Posts Tagged ‘wine tasting’

Approaching Riverbench

View approaching the vineyard

As you wind your way down Foxen Canyon road aka the Foxen Trail, you can’t help to think about the wonderful scenery that the road bisects. On either side ancient oak trees grow in pastures, some with grazing cattle others now planted with wonderful vines producing a host of fruit from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir and the noblest of grapes Cabernet Sauvignon. The nice thing is that you can choose to sample a handful of wines or less on your way to Riverbench or better yet hold off, show some restraint, have patience and wait till you arrive at the oasis nestled amongst the vines on the flat plain just past

Entering Riverbench

Coming into the winery

Rancho Sisquoc in the Santa Maria valley. The vines surround their beautiful tasting room, a converted craftsman style home, with a wonderful outdoor seating area perfect for a relaxing tasting and picnic.

Upon exiting the car we were struck by the quiet stillness of the area so peaceful, the perfect environment for wine tasting. Upon entering the tasting room you’re greeted by a warm comfortable room complete with fire place, lots of windows, a gift area and a long robust wooden bar for tasting with the days offerings written on the chalk board.

View of Vineyard

Having been to Riverbench several times at all different times of the year I have found the experience to encompass the seasons, a roaring fire during the colder months or enjoying a tasting out on the back patio during the warmer summer months. The winery has been around since 1973 growing pinot noir and chardonnay grapes and producing wines as well as selling their grapes to other wine makers.  In 2004 it was purchased by a group of families in the area and is making some of very fine chardonnay and pinot noir that are amongst some of the finest in the region. A few of my favorites are the One Palm Pinot Noir that makes the trek worth it on it’s own it’s deep rich cranberry color with notes of cherry and strawberry and an earthiness to it clearly reflecting the region that it comes from. From the first sip of this wine I was hooked, small case production which doesn’t take long to sell out every year. On another recent tasting I had the pleasure of tasting their Bedrock Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Rosé two other fantastic selections.

Budding Grapes

The Chardonnay is a crisp Chablis style wine that is completely fermented in stainless steel tanks that keep the flavors of the grapefruit and pineapple with a richness that lingers on the palate making it a pleasure to drink. And last but not least is their Pinot Noir Rosé, a delightful wine that is refreshing, a perfect summer wine that gives you the best of pinot noir flavor in a lighter wine that has notes,

Riverbench, Chardonnay, Rosé & Pinot Noir

believe it or not of jolly ranchers and watermelon with a dry finish that lingers to reveal a host of citrus flavors that make for a perfect ending. This Rosé reminds me of the Rosés from Provence that I tasted recently at an event. These are but 3 from their collection of wonderful wines that I have sampled. Each time I am in the tasting room there is a different flight of wines to taste. Laura the general manager is always very helpful and is always ready to answer your questions as it the rest of the very knowledgeable and friendly staff who are always ready to pour and engage in some good conversation time permitting. This is one vineyard in the Santa Ynez/Santa Maria region that is well worth a visit. For more information check out their website – www.riverbench.com


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One of the nice things about living in Ventura County is the close proximity to Santa Ynez. This wonderful area boasts numerous wineries along with several quaint areas to shop and dine. It’s a great place for a weekend getaway or just to spend the day.  So a few weeks ago I spent a Saturday with my mother up in the Santa Ynez Valley doing some wine tasting with the ultimate goal of picking up our wine club selection at the Koehler Winery. It was a beautiful October day as we made our way up the coast toward the Santa Ynez Valley. After passing through Santa Barbara the scenery changed. We were no longer in an urban environment. A 4 lane black highway bisecting the landscape. On one side the brown rolling hills dotted with rock formations and livestock grazing on the opposite side the deep blue waters of the Pacific Shoestring tasting roomOcean, oil drilling platforms rising above the water with the some of the channel islands creating a perfect backdrop.  It was a glorious site. We made our way through the changing landscape, leaving the coast as the 101 took us inland up into the Santa Ynez Valley. Through the rocky tunnel up, past the Wines from ShoestringPork Palace and several farms finally exiting the highway and making our way to our first stop of the day the Shoestring Winery.

The Shoestring winery is located off the main road 246 going toward Solvang. I remember it for it’s Sangiovese. We tasted Rose, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Merlot & Syrah. If you like a slightly dry Rose its great as is the Syrah & Sangiovese. It wasn’t a let down by any stretch.

Next we decided to go to Buttonwood winery. ButtonwoodThe tasting room is very charming and it happens that when we were there it was very croweded. We tasted 9 wines and the 3 winners were Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Trevin which was wonderful.

Rideau vineyardsAlong the same road toward Los Olivos is Rideau Vineyards. This is a stunning property. I love the tasting room and the surroundings. The tasting room is plush and luxurious as are their wines. We decided to go with their estate red tasting which had a collection of wonderful wines. The Mourvedre was fantastic followed by their Estate Syrah & Petite Syrah both were excellent.

After a relaxing lunch in Los Olivos we decided to go to Curtis winery to see what they had to offer. They had some wonderful paintings on the walls. You can do tastings in both the main tasting room and theirCurtis larger more cavernous room that holds their stainless steel tanks. We had a nice tasting particularly their winemakers Pinot Noir. Other noteables were the heritage cuvee, viognier & Rose.

KoehlerOur final stop of the day was Koehler. In all honesty one of my favorites. I am a member of their wine club and for good reason, great tasting wines at a reasonable price. Dan helped us out as usual. The tasting room wasn’t too busy since we were there on a week day. We were there to pick up wine our shipment and as is tradition do another tasting. This time the Viognier stood out for their whites. As far as reds go I love them all but my favorites for the day were the Pinot Noir & their Grenache. It was a good tasting day as it always is in Santa Ynez.

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