Adventures in the Villa


Santa Ynez

2018-07-10 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 9 – Santa Ynez

An exciting day for the caravan today – a rare opportunity to do a wine tasting at the home of the owner of the winery!  Definitely, not your ordinary tasting room!


Just outside the town of Los Olivos, we approached the gates and pressed the call button. The gates opened and we proceeded down the driveway:


As fun as this is, the main event was on the backyard patio:


The view was lovely:


This is Tantara.  The owner, Carlos Coelho, bought Tantara from Bill Cates a few years ago.  Carlos is an Argentine, married to a Hungarian, with a large winery in Hungary.  He was not at home here today, but he does spend time here in the Santa Ynez valley from time to time…

Our tasting was lovely, with great wines accompanied by several very nice cheeses.

Each year Tantara selects the best barrel of wine from their best vineyards and calls the wine “Evelyn”.  We’ve enjoyed several bottles of Evelyn over the past few years and it always has been spectacular.  Given our Blessed Event this past March, we could not resist stocking up on several bottles of Evelyn, and when the 2018 vintage is released we will need to buy many more…

After our leisurely tasting here at Tantara we once again headed out, this time up to the top of the San Marcos Pass, to an ancient Stage Coach Stop and Tavern, on Cold Springs Road…


This was the stage coach stop between Santa Barbara and Los Olivos, where Mattei’s Tavern is also still operating.  An enjoyable lunch was had in the rustic dining room:


After lunch we walked down the road a bit to see the underside of the Cold Springs Bridge.  Today drivers on Hwy 154 pass over the bridge without even noticing that it was the longest steel arch bridge in the world when it was built…


After seeing the bridge, we had to walk up the hill again; we returned to the Airstreams for an afternoon rest…


We enjoyed a quiet dinner around the corner at Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant in Buellton, and turned in for the night;  The caravan is over and we head for home tomorrow…

I  believe an enjoyable time was had by all the folks on the Wine Tasting Caravan… One Caravanner said it best:  “It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!”  That seems to sum it up…













2018-07-09 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 8 – Santa Maria and Ballard Canyon

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…






















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