Tag Archives: Los Olivos

Exploring the Lompoc Wine Ghetto – Part 1

Lompoc Wine Ghetto

Lompoc Wine Ghetto

I’ve known about the Lompoc Wine Ghetto for ages, but for some reason, I never had a strong desire to visit. I had a preconceived notion that it was an easy access, multiple tasting room destination that catered to those who prefer quantity over quality. After visiting for the first time this weekend, I could not have been more wrong.

Tucked away in an industrial park in Lompoc, the Wine Ghetto is home to nearly 20 tasting rooms. It isn’t as visually appealing as some of the picturesque wineries in the area, but that’s what I loved about it. It actually deters large groups traveling in wine tour buses and limos. After all, it’s not exactly a place where you’d want to have your bachelorette party photos taken.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is very serious about wine. In the casual and inviting tasting rooms, passionate wine makers are pouring some incredible, super low production wines for their equally passionate fans.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

Considering the number of tasting rooms in the Ghetto, I decided to try two during this visit and will continue my exploration over the weeks to come. My first stop was Jalama Wines.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

When I pulled up to the Jalama Wines tasting room, I was very happy to see one of the resident winery dogs napping on the sidewalk outside. I discovered that almost all the tasting rooms in the Wine Ghetto allow dogs as long as they’re leashed and well-behaved. It made my desire to explore the area even stronger.

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Winery dog Oscar relaxing in the Jalama tasting room

Winery dog Oscar relaxing in the Jalama tasting room

Once inside the tasting room, I was greeted by Mark Cargasacchi – the winemaker at Jalama who was guiding tasters through his portfolio of small lot, handmade Pinot Noirs, Grenaches and Syrahs.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

A nice cheese & cracker plate to accompany the line up of Jalama Wines

A nice cheese & cracker plate to accompany the line up of Jalama Wines

The tasting at Jalama consisted of six wines, all of which were seriously good – complex, well-balanced and obviously crafted with care. I took home bottles of of tart 2011 Mourvedre ($36) and full-bodied, multi-layered 2009 “El Capitan” red blend ($36). I also loved the 2011 “Clementina” white blend ($26), which was full of mouthwatering tropical fruit, and the 2010 “Carg” Pinot Noir ($46).

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

For my next stop, I decided to try Zotovich Cellars.

Zotovich Cellars

Zotovich Cellars

Booker joined me in the tasting room and immediately made himself comfortable on the cold stone floor while tasting room manager Chelsea poured my first taste.

Tasting menu at Zotovich Cellars

Tasting menu at Zotovich Cellars

Booker made himself comfy on the cool tasting room floor

Booker made himself comfy on the cool tasting room floor

The tasting at Zotovich Cellars consisted of four wines (with a bonus taste of insanely good, wine club exclusive Viognier). Honestly, I was blown away by all the wines at Zotovich. The Chardonnay was beautifully balanced, the Rosé was like a glass of summertime with lots of strawberry and a nice crispness, the Pinot Noir rivaled some of my absolute favorites from the area, and the Syrah was complex with a blend of dark berries and spice.

Chelsea guiding tasters through the Zotovich Cellars portfolio

Chelsea guiding tasters through the Zotovich Cellars portfolio

If I didn’t already have several bottles of Pinot Noir in my collection, it would have been a no-brainer to take some home. Instead, I bought a few bottles of the 2012 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($22) which will be perfect for warm summer days.

Delicious Zotovich Cellars 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Delicious Zotovich Cellars 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Zotovich Cellars

Zotovich Cellars

If you’re looking to join a wine club, the club at Zotovich Cellars was one of the most flexible I’ve seen with the option to do a yearly shipment of 3, 6, or 12 bottles AND the ability to choose your wines. I’m sure I’ll end up a member sooner than later.

Overall, my first visit to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto was such a great experience that far surpassed my expectations. If the rest of the wineries in the Ghetto are anything like Jalama Wines and Zotovich Cellars, I’m in for a serious treat…

Click here to visit the Jalama Wines website.
Click here to visit the Zotovich Cellars website.
Click here to visit the Lompoc Wine Ghetto website.

308 N. 9th Street, Unit C
Lompoc, CA 93436
Phone: (805) 735-8937
Tasting room hours: 12PM – 5PM Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment

1500 E. Chestnut Court, Suite D
Lompoc, CA 93436
Phone: (805) 736-1600
Email: chelsea@zotovichcellars.com
Tasting room hours: 10AM – 5PM Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment

Presqu’ile Winery | Los Olivos, CA

Presqu’ile Wine – Los Olivos, CA

Every time I head up to Los Olivos, CA, I feel like the town just gets better and better. With every trip, I seem to uncover an incredible new wine or a fun, new place to grab a bite. This past weekend was certainly no exception.

