Say what you will about the “Funk Zone” in Santa Barbara but it really takes reusability to new levels. Once an art culture, the vibe here is now redefined with a nod toward hip food and wine with an unexpected look and refreshing feel. You’ve no doubt seen wine tasting rooms in some unusual spaces converted from other businesses. But the Oreana Winery tasting room is in a converted tire shop. Believe it or not, the thick cement brick walls with no windows make it an ideally cool wine cellar.

The relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere allows you to focus on the wine. The winemaker at Oreana sure does. Simply because he loves big bold wines, that’s all he makes. Their Chardonnay is steely clean and crisp with big fruit of banana and apricot. It may be hard to find and even harder to say but their Pinot Noir is full bodied. It’s dark fruit of black cherry, and dark plum overwhelms the usual tart cherry, raspberry, or other red fruit and its long finish makes it a great wine for rich meat dishes. But the wine to watch here is the Petite Merlot made out of 50% Merlot and 50% Petite Verdot, which is usually just a background singer. It’s tight tannins and crisp acidity make you take notice initially and wake up to its thick rich body. But the deep dark fruit and smoky dank texture keep you thinking about it.

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