Get Outta Here!

The Great Outdoors: California Edition

Feeling the need for some fresh, cool ocean breezes?  Me too.

It's been hot the last couple of weeks here, and I've been dreaming of places to chill out.  So, with that in mind, I've thrown together a map with some of my favorite places in California; most on the coast, all guaranteed to delight.  Pack up the cooler with some refreshing cider, beer or a bottle of 2014 Weatherborne Pinot!  Bring some good food and of course good friends.  Or don't and just enjoy reading a nice book.  Either way, remember to get outside and enjoy the long summer days.  Cheers!

 

Stuck in LA

  • Silver Lake Meadow- Best picnic spot on the Eastside, bring a kite.
  • Victor Heights and Radio Hill- Nice viewpoints to watch the end of the day, for city lights too.
  • LA River Bike Path- 17 miles from Maywood to Long Beach.  Start early to beat the heat and enjoy a well-deserved brew at Beachwood BBQ.
 
 
 

Central Coast

  • Point Mugu- Rest stop along the PCH, frequented by dolphins and whales.  Bring a boogie board to slide the dune just south of here.

  • Padaro Beach- Quiet, flat and sandy beach in Carpinteria.  Walk to the grill for some decent food and beers.

  • Hale Park- Nice spot for walking the dog or walking the human.

  • Via Alicia and Franceschi Park- Both have great views of Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands, on clear days.  Franceschi is a nice picnic spot, too.

  • Scorpion Camp and the Olive Grove- A quick getaway to Santa Cruz Island is the perfect respite.  Bring a big hat for the summer sun.

  • Saddle Rock- Best campsites in Big Sur.  Reserve well in advance and pack light.  It's a ten-minute walk from the car.

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The Bay

  • Tank Hill- My favorite overlook in San Francisco.  Don't let the locals know that I told you about this.

  • Lands End- Super moody spot in the fog.  Pretty in the sun too.

  • Marin Headlands and the Pelican Inn- Go for a hike with views of WWII-era gun batteries and then enjoy a beer in an atmospheric pub, as close to a true British pub as you will find stateside. 

  • Sky Camp in Pt. Reyes- Great place to camp when you're backpacking around Pt. Reyes. Explore campgrounds.

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Not a planner?

Camping not your thing? 

Need some ideas on what to eat?

2014 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills: Tastes like summer Shop Now

Get out! And share your adventures:
#weatherborneinthewild

Organic Viticulture

Vines are pretty hardy, and here in California’s benign climate, grapes have it pretty easy.  We don’t often get summer rains or heavy hailstorms.  The humidity in the growing season is usually low and there is an abundance of sunlight.  So, grapes like it here. 

Without getting all political about it, after the petro-chemical revolution of the first half of the 20th century, chemical-dependent farming has been labeled “conventional farming.”  It has only been a convention for a blink of the eye in terms of agricultural history, but the name has stuck.  Opposed to this, or rather, on the other side of the spectrum is organic farming.

Organic farming goes further.  It is more of systems approach, treating the vineyard as a small eco-system of interconnected cycles of life- vine, grasses, bugs, critters, all connected.

IPM (Integrated Pest Management) has been an accepted, positive step in the right direction even for the most “conventional” farmers, as it is a cheaper and more effective way to understand pest and parasite balances, soil health and vigor, etc.  Organic farming goes further.  It is more of systems approach, treating the vineyard as a small eco-system of interconnected cycles of life- vine, grasses, bugs, critters, all connected.  For example, in setting up an organic vineyard smaller blocks of vineyards would be planned, leaving natural animal pathways undisturbed and riparian areas intact.  Beneficial insects and predatory species would be introduced and promoted to help keep insect populations in check.  One would plan on using owls, raptors and snakes to help control gopher and voles, rather than poisons.  A “no-till” approach would be used on a hilly vineyard site to minimize erosion, losing precious topsoil and causing river silting.  Basically, it’s big picture farming, acknowledging the role that animals, insects and farmworkers all have to play.

