Category Archives: Los Olivos

Refugio Ranch

Newcomer to the charming Los Olivos wine village, Refugio Ranch may become an old favorite. Sauvignon Blanc is seen all over this town in different textures and tartness. But theirs has a bit of Semillon that spends part of its time in oak and another part in stainless steel, which may give it the creamy soft lemon curd feeling in your mouth with a whiff of matchstick or fireside fragrance. If heavy cream Viognier is your pleasure, theirs will knock your socks off with the fragrance of a colorful garden. Their Petite Sirah has lively dark blueberries with nice tannins and a hint of the earth from their vineyard. Finally, their Barbareno has great berry plum fruit with tannins that make your tongue stand up.


Can never resist heading back to the charming little wine village of Los Olivos to watch their Olde Fashioned Tree Lighting ceremony that makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time. To paint a picture, a local crowd gathers signing Christmas Carols surrounding a flagpole dressed like a Christmas tree. At darkness, a 5 year old girl dressed as an angel lights the tree with her wand as her father lifts her to the bottom of the tree… erh metal pole with green flappy wings. All the tasting rooms in a 4 block radius (over 40 now) are open late and stores invite you in for warm cider and toasted nuts. It’s a beautiful thing.

Tell me about your favorite holiday festival and, if there’s wine there, this thirsty vagabond will be there!

A few new tasting rooms stand out with their wares and wisdom. While some winemakers come from scientific, culinary, and various other creative backgrounds, Larner’s winemaker developed skills through the study of rocks. His wines are all about the soil. And the soil in the Ballard Canyon AVA must be what makes his Malvasia Bianca bright with lemon zest tartness and crispness. It is a refreshing pairing for Asian dishes or rich picnic food. The Viognier is like a bowl full of nectarines with butter and vanilla. The perfume in most viogniers is cut with soft supple yet thick lemon curd.

Grenache is king in this country and his is big with earthy notes and a dark crimson color. His Syrah starts off with plum and cocoa from 24 months in barrel and a teensy bit of earth, typical of this region. But the reserve Syrah has the big body, balanced tannins, and earth that make it the best pairing for a big steak dinner with all the fixings. Finally, the cult that follows 100% Mourvedre will be happy to know theirs is only 40 bucks and packed full of berry, plum, and cherry with that chocolaty leather texture you crave.

Research in Los Olivos Motion

What is it about Los Olivos that makes people want to return? Ya the food, weather, wine is great and people are friendly. But you see that see in other wine villages or weekend getaway destinations. So it must be something more than that. The people who live here get it and I can’t describe it but I feel it too.

Last night, we went to a local restaurant that had 3 country bands play during dinner and drinks afterwards. The crowd was mostly middle-aged ranchers, other locals, and some visitors or music enthusiasts. As we feasted on delicious steaks, beans, and greens, and rocked to the rhythm, something rare was happening. Couples were kissing. I know it is allowed and normal for couples to kiss in public. But that doesn’t happen as often as it should.

Why it happens in this area more than others is something I need to investigate further and possibly do some hands on case studies myself.

Los Olivos Tree Lighting

I know I’ve said that Los Olivos is like going back in time, but their Christmas tree-lighting ceremony is plain and simple proof. So heartwarming and uplifting (literally), everyone should experience this at least once.

Get this. Every year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, a 5 year old girl dresses up as an angel and carries a magic wand to the tree-lighting. At darkness, the entire community gathers around a flag pole decorated as a Christmas tree to the smells of roasting chestnuts and the sounds of live music on street corners.  They all watch as the angel’s father holds her up to the tree and she touches the tree with her wand, magically lighting the tree for the first time of the season.


Tasting wine in one of the 40 tasting rooms now in Los Olivos is kind of like going back in time. Just a hop north of Santa Barbara, this quaint village may give you an idea of what Napa or Sonoma was like 50 years ago. First thing you notice when you walk in is someone greets you. Second thing you notice is the person pouring you wine and offering many intellectual facts about it is the winemaker.

At Kaena, he’s not just the winemaker. He is known as the Grenache king for his great skill in bringing this challenging grape to its most delicious potential. His wines also represent how flexible this grape can be. Most known for rose, this pinkie is delightful, crisp, and refreshing. Then, the reds also run from bright red fruit to big, bold, plum and blueberry flavors. All are well-crafted and worth a trip.

Alta Maria

Luscious wines at Alta Maria! And they’re right downtown in Los Olivos so you can taste, stroll, taste some more just like they did back in the old days before limo bridal parties, wine bus tours, or even cars.

Best thing about this tasting flight: Cabernet Sauvignon. Some call it the king of grapes. But what king isn’t enhanced by a queen. Few know how to balance the tannins with dark and bright fruit flavors like Atla Maria. Theirs is a delicious creation for those who love cabs and those who think they don’t.


Four Play

Glad that got your attention! Relieved to know spelling doesn’t count. Actually, Four Play is the name of blend you can get at the Carhartt tasting room in Los Olivos, which should be at the top of your list. Not because of the fun play on words, but because Mike and Brooke always make it entertaining, delicious, and even cozy.

They start your tasting with crisp refreshing Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc (although I think we got the last), a legendary Pinot Noir, and, if you are lucky, one of the best Sangioveses in the state. Finally, the dark beauty is a delicious deep rich mix of four Bordeaux varietals. Like they like to say “Four Play:  some people start with it; we end with it.” Never leave without some.