Category Archives: Santa Ynez


We all know that Pinot Noir blossoms in the Santa Rita Hills of the Santa Ynez Valley, just north of Santa Barbara. But you really have to taste the intensity and complexity of the flavors that emerge from its unique coastal influence in this maritime corridor. Cesarina’s Pinot Noir has brilliant bright cherry and berry flavors with just enough earth to give you a sense of where it is from yet not too much to overwhelm your palate. Its wonderful structure and balance make you feel its long lush finish. It’s dark cocoa and warm spicy texture makes it a ripe partner to any dish or multi-course feast. This wine is not only a versatile meal pairing, it is also a terrific wine to sip alone while cooking or preparing food.

Well done, Cesarina!


Storrs is one of those tasting rooms that doesn’t have a bad wine. You may try it assuming you’ll like the varietals that thrive in the Santa Cruz Mountains like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And they do have some of my favorites in the state. But, while their Pinots and Chards are outstanding, you’ll also be impressed at what they’ve done with other varietals like Riesling, Merlot, and Zinfandel from this unique appelation’s fruit and the soon-to-be famous Corralitos viticulture area.

What’s more intriguing is we share the same credo, apparently. Not sure if I can assume this is their motto but here’s what they have posted on their website:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and
endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a
success unexpected in common hours.” – Thoreau


Goose is Loose

Driving out of the horse ranch I’d called home for a few months, I wanted to say goodbye to my latest favorite pet. It was a beautiful morning and I felt like getting out of the car to savor the moment as one I will always remember. I thought Goose’s horse should know how much I’d enjoyed our chats and how special it feels to encounter such a gracious creature. But she had her back to me and lifted her tail. No picture needed.

Off to San Francisco to pour for Hitching Post at the Family Winemakers fest at Fort Mason. Then, Paso Robles for a spell, which I’m sure the networks that wield Giants baseball broadcasts with an iron fist will consider Nor Cal.

First Crush

Another meeting with my favorite winemaker, Gray Hartley, was kind of like an esteemed ride along. We started the afternoon hand de-stemming and hand crushing grapes to check their sugar reading on a refractometer. It was my first crush!



Then, we packed over 30 cases for a few deliveries. Winemakers do hand deliveries? For a good return customer, yes. Hitching Post makes hand crafted wine so you’re not dealing with some corporate junkies.

We were off on our way to deliver 10 cases of wine to the Hitching Post restaurant in Casmalia and 20 cases to a customer in Santa Maria. When we arrived at the customer’s business address, the place was a railroad office surrounded by fields. The front gate said “No Tresspassing” and our contact wasn’t answering. So we spun around the block a few times, and returned to an open gate. When the winemaker approached the tattered office building, he tells me there’s something I’ve got to see in the foyer. It’s a pig. Yes an animal, living there in this office building entry. He thought he was a dog; came out of his doghouse to greet us and say hello but the place was definitely his turf. Office workers say the pig was there when they showed up so they keep him as a pet. His name is Wigly.

What a trip!

Head Fiddle

Met with a rare gem in the wine community today, Kathy Joseph from Fiddlehead Cellars. Kathy knew the Santa Rita Hills would be part of the Pinot revolution so she bought acres in this cool climate, planted, nurtured her grapes, and began selling them to winemakers. She still sells a bit of her fruit to other winemakers and makes her own wine with tremendous diversity and flavor. It is amazing how the same Pinot Noir from the same climate and soil can taste so uniquely different but she’s got mad skills. The winemakers that adopt her grapes have their own uniqueness and spirit. The end result is a collection of wines amazingly different in style but all blanketed with the quintessential elegance and plumpness that come from her handiwork.

Not to get too spiritual, but I just found her spirit brightened mine. She doesn’t just light up when she talks about winemaking or growing grapes, but talking about food to wine pairings and cooking in general. She says she’s inherited her mother’s wonderful sense of smell and taste. The proof is not in reading about it but doesn’t this just make your mouth water: salmon with mango salsa, goat cheese pudding, and roasted duck breast with peppered plum sauce featuring Fiddlehead Pinot Noir. Check back when I’ll be testing out these recipes of hers once I get my hands on some Fiddlehead.

Sort This Out

Sort This Out Cellars is doing a few simple things that’ll make you wonder why everyone else isn’t. One is, they stay open later. Brilliance sometimes comes in the enlightenment that a winery’s business hours should resemble those of a bar or restaurant rather a bank or post office. Secondly, they have live music. As long as you’re going to stay open later, entertain the folks.

But, bottom line, Mike is making wines he loves to drink and turns out, other people agree. He keeps making everyone’s favorite yet is unafraid to try new varietals every season. His fun and creative labels and naming conventions reflect a creative soul. Here’s what I’m talkin about.



Took a friend to Demetria Estate in Foxen Canyon and we wanted to stay and relax all afternoon. In the middle of a canyon, surrounded by vineyards in every direction, you sit outside on rustic wood listening to live music and tasting well-crafted wines. Our fave of the day was a Mourvedre called AGRO. I know, most of us are used to getting our Mourvedre in a GSM blend but this one had deep plum and blueberry with a rich long cocoa finish that just instantly relaxes you.


Always a stop on our tastings through Los Olivos is Carhartt for many reasons. Mike and Brook make the most of a charming space and have the best wine tasting furniture in town. We always love their Grenache Blanc for sipping on the porch when we get home. My traveling companion wanted a case of the Pinot Noir but it was sold out. I was craving the robust Sangiovese but that was sold out too. We must come back and it must be early.

Really Riesling

If you haven’t tried this one yet, you really should. When you do, you’re gonna wonder how you drank Riesling before. I love the varietal but usually need spicy food to go with its sweetness. You know how opposites attract when it comes to wine, people, and just about everything. This one may have a little sweetness but it doesn’t have that sugar aftertaste. Its very round rich tangy flavor is what you feel instead. A slightly frizaante mouthfeel hits you at first although it doesn’t appear to be sparkling. But, take in the smell before you taste. What a wonderful fragrance. Butterscotch, vanilla, and a garden of flowers comes to mind.


Cowgirl Hall of Fame

Locals tell me tales of the beautiful charming lady renting me a guest house; she is quite famous among equestrians. She’s known for roping cattle and roman riding, which is riding atop 3, 4, 5, or 6 horses at once controlling all of them equally. No wonder she’s so confident! Yet, she’s demure. What’s her secret?! I found out from others that she is in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

She was prepping the horses for a rodeo last week and asked me if I’d like to stay longer than the one month I’d paid for already. She gave me a great rate to stay as long as I’d like. Truth is, I’d prefer to soak up more of this warmth and friendliness than journey onward. Just being here has boosted my spirit. People here truly know the secret of life. And you gotta admit, you can’t learn enough from a Cowgirl.

Here’s where you can find out more about her:  PLENTY OF HORSEPOWER BENEATH HER FEET