We had a leisurely morning parked in the vineyard… At about 10:00 am we headed north to Santa Maria for a different type of wine tasting experience:


This is a tiny warehouse space in a nondescript industrial area of Santa Maria.  There are three wineries in this one building, each with about 1,100 sq. ft.  They all share spaces and equipment, as is common in the wine-making business.  Each of these three wineries makes between 2,000 and 4,000 cases per year.


The first place we visited, where we had our tasting, was Challen Winery.  Challen does not own any vineyards – she buys her grapes each year on long term contracts.  Challen is the daughter of the late Bill Cates, founder of Tantara Winery, also in this complex.  A few years ago, Bill Cates sold Tantara to Carlos Coelho.  After the sale, Challen missed having a connection to the wine industry, so she started her own label.  Also in this building is Cotiere Winery, owned by Kevin Law.  Kevin has been winemaker for Tantara in the past, and is now winemaker for Challen… Small world!


We started to learn about Challen from Julie, Challen’s assistant.  After a few wines were tasted, Kevin Law came in and we mixed in Cotiere wines.  Finally, Rick Hill, current winemaker for Tantara, came in and shared his wine under his own label: Labyrinth.  We had a lovely, exuberant, and somewhat confusing hour and a half, tasting wines from three different wineries.  (We tasted no Tantara wines here – that will be tomorrow…)

After order forms were filled out and our farewells were said, we returned south again for a tasting at Rusack Vineyards, in Ballard Canyon, between Los Olivos and Solvang.  We first visited here in 1989, when it was called Ballard Canyon Winery.  It was a ramshackle winery, and we sat at an old picnic table under the oak trees; we remarked on the fabulous views.  Today the winery is in beautiful condition, having been rebuilt over the years by the Rusack family.  The views from the deck are still beautiful!


We did some tasting.  Rusack is unique in that they grow some of their grapes on Catalina Island!  (Mrs. Rusack is a Wrigley…)

After our tastings, we bought several bottles of wine and sat on the deck enjoying our lunch of sandwiches, bought from Panino in Los Olivos…


Once our lunches were finished and our naps complete, we packed up and headed back to the Airstreams…


We moved the Airstreams 15 minutes down the road to Flying Flags RV Resort, and parked in some much-appreciated shade…


Happy hours ensued…


And an enjoyable time was had by all…