Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Central Coast

Weekend plan: the new Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail


Santa Barbara doesn’t want to lose out on all the Central Coast wine action. To that end, a group of local wineries has come up with the new Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, SBUWT for short, with a string of 17 tasting rooms, all in downtown Santa Barbara.

Traipsing from winery to winery not your thing? Or you just don’t have the time? Stay close to city amenities and clock in at Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone” neighborhood where you can go from tasting room to tasting room by foot or bike. Or if you prefer, you can make the designated driver some poor pedicab driver. To reduce your carbon footprint even further, consider arriving by train from Union Station downtown.

Coming up: Passport Weekend on July 27 to 29 when SBUWT revs up the offerings with winemakers in attendance, reserve vintages, light bites and live music. [UPDATED: The story originally reported the tickets were $75] For a $50 ticket, taste all weekend and enjoy a 10% discount on any wine purchases made then and there. Could be fun.

To get started, check in at Carr Winery, Santa Barbara Winery or Margerum Wine Company. You can also buy tickets online.

Wineries that are part of the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail include Au Bon Climat, Cottonwood Canyon, Summerland Winery, Grassini Family Vineyards and Pali Wine, and more.

Outside of the Passport Weekend, each winery sets their own tasting fees which can vary from $5 to $15 dollars and typically include tastes of between five and eight wines. 


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Photos: Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail map. Credit: SBUWT

Last-minute plans: Chardonnay Symposium in Santa Maria Valley

ChardNo weekend plans yet? Why not just point the car toward the Santa Maria Valley for the third annual Chardonnay Symposium, which takes place Friday to Sunday.

Fifty Chardonnay producers from around the world plan to show up. There will be chef demonstrations, food and Chardonnay pairings, a Grand Chardonnay Tasting and much more. 

What sounds like serious fun: the BYOC (Bring your own Chardonnay) BBQ at Sierra Madre Vineyard on Friday. Bring a bottle of your favorite Chardonnay and enjoy barbecue from the Hitching Post for a $30 ticket.

The Grand Chardonnay Tasting on Saturday afternoon at Byron Vineyard & Winery (tickets $55) features Chardonnays from more than 50 wineries matched with food from local restaurants and caterers. 

On Sunday, Cottonwood Canyon Winery hosts a sparkling Chardonnay Brunch on a covered patio for $30.

Tickets may be purchased online.


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Photo: Chardonnay harvest at Byron Vineyard. Credit: Byron Vineyard

Online Paso Robles wine country trip planner

Online planner makes trips to Paso Robles easy
OK, next time I get an email forwarded from a friend of a friend saying they’re headed up to Paso Robles the next day and want to know where to taste and to eat, I’m going to save myself some trouble and refer them to pasowine.com. That’s a new trip planner with all the information anybody could possibly need all in one place -- maps, tasting rooms, wineries, places to stay and to eat, directions. You can print out a map with local wineries (or order a printed one free by submitting your details).

Check the calendar for any events that might be happening while you plan to be there. You can even add olive oil producers to your itinerary.

The guide is put together by the nonprofit Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance made up of wineries and wine-related businesses.

Looking for a place to stay or somewhere to eat? Check the hospitality map which shows you where all the various hotels, inns and bed and breakfast establishments are located. Information on these, though, is pretty much address, phone and website. 

I’m happy to see my favorite wine shop up there, 15 Degrees C in Templeton, as the first listing under specialty shops. But you’ll also find a beef jerky producer, Firestone Walker Brewing company, a source for dry-farmed walnuts and walnut oil, and a downtown Paso Robles cheese shop as well.

You can’t beat the price: free.

Paso Robles Wine Country. And don’t forget to check the weather report at the top of the home page before you set off.


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Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times


Loam Baby, a new wine journal

Loam Baby is a new wine journal written and published by an anonymous author under the pseudonym R. H. DrexelA couple of weeks ago, I checked my mailbox at The Times and found a new wine journal lurking therein. It's called Loam Baby, a Wine Culture Journal, written and published by an anonymous author under the pseudonym R. H. Drexel. 

