Tag Archives: Urban Wine Trail

Keyed Up

As cliche as it might sound, the Key to Wine Country event really did unlock some new tasting room doors…I think that sounds better than, I got keyed at Key to Wine Country, not sure if that even makes sense. Regardless the “keys” thing is put on by the Santa Barbara Vintners Association. You pay $100 for your ticket and there is a bevy (and a few bevvies for that matter) of different tasting rooms to visit, throughout Santa Barbara County. Admittedly, this is one of the more creative winery experiences I’ve come across. Definitely, more interesting than those big room and table affairs.

You’ll need a map of the county as all sorts of winery folk get involved. Some have food or chocolate with wine parings, others do vineyard walks, the best by far are the intimate winemaker chats (you have to RSVP as spaces are limited) where they taste you through their decision making steps, from grape to bottle….I fancied the El Paseo experience. A tour of all six tasting rooms in the maze-like corridors of El Paseo, in downtown SB.

El Paseo Santa Barbara

El Paseo is located just above De La Guerra and between State and Anacapa. Doug Margerum’s tasting room has been here the longest, about four years or so, next to his Wine Cask restaurant. Doug talked one of SB’s most famous winemaker’s, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat fame, to open next door. You can find ABC wines to purchase, dating back decades. There’s also Grassini out of Happy Canyon AVA. And two other spots Happy Canyon Vineyard and Jamie Slone, whom I imagine also opened tasting rooms under Doug’s suggestion….and why not, he makes both of their wine (totally different styles too!).

This whole winery wonderland is really the brainchild of Doug Margerum, and I must applaud him as it has really propelled, actually started, the whole State Street wine scene. It truly is a handful of the best Santa Barbara has to offer. As for the wines I tried here are my three favorites:

Top accolades go to Au Bon Climat. Their tasting list is true to the winery’s Burgundy roots, but there’s all sorts of stuff to try. The bog standard Santa Barbara County Chardonnay for instance, which is used by MWs in London to teach classic Chardonnay. There’s everything from Aligote to Riesling to purchase, but my fav wine of the day in fact was a Chardonnay from ABC.

2009 Au Bon Climat “Compelling” Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County – A tight lemony and raw apricot little number, when you talk about tension in wine make sure you try this. Has years to go, but if you’re into crisp and fresh it’s ready now – $35 (There’s also a ’98 Nibiollo that was insanely good and a steal at $35)

2009 Au Bon Climat "Compelling" Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County

2009 Au Bon Climat “Compelling” Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, Santa Maria County


Margerum actually has two tasting rooms. His regular one with an entrance on Anacapa, then MWC 32 a few steps into El Paseo, where they pour older vintages and reserve wines. It was at his Anacapa room that I found my fav though.

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County Margerum is all about Rhone varietals and this Syrah does not disaapoint in the slightest. I reckon it has quite a few more years (about 10), but you can have it now, no problem. It is a very, very approachable wine. With a hint of peppercorn spice and fresh juicy blueberries – $40

Margerum’s straight Grenache was also very good.

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County

2011 Margerum Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County


Four years back, Grassini’s Bordeaux inspired wines were the first I tried out of the Happy Canyon AVA, I really liked them. There was a turn of events and Justin Willit of Tyler fame (and also partner to Mandy Grassini) made the previous vintage and his wines were being poured. I’ve been looking forward to trying Willit’s Bordeaux style, his own label is very much about Pinot and Chardonnay and above all that restraint…it was interesting to see him venture to the dark side of the noble grapes. The Sauv Blanc was particularly fresh, the grapes were picked at the very dawn of harvest, beginning of August and probably very low in potential alcohol. The two Bordeaux blends were also quite fresh it was however a single varietal wine that I really enjoyed.

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA – not a grape you see very often, if at all, by itself. Petit Verdot is usually used to add back bone or rather mid-bone to the mid-palate of Cab and Merlot. Grassini PV is what I like to call a crunchy wine. It tastes as if your biting in to handful of juicy ripe blackberries, super concentrated fruit. There’s some musky like leather and grippy tannin. Like it’s palate the price too is a hefty $95, steep but a very good wine.

