Santa Barbara Wine Tasting

Recently, Peter and I spent a long weekend in Santa Barbara to celebrate our anniversary, check another item off our California To Do List and, of course, taste some wine.

Mo Wine PleaseI love wine tasting. I love hearing the story behind each winery, the passion of the folks behind each brand and the incredible variety of experiences.

Here is the rundown of some of our favorite stops while wine tasting in Santa Barbara.


Yes, Fess Parker, aka Daniel Boone. They served some lovely wine, had lots of coonskin cap themed kitsch in the gift shop and, most importantly for us, opened at 10 a.m.

I only occasionally dip my toe in the land of Chardonnay. I’m just not a big fan, particularly of the typical Napa Chardonnay.  I have to give big props to Fess and his crew. Their 2012 Chardonnay from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley was scrumptious!

Fess Parker Bien Nacido Chardonnay

The surprise of the day and it was only 10:15 in the morning.

This wine scored 93 points from Wine Enthusiast. Less than 400 cases were produced so you won’t see it on the shelves of your local store. As is often the case with these small productions, the wine is only available at the winery and to wine club members.

But I mention this wine to highlight the Bien Nacido Vineyard.

Remember when I talked about the single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Oregon?

Well, the Bien Nacido Vineyard is one of the rock star locations in the Santa Barbara wine country area.  The folks at Bien Nacido make some of their own wine under the label of Bien Nacido Vineyards.  But they also sell grapes to a handful of carefully selected wineries who, in turn, make some pretty awesome wines. So if you see the name “Bien Nacido Vineyard” on a wine label, you can be pretty sure that the wine will be a treat.


At Brewer – Clifton we tasted exclusively Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  These folks make some darn good, high scoring wine and they know the secret to a very special wine tasting experience:

 the cheese plate.

As my friend, Pete, says, “If you are buying wine, taste it with bread. If you are selling wine, serve it with cheese.”

Taste wine with bread


We have been fans of Foxen wines for some time and were delighted with the opportunity to visit their lovely winery.  These guys make a nice array of wines, ranging from Chenin Blanc to Syrah.  They even make a Chardonnay with grapes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard and a Pinot Noir grown in their own vineyards of a Bien Nacido clone.

My favorite of the wines we tasted – although it was very hard to choose – was the 2011 Foxen Cuvee Jeanne Marie Red Wine from the Williamson – Dore Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Vineyard.

Foxen Cuvee Jean Marie

If you can’t find Foxen wines at your local wine store, you can shop online. If you are visiting Santa Barbara wine country, you should absolutely plan to stop by their winery.


We discovered Coquelicot a few years ago at The Family Winemakers of California tasting event. Coquelicot is the French word for “poppy” hence the colorful and distinctive labels.

Their storefront tasting room is smack in the middle of downtown Los Olivos.

The high point of our visit was tasting their wonderful Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc.

Coquelicot Sauvignon Blanc

The low point was encountering a very, very drunk couple who had clearly “tasted” way too much wine already and proceeded to shatter their glass on the tasting room floor. Then they walked out without paying while the horrified staff cleaned up the mess.

Not cool, drunk couple. Not cool.


The most unusual experience of the trip was our private tasting of Jonata wines. Jonata is the sister project of the legendary (and impossible to get, even at thousands of dollars per bottle) Screaming Eagle.

The Screaming Eagle philosophy of wine making at a mere fraction of the price!

Jonata does not have a tasting room. You have to make an appointment and you have to be really good at navigation. The wine storage facility in which the tasting takes place is in an unmarked warehouse in the middle of an industrial park.

Very mysterious but worth the trouble!

Jonata wine tasting

We tasted about ten wines including the El Desafio de Jonata Cabernet and their red blend, aptly named Todos because it includes every varietal they grow. Each wine was just as delicious as the last.

Santa Barbara wine tasting is a delightful experience. From the larger wineries with on-site tasting rooms like Foxen and Fess Parker to the “by appointment only” tasting in the Jonata storage facility, the experiences – and the wine! – are worth the trip.

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Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Going to Santa Barbara area to taste wine next month….thanks for the excellent tips!

  2. I am jealous it sounds like fun!

    • It was! Looking forward to sharing some great wine with you at the wedding!
      Mo Lux recently posted…Santa Barbara Wine TastingMy Profile

      • I hope you and “Peter” will be in early enough on Friday that we can go out to dinner! Not sure what is around there but we can always go to the Varsity for hamburgers and the best onion rings in Atlanta! What kind of wine goes with that kind of food? I think I actually picked up dinner there after I left work and drove to the airport to fly out for your wedding. Can’t wait to see you next month.

  3. And, now I feel this overwhelming need to run to the liquor store and try out a new wine!!!
    I can’t believe that couple didn’t even pay for the glass – rude!!!
    Kim recently posted…Tired Running Legs (8/24 – 8/30)My Profile

  4. We had some great Zin this weekend we purchased at our last wine tasting dinner – it was from Saddleback Cellers in Napa. So yummy sitting around the campfire 🙂
    Vicki recently posted…The First GameMy Profile

  5. Who gets drunk at a wine tasting? Not cool at all, and a waste of what sounds like very good wine. Sounds like you had a great time!
    Dana recently posted…10 things I would love to learnMy Profile

  6. Oh I do like your life Mo! Feel like I’ve been on a wine tasting holiday myself!
    Kelly L Mckenzie recently posted…Top 10 College Parent FailsMy Profile

  7. I’m a Californian trying to survive in the frosty midwest! I miss my year-round skateboarding as a child and incessant swims in the ocean.

    Mmm…wine. As my kids grow older and my tastebuds do, too, I find myself becoming more and more interested in wine. Just started exploring the wineries here in Michigan. Watch out, Mitten state!
    Katy recently posted…The Best Advice for Parents of Middle SchoolersMy Profile

    • Hahaha! So we are mirror twins both living out of our element!
      We didn’t really get into wine tasting/collecting until we became empty nesters. I’m on a quest to visit wineries in all 50 states so I’d love a Michigan winery recommendation. Without a doubt will be better than the Florida “winery” I visited!
      Mo Lux recently posted…Santa Barbara Wine TastingMy Profile

  8. My sister recently did a Santa Barbara wine tasting weekend and said it was awesome! Between her and this post, it is now on our bucket list (speaking of buckets, they serve the wine in them, right?!?!) :)-The Dose Girls
    thedoseofreality recently posted…A Good Friend Always Has You CoveredMy Profile

  9. Hey Mo! I like the saying about buying/selling wine with bread/cheese. Interesting. We’ve been drinking Chardonnay recently. It’s been refreshing to change it up from Cabernet Sauvignon. Would love to see you over at the September Sapphire Even Day Blog Challenge again. Really enjoyed your posts last year.
    Kimberly H. Smith recently posted…September Sapphire Even Day Blog Challenge 2014My Profile

  10. we gotta make another trip to santa barbara as i’ve never been to any of these wineries!
    catherine gacad recently posted…The Buck Stops Here: When Your Children Steal from YouMy Profile

  11. That’s a crazy amount of damage. Now I want to go out and buy wine and be supportive.
    Michelle recently posted…No-Cook Summer Tomato Pasta Sauce {Quick and Easy Meals}My Profile

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