There are three general types of organic farming models: heritage, modern organic and biodynamic.  That hundred-year-old, head-trained block of Zinfandel and other mixed reds?  That would be a heritage, or traditional, type of organic farming.  Low input and suited perfectly to its environs.  Because these can be rather low-yielding, most people don’t plant this way any longer.  Purchasing land nowadays is just too expensive for this to be popular.  More common is the modern organic farming method, with close spacing of vines, full trellis systems and fairly intensive viticulture.  The La Encantada Vineyard where we now buy fruit from farms in this way.  Then there is the biodynamic trend which incorporates basic organic methods, but applies a spiritual, astrological philosophy to growing grapes.  This is the most intensive method, with special sprays and micro-inoculations timed to the lunar cycle.  There is no scientific evidence that any of the biodynamic methods make healthier grapes or better wines, but there is a very strong connection between grower and vineyard, which is only a positive.

Look, wine is a luxury product.  We’re not talking about growing rice to feed millions of hungry bellies, so the discussion for which type of farming to use should take this into consideration.  Organic farming is traditional and causes less harm to the environment in almost every case.  In an increasingly busy and populated world, it’s important to have nature be part of farming again.  Creating sustainable and healthy farmland will preserve these open spaces for the generations to come.  Clearly, I’m all for organic farming.

Our 2015 La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir is the perfect introduction to spring.  We were very excited to start working with this vineyard, and what you will find is that the wine is enchanting.  It's lightly-framed, but incredibly sapid; you just want to keep drinking it!  The red-fruited aromatics are gorgeous, but there's some serious spice there with the 50% stem inclusion.  The wine is tasting great now, but will reward you with more complexity as it ages.

The La Encantada vineyard was planted by Richard Sanford in 2000 while still at the helm of his eponymous label.  North-facing bluffs overlook the river valley and the farm's large walnut trees.  Sandier loam soils are the norm here, with some more complex rock up at the top of the vineyard.  We purchased Pommard clone fruit and really like the lighter, brighter style of the wines from this spot.

2015 La Encantada Pinot Noir

Strawberry, fresh fig and pronounced graphite notes. Leaner in style, with great acidity and clean finish. 50 cases produced.

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Explore: Santa Ynez Valley

Just over the hill from the coast, the Santa Ynez Valley is the center of Santa Barbara's wine country, its agricultural heart.  From the sun-baked one-horse town of Santa Ynez, to the foggy, windy city of Lompoc, there's a lot to discover.  Leaving Santa Barbara, the old stagecoach route, now Highway 154, climbs over San Marcos Pass.  Old California is just off the highway at Cold Spring Tavern.  Above, the picturesque span of Cold Spring Bridge used to be in nearly every car commercial.  Now, it's ugly and sad, because of the anti-suicide fence clinging to its spine like a necrophiliac caterpillar.  Further on your descent, you'll see the once empty, but now rapidly-filling Lake Cachuma; source of most of the valley's water.


The poppies carpet the hill for a brief, but glorious time every spring and the views are fantastic.

There are two main tourist towns in the valley- Solvang and Los Olivos.  I really can't recommend the semi-Danish town of Solvang for its charm, but it does have some decent places to stay and eat.  Beware of tourist buses full of octogenarians wearing ugly white sneakers and baggy jeans.  Los Olivos seems to be all tasting rooms, but it can be a convenient spot to slake your thirst.  From Los Olivos, you can head up Figueroa Mt. Road, past Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, and up toward the peak.  The poppies carpet the hill for a brief, but glorious time every spring and the views are fantastic. I like the tiny town of Santa Ynez more; it's quaint and quiet with excellent places to eat.  Los Alamos is a throwback Western town, just add tumbleweeds.  The service towns of Buellton and Lompoc have a lot of wineries nearby and tasting rooms galore.  If you have a bike, the ride from Los Olivos to Buellton on Ballard Canyon Rd. is recommended; pretty and not heavily trafficked.  Another comely country road is Foxen Canyon which will eventually lead you all the way to Santa Maria, which looks like every other crappy, sprawling, suburbanized horror in the US.  They have great strawberries, though!  Whether a hipster or a cowpoke, you will find what you're looking for in The Valley. 

EXPLORE

Figueroa Mt.- Fields of poppies and wildflowers, views of the whole valley.

Gaviota Peak- Nice view of the Channel Islands from the top of a fire road hike.

Gaviota Wind Caves- Caves scoured into the sandstone.  Imagine banditos.

Surf Beach- You can take Amtrak to this windy outlet of the Santa Ynez River.

Jalama Beach- Windswept and isolated campsite and surf spot. People like the burger stand.

Happy Cyn. Rd.- Twisty country road passes vineyards and horse ranches.  Can loop this all the way back to Figueroa Mt. Road.

