Santa Maria is a city around an hour north of Santa Barbara (and 40 minutes south of our digs), and is notable for its wine industry and Santa Maria-style barbecue. Home to an increasing number of vineyards, wineries and winemakers, and centrally located to both the Santa Ynez and Foxen Canyon areas of Santa Barbara County's wine country, and San Luis Obispo County's Edna Valley-Arroyo Grande wine country, Santa Maria is an area that JD and I have often visited.
|Far Western Tavern|
From Riverbench, we wended our way back along Foxen Canyon and Betteravia Roads to the Radisson Santa Maria, who would be our accommodating hosts for 2 nights. Our check-in was quick and friendly. Our room, clean and quiet, recently updated, looked out over the inside atrium of the hotel. JD and I had stayed here a few years ago, and found it to be a happy experience once again.
|The lineup at CNagy|
Clarissa makes Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, and several of us commented on how her wines - at both wineries - were a true reflection of her character: elegant and refined with playful notes! One important thing to know about Clarissa: Her initial interest and education was in food science, not wine, and her wines are extremely food-friendly. JD and I already have a significant number of C Nagy wines in our cellar!
|Dinner at Shaw's|
After a good night's sleep, we were up relatively early for our visit to Byron Winery and winemaker Jonathan Nagy, who just happens to be married to Clarissa. You know, that other winemaker.
Jonathan filled us in on the complex history of the vineyard property (Mondavi! Jackson! Neilson! Byron!) as he led us on a tour of the facility and through the cool barrel rooms. We tasted through the delicious wines of both Nielson and Byron labels while taking in the glorious view of the vineyards on a perfect California day. Standouts included the 2013 Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the 2013 Nielson Vineyard Pinot Noir, which has been favorably compared to traditional Gevrey-Chambertin. Not bad for a young winemaker in Santa Maria!
|Lunch by Chef Rick|
After bidding Jonathan and hospitality manager, Jan, goodbye, we moseyed back to Orcutt for an art and wine session at Wine and Design, another activity set up by the Chamber of Commerce. While some of us were leery about painting in a group, it turned out to be great fun, due in no small part to the enthusiasm of teacher Angelina and owner Lauren. Plus Gina from the Chamber of Commerce joined us in our endeavor! (See the finished paintings at the end of this post.) The wine list was made up mainly of Tolosa and Core wines, and I admit, I was so full from lunch that I passed on the wine and drank more water. JD, of course, went Hard Core. #Tasty!
|Sakes at Niya|
Exhausted, we fell into a deep sleep, knowing we didn't have to be anywhere but home the next day. Part of our group went on to San Luis Obispo for vineyard tours, winemaker dinners, and more adventures, but we headed back to foggy, cool Los Osos.
Thanks to Gina from the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Cori Solomon and Patricia Decker of #LAWineWriters for setting up this trip, and to all the wineries, restaurants, Wine and Design, and the Radisson Santa Maria for a delightful experience in and around Santa Maria.
More information about Santa Maria Wine Country can be found at: http://santamariawines.com/index.html
|Artists and art!|