A great thing to note at Grassini’s tasting room, they pour all their high-end wines with a coravin, my first time seeing it in use….totally impressed!

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA

2011 Grassini Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon AVA


Look out for the Keys to SBC next year. Thanks to Morgen and Taylor over at the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association for sending the tickets. Find out about future SBCVA events on their website — www.sbcountywines.com

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Back Alley Tasting

It is almost fitting that the inaugural seminar for the Urban Wine Trail will feature the Syrah grape. Much like the off-beat style of the Funk Zone wineries, the Rhône varietal can be considered an underdog contender in a mostly Pinot-centric town. Six winemakers are coming together. this Saturday February 16th, in the heart of the Funk Zone at the Goodman Reed Warehouse on lower Santa Barbara Street, heralding the virtues of a grape that is very much establishing its own root hold on Santa Barbara County soils. “We decided to focus this seminar on Syrah since most of the Urban Wine Trail wineries produce Syrah and we want to highlight a varietal that is overpassed many times, says Doug Margerum, owner and winemaker of Margerum Wine Company. He is one of six winemakers featured at the symposium, which will also include: Christian Garvin of Oreana Winery, Craig Jaffurs of Jaffurs Cellars, Martin Brown of Kalyra Winery, Dave Potter of Municipal Winemakers and Bruce McGuire of Santa Barbara Winery. They all plan on tasting you through their own personal path with the grape. “Tasters will come away knowing that Santa Barbara County Syrah can rub shoulder to shoulder with Rhônes from the rest of the world”, says Craig Jaffurs, 56, Owner/winemaker at Jaffurs Cellars, and one of the first wineries to set up shop in downtown Santa Barbara, back in 2001.

The Alley Cats

“Syrah is one of the varieties Santa Barbara County does best,” says Ryan Carr, 36, Chairman of the Urban Wine Trail and owner/winemaker of Carr Winery. “It can grow in the different, cool, moderate and hot climates of Santa Barbara and this tasting will show the different perspectives of the grape from each producer.”

The seminar will be moderated by Santa Barbara News-Press columnist, Gabe Saglie. While guests will have a chance to sip through and learn about the most popular Rhône varietal at the symposium, later on in the day there will be an opportunity to try the different wines from 17 of the Urban Wine Trail wineries at the Grand Tasting. “It’s the first time we are all together in one spot”, says Christina Gumpert, 39, General Manager of Oreana Winery. True to those words it is interesting to note that this is in fact the first time the Urban Wine Trail members have organized a collaborative tasting and seminar, a sign of maturity for a group that has proved rather popular with both the tourist and local foot traffic near Cabrillo Blvd. A sign perhaps, that the group is not only growing but has created quite the trendy destination amongst the myriad of downtown attractions.urban wine trail logo

Also at the Grand Tasting, the urbanites are collaborating with local charity, the Arts Fund, in an effort to raise money for local artists through an auction and art sales. Displayed throughout the venue there will be 17 pieces of art produced by local artists and inspired by each of the Urban Wine Trail wineries. A live auction to raise money for the charity will be held on the evening, and will include travel packages to Sonoma, San Francisco, Malibu and Los Angeles.Alley12

Participating Urban Wine Trail wineries include: Au Bon Climat, Carr Winery, Cottonwood Canyon, Deep Sea, Grassini Family Vineyards, Jaffurs, Kalyra, Kunin Wines, Margerum Wine Company, Municipal Winemakers, Oreana Winery, Pali Wine Company, Sanguis, Santa Barbara Winery, Silver, Whitcraft Winery, and Summerland Winery.

Local restaurants Arlington Tavern, Paradise Café, Wine Cask, C’est Cheese, and Bella Vista at the Four Seasons will be providing hors d’oeuvres.

Saturday, February 16th 2013

Syrah Seminar – 10am – Noon

Grand Tasting from 5:30pm – 9pm

Both being held at Goodman Reed Warehouse, 120 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Ticket Prices:

$100 — Syrah Seminar + Grand Tasting Package

$75 — Grand Tasting Only

$50 — Seminar Only

Tickets are available on the events page of the Urban Wine Trail website:


Or directly at the ticket site:


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