Foxen Cyn. Rd.- Nice drive with plenty of wineries to visit.  See remnants of the old oil fields and the abandoned town of Sisquoc.

Ballard Cyn. Rd.- Great bike route in the heart of the valley, leads from Los Olivos to Buellton.

Jedlicka's Saddlery- Get yourself a Stetson here when you're tired of tasting wine.

 

Stay

A weekend at Hamlet Inn was our little birthday treat last year with baby in tow.

A weekend at Hamlet Inn was our little birthday treat last year with baby in tow.

Hamlet Inn- Updated motel in Solvang; very nice design and tidy.

Alamo Inn- Another retro turned modern motel.  Municipal Winemakers has a cool tasting "cabin" on the property.

Skyview Motel- On top of a small hill, the views of the surrounding vineyards are nice at this spot. 

 

Lunch and some Demetria rosé at Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe.

Lunch and some Demetria rosé at Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe.

Thirsty

Firestone Walker Barrel House- Try the inventive barrel-aged beers of this larger brewery in Buellton.

Babi's Beer Emporium- Nice selection of bottled beers in LA (Los Alamos.)

1880 Union Hotel- Drinks and free shuffleboard in the saloon of this old hotel.

Casa Dumetz- Sonja is the nicest host and winemaker you'll meet.  Lovely Grenache.

Taste of Sta. Rita Hills- Ask Antonio if he has some Weatherborne to pour!

Transcendence- Sara and Joey will take care of you; nice Grenache and Sangiovese; new pizza place opening next door soon.

Lutum- Gavin Chanin makes great wines, crisp Chardonnay and spicy Pinots; appointment only.

Presqu'ile Winery- If you get up to Santa Maria, you won't want to miss this pretty winery with nice views and great wines; nice Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and zippy Syrah.

A delicious catered lunch by Bell Street Farms including their ever-popular rotisserie chicken.

A delicious catered lunch by Bell Street Farms including their ever-popular rotisserie chicken.

Hungry

Cold Spring Tavern- A rustic breakfast spot; they make a nice tri-tip sandwich on the weekends, too.

Trattoria Grappolo- Tasty pastas and warm atmosphere.

SY Kitchen- Delicious pizzas and inventive Italian at this tasteful spot.

Dos Carlitos- Wonderful chiles rellenos en brodo and good margaritas.

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe- Nice seasonal menu and a great local wine list, including Weatherborne.

Panino- They make nice sandwiches here; good for a quick bite.

Olsen's Danish Bakery- Best bakery in Solvang with Danish specialties.

Succulent Cafe- Nice brunch and lunch spot with outdoor seating.

Cecco Ristorante- Good pizzas.

Industrial Eats- Caterers turned brick and mortar.  Handmade salumi, good sandwiches, pizzas and fresh salads in a lively spot.  You can listen to winemakers talking shop.

Bell Street Farm- Jamie knows everyone in the valley, and their cold case and soups are fantastic.

Full of Life Flatbread- Super popular locals' spot with good pizzas. (Oh, and they catered our wedding!)

Pico- New place in Los Alamos with a creative menu.

Bob's Well Bread- Nice pastries and hearty breads in a homey setting.

Los Gorrudos- The best Mexican spot in Lompoc.

Jocko's- Legendary tri-tip done in the traditional oak-grilled Santa Maria style.  Huge portions and a good value.

Stemware: Spend Your Money on Good Wine, Not Crystal

The wine industry is ridiculous. There are thousands of articles out there about how wine should be less intimidating and more open to enthusiastic beginners. Then the same people who write this tell you why you should be drinking Pinot out of a Burgundy glass, never a Bordeaux glass. Don’t put your Champagne in a flute, it should be in a white wine glass! Well, you know what? It’s all so silly and annoying, that it makes you want to just drink straight from the bottle. All these “traditions” need to be re-evaluated and then let’s get rid of the dumb ones.  Life is complicated enough, let’s make it so you can enjoy what’s in your glass, not just the glass.

 

Life is complicated enough, let’s make it so you can enjoy what’s in your glass, not just the glass.

 

I won’t delve too deeply into the sensory science of why certain bowl shapes are better for different varieties or styles.  Riedel from Austria believes you should have a different glass for each wine you drink.  Well, they clearly have a profit motive to sell you more wine glasses!  Don’t trust them.  Pick a glass or two that you like, and relax.  After all, this whole wine thing is supposed to be about enjoyment, right?

 

The only rule I have: don’t wash your wine glasses at the end of the night.