Given the bare-bones layout and paper quality, I don't think you’d have any problem identifying the 66-page booklet as self-published. The name intrigued me, though, and I opened up the inaugural Santa Barbara County issue to find an interview with winemaker Greg Brewer (Diatom, Brewer-Clifton, Melville) illustrated with a low-tech photo of the lauded winemaker showing off the intricate octopus tattoo that covers his shoulder and arm, more photos of his various tattoos, even one with the winemaker taking a shower (discreetly cropped). Enough to make you feel like a Peeping Tom.

Silly or what? 

But I started reading and liked the meandering nature of the conversation: It seemed real and not much edited, and I got a sense of Brewer that I hadn't gotten from other interviews or profiles I'd read. 

This first journal also includes an interview with Mike Bonaccorsi's widow, Jenne, who has been running Bonaccorsi Wine Company since his death in 2004. The article, though, is mostly about her Labrador retriever, Masseto (with adorable pictures). It seems both woman and dog completely charmed the author.

There’s more: an article on outspoken winemaker Deborah Hall of Gypsy Canyon Winery, who, it turns out, is also a fledgling beekeeper. A story on "Things we love about Santa Barbara," plus a quirky suggested playlist from Rick Longoria of Longoria Winery. Mad for music, he's strung tunes together to play for a trip through the Santa Maria Valley ("Goblin' Girl" from Frank Zappa, "Sittin’ on a Fence" from the Rolling Stones, "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" from Sons of the Pioneers, to name a few). He got so carried away, he created playlists for the Santa Ynez Valley, the Santa Rita hills and Happy Canyon too.

My favorite story? The tale of Chad Melville's candy apple red 1972 Volkswagen Transporter.

You can read it online at http://loambaby.com/ or buy a hard copy on the site for $11, including shipping.

Questions? Currently, Loam Baby does not tweet, tumble or Facebook, according to the website. But you can contact the author at RH@loambaby.com or by snail mail at 4225 Solano Ave., No. 643, Napa, Calif. 94558, which Google says is a UPS store. But having the address means that if you really, really want to know who's behind this new wine journal, you can hang out in front and make like Raymond Chandler, waiting for someone to pick up the mail from Box 643.


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Photo: Loam Baby cover. Credit: R. H. Drexel


BBQ Bootcamp, the second annual edition

Frank Ostini's BBQ BootcampGrillmeister Frank Ostini of the Hitching Post II in Buellton, Calif., is hosting the second annual BBQ Bootcamp March 8-11 at Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang. The four-day, three-night grilling weekend should teach you everything you want to know -- and possibly more -- about traditional Santa Maria-style barbecue.

Boot camp, though, seems hardly the concept, since plenty of free time is built into the schedule. Guests can roam the 10,000-acre dude ranch’s walking and horseback riding trails, or find relief from barbecue-induced aches and pains at the ranch spa. 

Beds in “deluxe cottages” promise to be soft, too, and all rooms have wood-burning fireplaces to keep everybody warm and cozy.

Morning classes are taught by Ostini with Alisal executive chef Pascal Godé. Afternoons are free for all of the above activities. And after dusk, Santa Ynez winemakers show up to pour their Pinots and Rhone-style reds. 

The first night, Thursday, features a Western-style welcome dinner. Friday night, Astini and Godé cook a meal to accompany Hitching Post II wines (made under the Hartley Ostini label). Saturday, students show what they've learned with a grill-your-own dinner, while local winemakers pair wines with each course. Sunday, breakfast at leisure, and when good and ready, head on back to L.A. with a leather-bound BBQ booklet in hand for future reference.

Sounds like fun. The only drawback? The price, which starts at $2,650 for four days and three nights, based on double occupancy. For more information, contact Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort at (800) 4-ALISAL or (805) 688-6411. More information at www.alisal.com.


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Free Santa Maria Valley vineyard walks

04-07-09 River Bench Pic IX
Headed toward the Central Coast? Instead of just stopping to taste, why not get out into the vineyards, fit in some exercise,  and learn something at the same time? The grapes are coming on and it's beautiful out there.

Santa Maria Valley Wines is sponsoring  three free vineyard walks in the coming months. The first is Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. at Sierra Madre Vineyard. Winemaker Steve Rasmussen will lead the walk and conduct a tasting afterward. 

