I am currently planning a trip for two days next week up to the winemaking regions of Santa Rita and Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County. My friend Brian and I are cruising up in his new Prius (eco-friendly, represent!) because it is more gas efficient than my car and has satellite radio. No, we won't be listening to Oprah's station, so don't ask.
The primary reason to take the trip is to see two little winemaking industrial parks in Lompoc affectionately called the Wine Ghetto and Pinot Prison, as well as to talk to some winemakers about their biodynamic practices. I first learned about the Ghetto and the Prison from Chrystal and Steve Clifton, the winemakers behind Palmina, and partners in Clifton-Brewer. I had the good fortune to try some of their wines at a press dinner at Citrus at Social last August, and have been wanting to visit them ever since. When I told Chrystal I was planning a trip, she immediately put me in contact with several of her colleagues, and now it looks like I will also get to visit Fiddlehead Cellars (whose winemaker, Kathy Nelson, promises to help me with my kugel recipe!), Sea Smoke Cellars and Ampelos, all of which produce some fantastic Pinots among other varietals.
I am also planning to stop by two of my favorite California winemakers, Au Bon Climat and Qupe near Los Olivos. I have tried several wines from each place and I can't wait to see their operation in person.
We will actually be staying in Solvang at a lovely little hotel I found called the Hadsten House. Here's a picture of one of their guest rooms. They, like many hotels, are facing quite a crunch with the economy, but their bad luck is my good since they are offering an unbelievable mid-week rate of $199 for two nights.
It looks like our itinerary is pretty complete at this point, and I am just counting down the days until the tasting begins!