Francis’ Wine Country Tour 2014, Day One

As many of you know, I take an annual wine trip to various areas of California. This year, I was very fortunate to visit Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles. This was my 1st time seeing Southern California. WOW!!! It was as beautiful as I was told. I traveled with my favorite wine companion, personal Chef and best friend, Jennifer Stiver. We had the priviledge of lodging at one of my guest and friends’ home, John and Mary Pat. The hospitality and generosity that were provided were far beyond 5 Star. Everything from warm and comfortable bedding to the thoughtful picnic lunches that were packed for us every morning before we were awake, INCREDIBLE!!!

Francis in the vineyards

Francis in the Vineyards

Our first venture was to the small, quaint town of Solvang. There we visited the Peter Stolpman Winery and were given a private tour by the winemaker and President, Peter Stolpman Jr. and his black Labrador, Baron von Stolpman. The tour included an educational stroll through the vines of this plush 152 acre vineyard, vine samples and in-depth information about the growing methods and the terroir of this newly designated AVA (American Viticultural Areas) called Ballard Canyon. We were also treated to an extraordinary tour of Peter Stolpman Sr’s dream home. This 12,000 sq ft Italian Villa was breathtaking!!! Keep your eyes out for a possible January visit to The Classic from Mr. Stolpman.

Stolpman Estate on Hill

Stolpman Estate

Next, we arrived in the beautiful rural town of Los Olivos to have a tasting at The Byron Tasting Room of Jackson Family Wines. We were enthusiastically greeted by Bird, the cute little Jack Russell that welcomed everyone. This turned out to be Pinot Noir heaven!!! There were 9 different styles of pinot noir offered from all over the California Central coast. Most of these offerings were 200 cases or less made, with the lone exception being the 2011 Santa Maria Valley, which is about a 2000 case production. Each of the wines were extremely well crafted and had unique characteristics. The most intriguing of all was the 2011 Monument. The fruits used in this wine are the premier barrels produced on the Nielson Estate in Santa Maria Valley. This rich pinot has flavors of dark blackberry and ripe plum, a silky mouthfeel and pleasant, but not overpowering, smokey finish.

BarnWe were so impressed with the warm feel of this little village of tasting rooms, that we decided to picnic in a little park across the street from the Byron room. We asked some local folks where we could find a sandwich shop nearby. Much to our delight, there was a small deli just around the corner that made gourmet sandwiches and specialty meats. We asked the young man behind the counter for his recommendation and he offered us a turkey melt with spiced provolone cheese, made locally, on rye bread that was not on the menu of the day, but was his favorite.

Our afternoon would not have been complete without some bubbly!!! As we walked over to the cooler, there was a single bottle of 2003 Roederer Brut Reserve that magically appeared like manna from heaven. Our day had just taken an unimaginably awesome turn for the better. If I had to rate this day, I would say that this was the BEST 1st day ever of all my California trips.

Stay tuned for more stories of my exciting wine journey.

Cheers to “Liquid Love”!!!