 

Broken down into your budget level, here are a few suggestions.  Oh, and the only rule I have, is don’t wash your wine glasses at the end of the night.  I promise you, you’ll break far fewer if you wash them the next morning.  Just pour a little water in the bowl and sleep tight.  Trust me on this.

 

Here are a few suggestions:


 

Still paying off my college loans…

Ok, honestly, your best bet is to go to the thrift store.  You will find tons of wine glasses, “Hey here’s one from the Catalina Wine Mixer!” but rarely two alike.  Who cares?  This way you won’t feel bad when you break them, and your friend won’t keep taking your glass by mistake.  Another great option, if you're close to a wine country, is collecting glasses from tasting rooms.

If you’re a little more Type A, or just like matching sets of things, take a look at these:

Ikea’s Hederlig, or the Ivrig if you like to BBQ or camp.  No stems means less wine spilled.  If you’re going for durability, check out these stainless ones.

A nice set of all-around glasses are the Crate and Barrel Nattie series.  I like the red wine ones most.

If you like to have parties, consider getting some small bistro-style glasses like the Marta from CB2.  They will work for big groups, wash up easily and are cheap.  You don’t get quite the aromatics out of them, but they’re nice and thin which feels nice, though they are more fragile.

How am I ever going to pay for my kids’ college…

So, you now realize the plumber gets paid better than you.  I often wish I had just become a plumber, then I could have had a really cool Mercedes Sprinter van, and…  Anyway, back to stemware.  The above glasses will do you just fine, but maybe you drink more Cava these days?  Or, you know you like having a smaller glass for white wine.  Cool, check below for some options.

I like drinking Champagne or any bubbly from coupes.  No, the bubbles don’t last as long as they do in flutes.  But, sometimes a little style is nice.  Plus, when you get into making cocktails, you already have the perfect glass for that Sidecar.

These from CB2 are a nice white wine glass, but work great for reds as well.  If you love Pinot noir, like me, I recommend a nice big glass for those delicate wines.  By no means necessary, but a nice treat. These Burgundy glasses from Schott Zwiesel are strong and reasonably priced.

I fully contribute to my Roth IRA every year…

Maybe you have some old wines that need to decanted off the dregs?  Remember your poor grades in chemistry class with this Erlenmeyer flask.  Bistro style carafe.  Or, if you want something a bit classier, this one might be for you.  Decanters are great for your youngest wines too!  The aeration really helps open them up.

Hope that wasn’t information overload.  Basically, drink out of a glass you like- be it vintage from the charity shop, or a brand new Zalto, if that’s your thing.  

Introducing Grenache

Weatherborne's first slogan was "One man, one wine." Well, that phrase is a bit redundant, as we now have a lovely Grenache to add to our lineup! I've always been intrigued by Grenache's "pinot-ness" as it can be bold, or delicate, dark or light in color. Grenache (noir) is originally known as Garnacha in its native eastern Spain, likely originating in the province of Aragon. It was spread throughout the Mediterranean and is a popular wine in Spain and France, most notably, but common in Corsica and Sardinia too. The regions of Campo de Borja, Carinena and Roussillon use Grenache extensively. In Chateauneuf de Pape, it plays a leading role. 

Grenache has perhaps been maligned as a workhorse wine or "blender," but it can be exceptional in its own right, arguably making the best rose wines in the world, in the Tavel region. Viticulturally it develops a huge trunk and sturdy canopy; it can handle drought well, and survives windy conditions. The wine can be a bit light in color, and they can oxidize easily, thus why it's so often blended with darker colored grapes such as Syrah and Mourvedre. There are currently 5,300 acres grown in California, most of it in the Central Valley, used as a base for jug wines at ridiculously high yields. California's cheaper wines would be much better if more Grenache was planted, replacing the Cabernet and Pinot grown in too hot of a climate. In coastal regions, while a lighter texture may develop, the aromatics benefit from the longer hang-time and slower ripening.

For 2015, we sourced our Grenache from the John Sebastiano vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills (also the main vineyard used in the 2014 Pinot) from blocks just outside of the AVA, hence the Santa Barbara County designation. While this wine is still a baby, and the tannins need some more time to resolve, hopefully it gives a preview of how delicious it will be with some waiting.

Fennel, red currants and rhubarb on the nose. Lithe and delicate in the mouth, there are substantial tannins ready to reward short-term cellaring. 85 cases produced.

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