On a recent trip to Santa Barbara, our primary mission was to visit The Boy (our middle kid) at his nearby institution of higher learning (to make sure that he is, in fact, actively engaged in higher learning). We had very little extra time to do frivolous things like wine tasting, but a Thirsty Kitten will always find a way. As luck would have it, our hotel— the quaint and hip Hotel Indigo— was situated smack dab in the midst of The Funk Zone, a formerly industrial area of Santa Barbara that has been revamped into a hub for the arts and includes many restaurants and wineries, as well.
Given that Santa Barbara County is such a wonderful haven for great winemaking, the town of Santa Barbara has wisely created an Urban Wine Trail to make it easy for visitors to sample the vintages of a variety of area wineries without even leaving town. We discovered that a large number of the wineries on the Urban Trail were within a stone’s throw of our hotel.
Our particular favorites were (in the order we visited them):
Pali Wine Company, where we especially fell in love their beautifully crafted Pinot Noirs. Winemaker Aaron Walker trained under the esteemed Brian Loring, a well regarded name in the world of California Pinot Noir, and impressed us not only with the quality of the juice he’s crafting since taking over winemaking from Loring but also with the fact that he’s down-to-earth enough to be pouring wine and bussing glasses in the tasting room, as well.
AVA Santa Barbara, the tasting room for The Valley Project, where our inner wine geekiness was generously rewarded with boatloads of cool information and facts. Surrounded by maps and soil samples and served wines made from each of Santa Barbara County’s winemaking regions, this was wine learnin’ and sippin’ at its finest. We loved hearing winemaker Seth Kunin, who was at the tasting bar greeting visitors, speak of his passion for Santa Barbara’s distinct growing regions and how this passion led him to start The Valley Project to showcase Santa Barbara’s wine country.
Kunin Wines. In chatting with Kunin at AVA Santa Barbara, we learned that he’s been specializing in Rhone varietals at his namesake winery since he founded it in 1998. We couldn’t help but wander down the street to investigate. We chose the all Syrah tasting option and adored comparing vineyards and past vintages produced by Kunin. His wines—which strike a balance between robust California fruit and refined French Rhone-style elegance— have been routinely scoring high ratings from Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer for years.
So this week, we raise our glasses to the delights of Santa Barbara County wines and present you with A Thirsty Minute, a time-lapsed, speed-tasting version of our afternoon in The Funk Zone. Cheers!
Categories: Santa Barbara