Presqu’ile Wine – Los Olivos, CA

Presqu’ile Wine – Los Olivos, CA

I decided to try the wines of Presqu’ile and instantly fell in love. The Presqu’ile Wine tasting room is located a couple of doors down from the recently opened Sides Hardware & Shoes restaurant. The restaurant had a 45 minute wait, so we put down our names and headed to Presqu’ile.

Anna Murphy in the Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Room

We walked in the front door and I couldn’t help notice the incredibly cool decor. The room was painted in a deep charcoal that was warmed with splashes of color, interesting art, and great lighting. It was refreshing to see a tasting room with such a unique and contemporary design.

Proper pronunciation of Presqu’ile cleverly written on the tasting room wall

Colorful art on the wall at Presqu’ile

Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Room

I was also thrilled to see a doggy water bowl on the front porch when we arrived. Our dog Booker was welcomed inside and instantly made friends with the tasting room dog, Hazel.

Booker and his new friend Hazel having a blast

While the dogs played, we sat at the bar and started our tasting. They offer a Presqu’ile Flight for $10 which includes a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, a Rose and a Pinot Noir. They also offer a tasting flight of 3 Pinot Noirs for $15, or you can taste all 6 wines for $20.

Wine wall at Presqu’ile

Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Menu

We opted for the “taste them all” option, and tasting room manager Anna Murphy took us through the line up while she told us about the history of the winery.

We learned that the Murphy Family owns Presqu’ile and that the name means “almost an island” – an homage to a very special piece of land in the Gulf Coast that belonged to her family and was lost during Hurricane Katrina. The family is working on a permanent Santa Maria winery/tasting room that will open Summer 2013.

Chandelier in the Presqu’ile tasting room

Back to the wine. I thought the entire line up was pretty incredible and had a difficult time picking favorites. Winemaker Dieter Cronje handcrafts the wines in a perfectly balanced, elegant, food friendly style which I really enjoyed – especially in an area with so many super-juicy Pinot Noirs and buttery Chardonnays.

Photo of winemaker Dieter Cronje

Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Room

Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Room

The hot day helped me narrow down my purchases to a 2010 Presqu’ile Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley ($35) and a 2011 Presqu’ile Rose of Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($18). I will definitely be back for several bottles of Pinot Noir on my next visit.

Overall, I was so happy we visited Presqu’ile. Anna was such a pleasure to chat with, the vibe of the tasting room was so welcoming and fresh, Booker got a great workout playing with Hazel, and the wines were fantastic. I can’t wait for my next visit.

Click here to visit the Presqu’ile Winery website.

2369 Alamo Pintado Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Phone: (805) 688-2022
Email: info@presquilewine.com
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Thursday through Monday

Dog Friendly Wineries in Santa Barbara Wine Country

The wine country just north of Santa Barbara is hands down one of my favorite destinations for a weekend trip. Considering how often I visit the area, I’ve made it a point to find out which wineries are dog friendly.

Our dog Booker heading out on another wine tasting trip…

Just as I discovered in Paso Robles, Santa Barbara is full of wineries that welcome dogs with open arms. I’ve listed a few of my favorite wineries below and plan to expand this list with each visit…

  • Foxen Vineyard & Winery
    7600 Foxen Canyon Road
    Santa Maria, CA 93454
    Ph: (805) 937-4251
    Fax: (805) 937-0415
    Email: info@foxenvineyard.com
    Hours: Daily 11AM – 4PM
    Notes: Foxen is an extremely dog-friendly winery where leashed dogs can be brought into the tasting room at both locations (the main winery at 7600 Foxen Canyon Road & “The Shack” at 7200 Foxen Canyon Road). At the main winery, Booker was allowed inside with us on a leash or in one of the several outdoor seating areas where he was able to relax while we sipped wine. At foxen 7200 (“The Shack), Booker was allowed to come inside the small tasting room with us or sit outside with us on the deck and bask in the sun. At both locations, the tasting room staff brought him water and showered him with loads of attention. He absolutely loved it.

