (Napa Valley), Wind Gap (vineyard designates throughout California), Mulderbosch, Fable and Marvelous Range (South Africa); Maison L’ Oree (France), and Cultivate, a philanthropically-minded brand sourcing fruit from around the world.


Editor's note: Planning a trip to Santa Barbara wine country? You find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory, as well as links to the websites of all the wineries. In fact, we also have links to all the craft beer specialists in the area, too!

Sunday, 06 January 2013 19:14

August 2-6, 2017 Old Spanish Days Festival

Region: Central Coast     City: Santa Barbara     Contact: www.oldspanishdays-fiesta.org

Sunday, 06 January 2013 18:50

July 13-15, 2017 California Wine Festival

Region: Central Coast     City: Santa Barbara     Contact: www.californiawinefestival.com

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