• When I first started getting into wine I went to Santa Barbara area and tasted wine at many places repeatedly over the course of ten years.

    Every year we would go to some places religiously. Most of which are still my favorite California wineries to date. I often wonder how much nostalgia plays a part in the longing for these wines.

    How much the touch of simpler times and family makes my heart glow when I think of these wines.

    We always started at Gainey in Santa Ynez. Sustainably maintained by the Gainey family for over 50 years, they have Arabian horses, beef cattle, organic fruits, organic vegetables and an exorbitant amount of grape vines.

    They were one of the first to make wine from plantings in the later created Santa Rita Hills AVA (currently one of the most consistently stellar Pinot Noir AVAs as told by every wine magazine in creation)

    Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay and Riesling to name a few of their grapes they use for wine.

    I first fell in love with Cabernet Franc and Riesling because of them.

    Eight times out of ten we went to Sunstone next. Also located in Santa Ynez, Sunstone has a beautiful tasting room and you might notice a theme here. Sunstone is family owned, sustainable and organic. Their Merlot and Eros (Merlot, Cab Franc & Cab Sauv blend) have always been excellent.

    From there it was often Lincourt (a side label by Bill Foley of Foley wines.)  Also located in Santa Ynez. Also sustainable, family owned, and sexy.

    I’ve always been head over heals for Foley wines (a place also on our list.)  In fact Foley has made some of the best Pinots the states have ever seen. Typically $30 to $50 a bottle at the store or online, but so worth it. One in particular I’ve been enamored with is the Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot they make.

    I like their tasting notes “Rich, concentrated, dark, black fruit opens to aromas of sandal wood and toasty oak. The palate displays blueberries, blackberries, marionberries and spicebox. This is a rich, fleshy wine held together with a solid backbone of silky tannins and firm natural acidity.”

    Rick Longoria is one of the most prominent wine makers in Santa Barbara County. He has made wine for places like J. Carey Cellars, Gainey and Rancho Sisquac, and decided to produce his own label in 1982 with just 500 cases.

    Now with an annual production of 3,500 cases Longoria wines has received lots of acclaim for his wines and especially his vineyard Fe Ciega in the Santa Rita Hills.

    I love these wineries for their knowledge and skill, for their perseverance, their care for sustainability and most of all they are family owned and remind me of my family.

    – Jonathan Hood