Santa Barbara County is a haven for wine lovers. Only a few hours north of Los Angeles, this region is home to a variety of wines, especially Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rhone varietals (including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre) and blends. The Santa Ynez Valley, just over the mountains from Santa Barbara, has more new tasting rooms popping up every year.
Until recently, only a few wineries had tasting rooms that were actually located in the city of Santa Barbara. But this is changing. There are now 15 wineries on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail that showcase their wines in Santa Barbara (one is in neighboring Summerland) and are open most days, with only a few by appointment only.
This past weekend, I visited two noteworthy tasting rooms of two well regarded winemakers.
Au Bon Climat, by Jim Clendenen and Margerum, by Doug Margerum, have tasting rooms adjacent to The Wine Cask, a landmark of Santa Barbara dining, owned by the Margerum family from 1981 until 2007. These tasting rooms have opened within the past year and will further enhance the wine tasting experience in Santa Barbara. Grassini Family Vineyards will add its name to the Urban Wine Trail in the coming months when they open their new tasting room adjacent to Au Bon Climat and Margerum.
Au Bon Climat focuses on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris in Burgundian style while their Clendenen Family Wine label focuses on Italian and other French wines. Jim Clendenen decided to become a winemaker instead of an attorney while on a trip to Burgundy and Champagne in the 70s.
Doug Margerum was exposed to French food and wine at a young age. He and his family opened the Wine Cask wine store and restaurant in 1981, and started Margerum Wine Company in 2001. Six years later, Doug sold The Wine Cask to concentrate full time on his wines. Margerum produces three primary wines, Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc, Uber Syrah (a co-fermentation of Syrahs from Santa Barbara County) and M5, a blend of 5 Rhone varietals.
A day in Santa Barbara would not be complete without a tasting of the memorable wines of these two legendary Central Coast winemakers.
For more information on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, go to http://www.urbanwinetrailsb.com/