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Wednesday, 08 February 2017 19:54

Santa Barbara Names Official Drink

TASTE News Service, February 9, 2017 — Results of the inaugural “Official Drink of Santa Barbara” craft cocktail contest are in, and the winner is “Ginspiration Point” by Alcazar Tapas Bar.

Saturday, 27 February 2016 12:31

February 26, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Riverbench Claim Juper Rose Picmonkey

2014 Claim Jumper Rosé



Santa Maria Valley

Alcohol: 12.1%

Suggested Retail: $42


“This sparkling wine is made in the méthode Champenoise from 100% Pinot Noir grapes that were estate grown in the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara County. The location on California’s Central Coast receives considerable marine influence and is cooler than many realize. As such, it is prime growing country for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Thursday, 03 December 2015 10:27

Wintry Holidays in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Courtyard PicmonkeyA typical Santa Barbara courtyard

TASTE News Service, December 3, 2015 — Looking for a unique way to celebrate the winter holidays? One way is to escape to Santa Barbara to rediscover your joy and cheer.

Voted “Best Beach Town” by Sunset magazine in its inaugural travel awards in May 2015 and one of Condé Nast Traveler's “30 Best Small Cities in America” in its Readers' Choice Awards, Santa Barbara is located 92 miles north of Los Angeles and 332 miles south of San Francisco, on the Pacific coastline.

Sunday, 22 February 2015 15:40

February 20, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

SeaGlass Pinot Noir Picmonkey

2012 Pinot Noir



Santa Barbara County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $12*


“The 2012 SeaGlass is clearly a Pinot Noir. You wouldn’t mistake it for anything else. Lighter in color than most California red wines, it shows aromas and flavors reminiscent of plums and cherries in a way that no other variety would. We bought it in a supermarket for $9.99, which is a little less than the average pricing nationally.* While there are examples of Pinot Noir for ten dollars and less,  most of them have just the generic ‘California’ appellation listed on the labels. One could deduce that their fruit comes from warmer, interior regions of the state—o.k. territory for some grapes, though certainly not ideal for Pinot Noir. But this SeaGlass indicated it was made from grapes grown in Santa Barbara County, a prestigious region for this variety. Could this be that vinous example of the Holy Grail (a good bottle of Pinot Noir available for cheap)?

“Would that we could say it was. Our disappointment was more about what this SeaGlass was not, rather than what it was.  While there was absolutely nothing wrong with the wine, it didn’t exhibit any of the subtlety and nuance that can make wine made from this grape—whether grown in France’s Burgundy, California or Oregon—a sublime experience. But how could it? Really good red Burgundies and ‘New World’ Pinot Noirs don’t come cheaply. There are, however, bottles beginning around $15 to $20 that show hints of what this most beguiling of wine varieties can be. While the SeaGlass fell short of that standard, we’ll keep on the hunt for inexpensive examples of this variety.”

Food Affinity: “We drank the SeaGlass Pinot Noir with grilled New York steaks bought on sale for $3.99 a pound at the same store. Nothing really wrong with the meat either, but overall, a reminder that you usually get what you pay for.”

Saturday, 26 July 2014 13:05

July 25, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Seven Twenty Eight PN bottle Picmonkey

2010 Pinot Noir

"Seven Twenty Eight"


Fiddlehead Cellars

Santa Rita Hills

Alcohol: 14.1%

Suggested Retail: $42


“Maybe a little explanation about this wine's provenance is indicated. It comes from the Santa Rita Hills AVA, which is in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley. The grapes were sourced from the Fiddlestix Vineyard which is at the 7.28 mile marker on Santa Rosa Road, hence the 'Seven Twenty Eight' identity on the label. The winery thinks it would be a fine idea if folks enjoyed a bottle on July 28th and we don't disagree. However, the wine is so good, we recommend it any time you're thinking Pinot Noir.