The next walk is scheduled for Sept. 10 at noon at Riverbench Vineyard & Winery. This one will be  conducted by vineyard manager Jim Stollberg. The walk is free, but if you want to stay for lunch and a tasting, it’s $20 per person. 

The final walk will be at Solomon Hills Vineyards  on Oct. 9 at 10 a.m., led by Chris Hammell, director of vineyard operations for Solomon Hills and Bien Nacido Vineyards, along with the estate's winemaker, Trey Fletcher. 

Reserve a place for any or all the vineyard walks by signing up at www.shop.smvvines.com.


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Photo: Riverbench Vineyard. Credit:  Santa Maria Valley Wines.

Old but new in Monterey: Restaurant 1833

Exterior-9528-13 The historic Stokes Adobe in Monterey, built in 1833 and later expanded, now houses the new Restaurant 1833. Though the name is humdrum, everyone on the team behind the restaurant is a real pro. Dave Bernahl and Rob Weakley, founders and directors of the Pebble Beach Food & Wine event, scoured the country for a staff charged with turning the old adobe, which has done time as a kiln and oven, makeshift pharmacy and at least two restaurants, into an eating establishment for the 21st century. 

Continue reading »

The Sweet Tooth: Paso Almonds brittle

Brittle on Table What is it? Paso Almonds brittle. Perfectly crunchy, addictive almond brittle that's chock full of roasted almonds -- there are more almonds than brittle. It tastes super-fresh, isn't too sweet and doesn't stick to your teeth. 

Who makes it? Almond grower and candy maker Rusty Hall started selling his brittle at San Luis Obispo's Thursday night farmers market in 1992. It's been a hit ever since (and Hall now also sells Sweet Hots, which are bits of brittle tossed with chipotle and salt; brittle corn, made with popcorn and lots of butter; and gluten-free biscotti and blondies -- also with lots of almonds). The brittle is made in small batches at his commercial kitchen in San Luis Obispo. The almonds are roasted as the caramel for the brittle cooks and just as they come out of the oven, in a feat of proper timing, are added to the brittle. Because there are more almonds by weight than brittle, "it keeps it from getting too hard and gives it that really nutty taste to it," Hall says.  

Where to get it? Beverly Glen Pharmacy, 2946 N. Beverly Glen Circle, Los Angeles, (310) 475-0568; Joan's on Third, 8350 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 655-2285, www.joansonthird.com; Lancer Automotive (sold as Motorman Munchies), 8151 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-1100, www.lancerautomotive.com; Sweetsalt Food Shop, 10218 1/2 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake, (818) 509-7790, www.sweetsaltfoodshop.com. And by mail order; for more info, go to www.pasoalmonds.com.  


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Photo credit: Paso Almonds

Joebella, a great cup of joe off the 101 in Templeton

Joebella Driving up the 101 to San Francisco? I have  the perfect pit stop. It’s in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. Exit at Vineyard Drive and head west about two minutes toward the local Trader Joe’s. In the same shopping complex is Joebella Coffee Roasters, an independent coffee shop with its own freshly roasted beans, much of it free trade and/or organic -- and free Wi-Fi. Service is not the swiftest, but baristas pull their espresso on a shiny La Marzocco machine. There are a few tables out front on the sidewalk, more inside, and a big comfy sofa that's tempting for a catnap. The pastries pass muster, too.

And next door is the quite terrific wine shop 15 Degrees C Wineshop & Bar, where you can find the makings of a picnic — Fra’ Mani salumi, well-edited cheeses, baguettes from a local bakery — and a chilled bottle of rosé or white.

On a long drive, finding someplace like Joebella can make all the difference. A few minutes of respite from the road, a good strong cup of joe and you’re all set to go again.

Joebella Coffee Roasters, 1121 Rossi Road, Templeton; (805) 434-2479; www.joebellacoffee.com. Open Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 15 Degrees C Wineshop & Bar, 1121 Rossi Road, Templeton; (805) 434-1554; www.15degreescwines.com. Open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m.

— S. Irene Virbila

Photo: Joebella. Credit:  S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.