    Outdoor area at Foxen Vineyard & Winery

    Dog friendly Foxen 7200 (“The Shack”)

  • Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
    6200 Foxen Canyon Road
    Los Olivos, CA 93441
    Ph: (805) 688-1545
    Email: infowinery@fessparker.com
    Hours: Daily 10AM – 5PM
    Notes: Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is a dog’s dream. The winery is situated on a beautiful piece of land with a huge, perfectly manicured lawn where dogs are able to run around until their hearts are content. I actually didn’t inquire if they were allowed inside the tasting room because the outside area was just too perfect. We did a tasting, bought a bottle and sat outside with wine and snacks while Booker and his cousin Bodo played. Just remember to be courteous… even though dogs are allowed to be off leash, the lawn is also a picnic area so don’t forget to bring a leash with, as well as some potty bags and water.

    Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

    Dogs hanging out at Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

    Dogs playing on the lawn at Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

  • Alta Maria Vineyards
    2933 Grand Avenue
    Suite A
    Los Olivos, CA 93441
    Ph: (805) 686-1144
    Email: aminfo@altamaria.com
    Hours: Daily 11AM – 5PM
    Notes: I was very pleasantly surprised to find out Booker was allowed in the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room. This gorgeous new tasting room is located in downtown Los Olivos and when I inquired about bringing our dog inside, I expected to have to sit outside with him. Instead, we were told he was more than welcome to come in as long as he remained on a leash and we kept an eye on him. The tasting room is beautifully decorated and somewhat small, so this was definitely not a place for an excessively large or high energy dog. They apologized for not having a water bowl for him, which was totally fine. We were just happy he could be inside with us. He got to take a nap on the cool stone floor while we enjoyed some amazing wines.

    Small outdoor seating area at Alta Maria Vineyards Tasting Room

    Our dog Booker napping on the cool stone floor at Alta Maria Vineyards

  • Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
    7250 Santa Rosa Road
    Buellton, CA 93427
    Ph: (805) 688-9090
    Email: info@almarosawinery.com
    Hours: Daily 11AM – 4:30PM
    Notes: Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards is a rustic, off the beaten path winery that some may remember from the movie Sideways. Booker was welcome to relax inside the tasting room on a leash, as well as roam around outside on Alma Rosa’s beautiful property. The tasting room staff happily gave him some water and a local dog who helps herd livestock in the area came down from the hills to say hello.

    Beautiful and rustic Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards

    Booker roaming around outside at Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards

    Taking a stroll at Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards

    Booker hanging out with us inside the Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards tasting room

    Very sweet (and very dirty) local dog stopped by to say hello at Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards

    Lots more to come!…

Related Posts:
Dog Friendly Wineries in Paso Robles
Dog Friendly Wineries in Paso Robles – Part 2

Alta Maria Vineyards | Los Olivos, CA

Alta Maria Vineyards

It seems like every time I visit the Santa Maria Valley north of Santa Barbara, I discover an incredible wine that I’ve never tried before. On a recent visit, I not only found some new wines, but I discovered one of my new favorite wineries in the area.

Alta Maria Vineyards Tasting Room

Alta Maria Vineyards Tasting Room

Tucked away in the charming town of Los Olivos sits the new Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room. Although the tasting room is less than one year old, wine makers Paul Wilkins and James Ontiveros have been making wine for years. In fact, the Ontiveros family has a long ranching and farming history in the area. They drove thousands of heads of cattle into the Santa Maria Valley in the early 1800’s, finally settling there on the Rancho Tepusquet Land Grant of 1837.

With a rich farming history, a shared love of the land in the Santa Maria Valley, and a mutual passion for wine running through their blood, college friends Paul and James decided to turn their passions into careers. James’ expertise lies in viticulture while Paul serves as winemaker.

Pinot Noir label from Alta Maria Vineyards

Before stopping in the tasting room, I had heard about Alta Maria Vineyards and had seen their unmistakable bottles at specialty wine stores around CA.

The artwork on Alta Maria’s wines features hand-hewn iron nails used by homesteaders in Santa Maria before the Industrial Revolution. Each nail was essentially a one-of-a-kind based on the conditions in which it was made along with the expertise of the craftsman. This same idea of uniqueness and authentic, artisan craftsmanship carries seamlessly through to the wines of Alta Maria Vineyards.

Inside the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room

When we walked into the gorgeous tasting room, we had our dog with us and assumed we would be sitting outside with him. On the contrary, he was welcomed inside with open arms and sat by us at the bar while we did our tasting.

