For years I took weekend trips from San Francisco up to valley wine regions and I have to admit that I even partook in a limo bus or two….champagne on the way up, nap on the way back. However, as I have aged and become much more sophisticated (read: boring and tired), I’ve learned that the wineries you find off the beaten path are where you get the best experience. This post is dedicated to just a few of those wineries I have been fortunate enough to have stumbled upon.
The first winery I need to mention is a now defunct outpost in the Lompoc wine ghetto. La Vie Vineyards was a place I found by recommendation about 8 years ago while visiting the area for work. Lompoc is a small town about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara nestled in the Santa Rita Hills. The entire area is absolutely gorgeous and is filled with amazing wineries and fantastic restaurants. The ghetto in particular is nothing more than a few blocks of warehouse space just off the main drag, but don’t let that fool you. Wineries such as Ampelos, Sea Smoke and Fiddlehead have graced this cult location.
La Vie specialized in Pinot Noir and Syrah from the nearby areas. My favorite is the Black Mountain Reserve Pinot. However, all of the wines were incredibly well made by Ariel LaVie. His wife, Angela, provided amazing customer experiences inclusive of the use of their children’s playroom behind the tasting room and even gave us a little gift basket when our son was born. I am lucky as I purchased their wines in bulk and I have quite a bit left (their stuff doesn’t hit its stride until about 8-10 years in bottle). Although I am sad that they will not be producing any more wine as the LaVie team, I wish them the absolute best in their new endeavors. If you ever come across Ariel, you should start buying anything he has a hand in producing.
Now I want to jump up to Woodinville, WA where they have their own ghetto-type area called the warehouse district. Woodinville is just 30 minutes east of Seattle and hosts some of the areas’ finest wineries from big dogs like Chateau Ste Michelle to small mom and pop wineries you can’t afford to miss. Similar to the Lompoc ghetto, the warehouse district is a little area with storage facilities turned wine production facilities/tasting rooms/etc. Again, on recommendation by someone at a local restaurant we ventured to the district and found our destination, Two Vintners.
Two Vintners is run by Morgan Lee who also handles the winemaking (Seattle Magazines 2016 “Winemaker to Watch”). He specializes in very sought after single vineyard plots from eastern Washington. Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet and Zinfandel are the big ones, but they also produce an awesome Grenache and Grenache Blanc. I am not into the points rating system too much, but I feel Morgan deserves some love as the 2013 Stoney Vine Vineyard Syrah from Walla Walla Valley recently received a 95-point score from Wine Spectator…only $45/bottle! Oh and did I mention that they are totally pet and kid friendly? Their tasting room, like LaVie, has a great play area just beyond the tasting counter. This is not common, so I’m still not sure how we managed to find two kid friendly tasting rooms with beyond amazing wine.
There are many more wineries I would like to touch on, but those will have to wait for another post. For now, get out there, ask locals for their advice and don’t be afraid to stop at the little garage tasting room as the limo bus rumbles past.