“Initial impression is lots of black cherry aroma and some spice. These wafts of spice seem more layered as the wine opens up in the glass and it becomes apparent that this a complex and sophisticated example of Pinot Noir. Flavors of raspberries and blackberries follow, accompanied by a cola-like quality. Lots of personality here. We find the wine delightful.”

Food Affinity: “Pinot Noir is a versatile food-pairer and the Seven Twenty Eight would likely go well with any dish you think appropriate to serve with a lighter red. We'll suggest lamb chops that have been briefly marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary, then with rubbed with herbes de Provence and lavender before going on the grill.”

Three Wine Regions Toast at Epernay PicmonkeyRepresentatives from many of the world’s most renowned wine regions – including Champagne, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Napa Valley, Porto, Robles, Sonoma County, Long Island and Rioja – gathered this week in the Champagne region of France to welcome new members of the Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin. The new members represent the wine regions of Bourgogne/Chablis, Bordeaux and Santa Barbara County.

EPERNAY, France May 27, 2014 —The American wine region of Santa Barbara County, California, and French wine regions Bordeaux and Bourgogne/Chablis became the latest signatories of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a global movement aimed at ensuring wine place names are protected and not abused or mis-communicated to consumers.

“The attention around protection of place names has really taken off in recent years. The addition of these prominent regions only underscores that,” said Linda Reiff, president and CEO of the Napa Valley Vintners, one of the founding signatories to the Declaration. “While we all may compete in the marketplace, through the Declaration initiative, we want to take a very clear, collective stand that protection of place names is always in the consumer’s best interest.”

Representatives from Santa Barbara, Bourgogne/Chablis and Bordeaux are attending coordinating meetings with other Declaration members in the Champagne region of France this week and will participate in activities being outlined for the coming year. Champagne is also one of the founding signatories to the Declaration.

“We are honored to join this esteemed group of the world’s leading wine regions. Santa Barbara County wines, like all those represented in this coalition, are unique. They can’t be duplicated anywhere else in the world and today we come together to recognize that nothing shapes a wine’s character like its location,” said Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of the Santa Barbara Vintners.

The Declaration meetings come at a time when there is considerable momentum building globally to protect place names and demand accurate and fair labeling. Recently, the Canadian government updated its laws to require all wines labeled “Champagne” truly come from Champagne, France. In 2013, Chinese trade officials formally recognized the names of Napa Valley and Champagne, thus prohibiting the misuse of these place names within its borders.

“Regions like Bordeaux, Bourgogne/Chablis, Santa Barbara and Napa Valley are unlike any place else in the world and the evolution and growth of the wine industry rests on the protection of place names. Wine consumers are becoming more and more educated about what they consume,” said Fabien Bova, director general of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB). “Wine labels need to reflect the true regions from which a wine hails and consumers must be protected from those who fail to recognize the distinguishing features that makes all regional wines unique.”

André Ségala, General Manager of the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) added, “We are proud of our region’s winemaking history and its identity, which sets us apart. There is fierce competition across the world, and as such, we continue to raise the profile of our wines. Name protection is essential to ensuring the authenticity of the product we share with consumers.”

By becoming signatories of the Declaration, members agree that geographic names are fundamental tools for consumers to identify the special wines associated with specific winegrowing regions. And as such, they commit to work together to bring the necessary awareness and advocacy to bear to ensure these names are protected and respected. From great winegrowing regions to consumer rights groups to everyday wine consumers, more and more are making their voices heard in the campaign to protect wine place names.

About the Declaration

The Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place Names & Origin was signed in Napa Valley on July 26, 2005. Other signatories of the Declaration include: Champagne, Chianti Classico, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Long Island, Napa Valley, Oregon, Paso Robles, Porto, Rioja, Sonoma County, Victoria, Tokaj, Walla Walla Valley, Washington state, Willamette Valley and Western Australia. For more information on the Declaration visit www.protectplace.com

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.

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