Saturday, March 26, 2011

Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Weekend Part 1 - Summerland

Last week my scenic byway took me to California to spend a weekend with two of my oldest and dearest friends. We met in college, which was far too long ago. One friend recently moved from Texas to Santa Clarita and I've been wanting to visit her. Another friend wanted a little get away from Virginia. My husband and I drove down to California, stopping first for a night in Palm Springs to stock up at Trader Joes, which unfortunately does not exist in Utah (a crime!), then went on to the Joshua Tree area where we stayed with a dear friend. I left my husband there to take care of some business in the desert and I drove west to greener pastures in Santa Clarita - our goal to meet there for a night and then head to Santa Barbara for a weekend of wine tasting.

It is about a two-hour very scenic drive from Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara, part of it on Route 1 along the Pacific ocean. Very green. Lots of orange groves. On the way we stopped in a cute little town called Summerland to visit the Summerland Winery tasting room. I had never heard of this place, but my friends wanted to stop there because they watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and apparently this winery gets highlighted in the show.

Summerland is a boutique winery noted for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. It was founded in 2002 by Nebil "Bilo" Zarif originally from Turkey.  The place in Summerland is the tasting room, which opened in 2004. Summerland Winery does not have its own stand alone winery. Instead they use over 14 different grape varietals from 9 area vineyards. They source from vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, Edna Valley, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles.

What I understand is that part of this multiple sourcing is due to the changing growing climate - different varietals thrive closer to the ocean and others do better on land as you travel further east into the area. So, if you are a winery producing both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, you have to source from different areas. From the wineries we visited on this trip, I learned that this seems to be a common practice in this wine area - people sharing vineyards and sourcing grapes from various places. I assume you have a similar situation in Napa/Sonoma, but my experience there was that we visited more wineries than tasting rooms and most of the wineries seemed to have their own land where they grew most of their grapes. I recall some sourcing grapes from other areas for certain wines, but that seemed secondary to their own primary source.

The Summerland tasting room space is nice. Our experience with the tasting staff was good. I think the cost was $10/tasting. We tasted some decent wines and bought a few bottles. Some of their Pinots rank in the 90s from sources such as Wine Enthusiast. The tasting room is open 11am-6 pm. It sits on a cute, small street with fun places to eat just next door and across the street such as Summerland Beach CafeThe Nugget and Stacky's Seaside, where we chose to sit outside in the sun and soak up the wine tasting with some fried crab cakes and fries before hitting the road to Santa Barbara.

Summerland is definitely a fun stop on your way through the area.

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