Whenever I think of a wine tasting lounge, I envision a small, solemn group of tall, thin individuals dressed in black.
They sit in a row at a long, skinny table with a few bottles of wine in front of them. They very gravely pour a few droplets of wine into their crystal-clear glass. They pick up their individual glasses with their spider-like sinewy fingers. They sniff. They nod in appreciation, or snarl in disgust.
They start speaking, one by one, about how exquisite the aroma is, the color, the winery, the history, the date, blah blah blah for an hour before they even take a sip.
And then, finally, when they have exhausted their pool of know-it-all pomposity, they each take a teensy weensy sip, but not before sniffing the heck out of the drink again first.
They don’t swallow. They hold the precious liquid in their mouth, swirling it around inside their cheeks, and then slowly and delicately, without a hint of expression on their faces, swallow. They pat their lips dry, chew on a dry cracker, then repeat.
Our wine tasting was nothing like that. It was more like this:
Actually, I suppose few wine tastings are like what I described above, if any at all. Maybe I’m confusing Ratatouille’s Anton Ego with wine snobs.
(Picture Credit from Fanpop)
Anyway. For our wine tasting, we didn’t stay in downtown Santa Barbara. We piled into Lindsey’s car once more and trucked up to Los Olivos, a small historic town at Santa Ynez Valley.
It is gorgeous. Not the landscape—it’s a swelteringly hot area away from the cool beach breeze, but the little cottages, sheds and markets that dot each side of the streets are adorable and quaint.
There are wineries every five steps away, so we took a little stroll around to peek at each one. Check out this gigantic, sexy booty of a wine bottle:
Each had its own distinct quality and charm, displaying its signature wine selections. The interesting thing to look for was its customers. Some drew in older couples, some drew in hip younger crowds.
(Photo courtesy of Lindsey)
Before we had our wine tasting, however, we browsed around some stores selling artisanal products and also markets to pick up some nibbles to go with our wine.
We ended up deciding on Artiste Winery because they had a Yelp deal going on: free tasting if you make a check-in on Yelp. Score!!
Artiste Winery is what you would imagine it to be based on its name. It’s an artsy little shop, splattered with stray paint but somehow pulling off a sophisticated, elegant look.
Look at the ceiling:
It’s art left behind by previous customers. I thought that was a cool interactive decoration to display.
Even their wine bottles had an artistic element to it. Check out their cork cover and the label.
Okay, time to sip like wine snobs. Here is our tasting menu:
The lady who poured us our drinks were really sweet and nice. She took the effort to explain each wine to us as she poured, even though we were kind of mooching off their drinks with Yelp.
Glug, glug, glug.
Cheers!! Wine in hand. So sophisticated, right? Not. Look at how I’m holding my glass. Compare it to my friends, who hold their glass by the leg. Look at my spider web grasp—total FAIL.
I only just realized that I’ve been holding the glass wrong the whole time. GARGH. This is embarrassing.
So why am I displaying my ignorance for everyone to see? Because I’m a kind soul and I earnestly want you to learn from my mistake.
Okay. Moving on. Check out our bootiful artwork:
Artiste Winery isn’t just a tasting room. It’s a tasting studio, according to their own words. The art that they display is contemporary impressionist art, and I have no idea what that means. But from what I observed, it’s big into bold colors and paint.
We spent an hour or so lounging around and working through the wine tasting list while drawing and painting, laughing and chatting, dancing and snooping into the VIP room.
(Photo Courtesy of Lindsey, shot through an empty wine glass)
And then we moved on to our next tasting room. We decided on Saarloos & Sons Wine, because Tracy had been there before and strongly vouched for it.
Though I think the real reason she wanted to visit this place again is for their sister cupcake shop, which is located indoors in the same house.
Saarloos & Sons has a totally different atmosphere from Artiste’s hipster loft. It’s located in this lovely doll-like Victorian house.
You enter, and instead of grunge you see rustic; instead of hip you see classy. The only problem? It was packed full of people.
Grumble, grumble. I couldn’t explore much without being squeezed like a Heinz ketchup bottle. The owner said it isn’t even close the usual crowd on weekends, though. But I can totally believe how popular it is.
Most of the clienteles were young, fashionable and presumably upper-middle-class. I was neither upper-class nor feeling young, but I did like my leather jacket, so I didn’t feel so odd among them.
We trudged out anyway into the warm sun, with a bottle of wine from Sarloons & Sons and a full 10-cupcake sampler. Here’s our loot:
Crackers, Wheat Thins, onion-cheese bread, Danish brie, herbed goat cheese, cupcakes and a “lady’s pour” glass of white wine for each of us. Ah, I could eat this for lunch every single day…
The wine was selected by our own personal wine connoisseur, Tracy. It’s the 2009 Mother Grenache Blanc.
Wow. I was intoxicated with this particular wine, pun intended. Seriously amazing and clean-tasting, with a fruity flavor, sort of a citrusy-sweet blend of white grapes, kiwi, grapefruit and mango. This glass was the best glass of wine I’ve ever had (though that isn’t saying much considering that I’ve had barely 20 glasses my whole life).
As pure and mild-tasting as it was, it also had enough bite and bitter to keep me from guzzling it down the way l do with iced tea.
Now, the part that kept Marilyn itching on her butt: CUPCAKES!
Both Marilyn and Tracy are huge dessert fanatics. Their sweet tooth seem to ache 24/7. While Tracy was coaching me on wine, Marilyn meticulously divided each cupcake into quarters.
The flavors of these cupcakes are fascinating: Mango Chardonnay, Cinnamon French Toast, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Chocolate-Raspberry Shiraz, Peanut Butter mousse, Chocolate Macadamia Nut. Tell me that doesn’t make you drool. No, tell me straight into my face.
Apparently they are made with Saarloos & Sons wines, which just makes them the best pairing for wine.
Before we toasted this though, we each gave a little speech that truly touched me. I’ve heard that males bond through active sports like basketball and football, etc. But maybe we ladies bond through a nice relaxing day of chatting and a glass of good wine.
Or maybe, we’re just terribly blessed to have found one another. I know I am.
It’s the people in your life that gives you the wealth of happiness, the love you cannot get from fame, and the power of unity.
By the way, this Santa Barbara trip is still not over. Heh. Video coming up next.
Question of the Day: White wine, red wine, rose, or none? Which wine is your preference?