Inside the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room

Inside, the tasting room was warm and comfortable with natural stone floors, aged leather chairs, and a great cowhide rug. Our tasting consisted of four Alta Maria Vineyards wines: a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2009 Chardonnay, a 2009 Pinot Noir, and a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our dog Booker napping on the nice, cool floor

We also tried a 2008 and 2009 Native9 Pinot Noir, and a 2008 Autonom Rhone Cuvee. Native9 (strictly Pinot Noir) and Autonom (focused on Rhone varietals) are labels Paul and James produce in limited quantities along with the Alta Maria wines.

The wines of Alta Maria Vineyards

I truly loved all the wines we tried and could taste the attention to detail in each glass. I took home a few bottles of the crisp Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc, the Alta Maria Pinot Noir, and the lush Autonom Rhone Cuvee – all of which I thought were really exceptional.

Alta Maria Vineyards

I’m so glad to have found Alta Maria Vineyards and recommend it to anyone visiting Los Olivos. It is officially on my list of regular go-to spots in the area.

Click here to visit the Alta Maria Vineyards website.

2933 Grand Avenue
Suite A
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Phone: (805) 686-1144
Email: aminfo@altamaria.com
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Daily

Carhartt Vineyard & Winery | Los Olivos, CA

Carhartt Vineyard

Along Grand Avenue in the quaint little town of Los Olivos, CA, there are enough tasting rooms to easily fill an entire weekend. On a recent trip to the area, I decided to stop in town and try the wines of Carhartt Vineyard.

A view of Grand Avenue in Los Olivos

Grand Avenue is lined with tasting room after tasting room, each representing a winery or vineyard that is located in the surrounding area. And the thing that makes the Carhartt Vineyard tasting room unique is that if you’re not paying attention as you drive along the avenue, you may just miss it.

Carhartt Vineyard Tasting Room

The Carhartt Vineyard tasting room is really, REALLY tiny. In fact, the owners refer to it as the “World’s Smallest Tasting Room”. On the day I visited, the place was packed and there were probably only 8 of us in the room. There was also a small outdoor patio in back that fit another handful of tasters.

Inside the cozy little Carhartt Vineyard tasting room

Even with a crowd in the tasting room, Carhartt had a wonderful, cozy feeling about it. The entire Carhartt Vineyards tasting shack was constructed mostly of warm, rustic wood with select merchandise, pieces of artwork, and family photos covering the walls inside. The front door was being guarded by a huge, intricately crafted fish sculpture that fit the whole environment perfectly.

Fish sculpture guarding the Carhartt Vineyard tasting room

Immediately upon entering, I was greeted by a friendly tasting room staff member who provided me with my first taste. She told me that the owners & wine makers – Mike and Brooke Carhartt – were on a long-overdue vacation, but that their son Chase was managing the tasting room for the day.

Chase Carhartt explaining the wines his family hand-crafts

The Carhartt Vineyard tasting room menu

It was instantly clear that Carhartt Vineyard is a family affair. I learned that Brooke Carhartt is the very talented winemaker, her husband Mike meticulously tends to the vineyard, and they all play their part in pouring wine for their guests at the tasting room.

Chase obviously shares his parent’s passion for wine. Even though he was probably in his early 20’s, Chase explained each wine with such enthusiasm and knowledge, it seemed as though he crafted each one with his own two hands. Everyone in the tasting room gave him unwavering attention as he talked us through each pour.

I tasted six wines for a $10 fee, which was gladly waived with the purchase of two bottles. Carhartt Vineyard produces each wine in such small production and with such attention to detail that some of the varietals sell out to the wine club – before the general public even gets to try a sip.

Tasting notes from the Carhartt Vineyard menu

While I thought all the wines I tasted were pretty incredible, there were a couple that stood out from the rest. The ’09 “Chase The Blues Away” Rose ($18) had just the right amount of dryness coupled with lots of juicy strawberry, watermelon and a touch of tartness. The grapes for the Rose were harvested from the 10 acre Carhartt family vineyard.

Carhartt Vineyard ’07 Estate Grown Merlot

The ’07 Merlot ($30) – also from the Carhartt family vineyard – was unique and complex with lots of plum and dark cherry with a subtle hint of smoke. I took these two bottles home, but would have loved to purchase one of each bottle on the tasting list.

Be sure to stop in and say hello to the Carhartt family next time you’re visiting the Los Olivos area. The wines of Carhartt Vineyard are not to be missed…

Click here to visit the Carhartt Vineyard website.

Carhartt Vineyard – Tasting Room
2990-A Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Phone: (805) 693-5100
Fax: (805) 688-3004
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Daily