The Wine Tasting Rooms of Los Olivos – Forty Strong

The Wine Tasting Rooms of Los Olivos - Forty Strong

In a tiny California town less than an hour from Santa Barbara, there’s a remarkable amount of wine flowing. The reason: some forty tasting rooms grace this postcard-perfect, bucolic spot. Like many communities in the area, it was featured in the wine-soaked film Sideways. It houses charming gourmet restaurants, a classic stagecoach stop tavern, beautiful bed and breakfasts, and easy access to the Foxen Canyon wine trail. All of these are excellent reasons to visit the town, but the best reason of all is to enjoy the plethora of tasting rooms that dot the main streets.

The only question, perhaps, is where to begin.

One choice spot is the eponymous Los Olivos Tasting Room. Opened in 1987, it ranks as the first independent tasting room in California. Similar to a cooperative, it serves as tasting access for a number of small regional producers. The room itself is charming, originally a 19th century general store. Wines change weekly so you won’t be bored if you stop back for a tasting visit more than once. Known for it’s Syrahs and Pinot Noirs, you’ll find options like Brophy Clark and Stephen Ross Winery for sample sipping.

At Tercero Wines, there’s a rotating menu of five wines to taste, offering oenophiles the option to taste locally sourced grapes made wine in small, complex batches. Matching the diminutive craft of it’s wine making, the tasting room itself is also tiny, and features a cozy bar made from wooden dowels. Casual, comfortable, and friendly, this is a great spot to choose a favorite. Owner and vintner Larry Schaffer began his wine making career working for Fess Parker winery, a regional behemoth whose vast tasting room is the polar opposite of Tercero. In short: small room, large flavor.

For a next stop, Stolpman Vineyards offers a wide range of Syrahs in the quaint red farmhouse that houses it’s tasting room. Wine barrel tables offer the perfect spot for a sample tippling on a bright and cheerful brick patio. Personable tasting staff are ready to suggest wine pairings and offer unique bottles such as the crisp white L’Avion, made from Roussanne grapes.

Carhatt Winery is another prime tasting spot. It too offers al fresco tasting, and with sunny weather a frequent occurance in the area, that’s a good thing. This family owned winery has been making wine in the area for three generations, since the early 1950s. They operate their own vineyard as well as winery. The winery’s catch phrase is “ground to glass,” and they prove their words right. Open seven days a week, they offer a beautiful variety of reds and whites for tasting.

The Longoria winery tasting room is located in one of Los Olivos’ oldest buildings, and its ample space includes a patio, garden, and on weekends, the sounds of local musicians add to the relaxed ambiance. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the vividly flavored wines to taste here. Hints of berry, lemon zest, and even ginger turn up in many of the offerings. Visitors will find tables and chairs, burbling fountains, and a relaxing vibe – so relaxing that the winery is happy to have visitors bring their own picnic lunch to accompany a tasting.

Alta Maria Vineyards is another small batch producer big on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. While the name refers to the upper Santa Maria River flowing nearby, the wine making process here is inspired by old world regions in France. Citrusy Chardonnay is well matched by dense and spicy Pinots.

With many more wineries offering tastes in town, the main take away from a Los Olivos visit may very well be come back and taste some more.

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