Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Good Veeno!

Do you like wine? I don't mean the stuff that comes in a box or what you get for two bucks at Trader Joe's. I mean the really good stuff. The stuff you buy for that really special occasion or that somebody gives you when they come a'callin. Most folks tend to think really good wine has to come from Napa or Sonoma, or maybe France, and has to cost a lot of money. NOT TRUE! Some of the finest wines in the world are available to you just a short drive away. The Santa Ynez Valley is located just north of Santa Barbara. There are nearly 100 wineries located in the Santa Ynez-Los Olivos-Solvang-Buellton-Lompoc-Santa Maria area. Most of them feature tasting rooms and offer samples of their best efforts for only a few dollars total.

Some wonderful Rhone varietals are produced there, including Granache, Syrah, Rousanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Some great Pinot Noir is handcrafted in the Santa Rita Hills (that small area between Hwy. 101 and Lompoc). Also great Chardonnays there too. Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are produced further east in the SYV where the summer temps can reach 110 degrees or even higher. This area makes a great 3-day, 2-night trip. You can relive the movie "Sideways" and pick up some great wines in the bargain.

Just to the southeast of O.C. is the Temecula Valley. It gets short shrift from the cognoscenti, but deserves a better shake. They've been making some really good wines there for more than 30 years. There are 36 wineries in Temecula as of this writing with another 30 or so on the drawing board. Of that number there are at least 10 that can rival anything produced in California. Really good Zinfandels, Cabs, Merlots, Syrahs, Viogniers, Chards and Sauvignon Blancs are produced in Temecula by some very good growers and winemakers. It's just an hour portal-to-portal, so you can be tasting in no time. A good day trip would be a winery, some lunch in any of several great restaurants, another 2 or 3 wineries in the afternoon, and then some gaming at any of four area casinos. Great accommodations, too! Over the coming weeks and months I'll be adding some helpful hints on where to go and what to do in both area of the Golden State's wine growing regions. My wife and I take frequent trips to both areas and have some insights to share which can make your visits more productive and enjoyable. Happy to share.

By the way, a "veeno" is just like a "wino." Except the wines cost more...

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