Touring with wine in mind spices trips


POSTED: Friday, August 21, 2009

This month, we'll discuss vacation options for wine drinkers. For those of you heading to California's wine country, here are a few suggestions that might make your trip more enjoyable and interesting.



Santa Barbara

As regulars to our restaurants well know, we have been spending quite a bit of time visiting, touring and tasting in the Santa Barbara area. There are so many terrific things happening there.

A good plan is to find a place to stay in the town of Buellton, as it is centrally located. The Santa Rita Hills appellation—home of Melville, Kenneth-Crawford, Babcock, Brewer Clifton, Palmina wineries, just to name a few—is 20 to 30 minutes west on Highway 246.

In addition, the Au Bon Climat, Qupe and Costa de Oro wineries are located in the Santa Maria Valley, about 30 minutes away via Highway 101. Another 20-minute drive to the southeast of Buellton will take you to Ballard Canyon and its Stolpman, Rusack, Jonata, Larner, Purisma Mountain vineyards.

Santa Barbara is about an hour south on Highway 101, and Chris Whitcraft has a tasting room there that on its own would be worth the drive for me.

For you foodies, take the Milpas exit and head towards the mountains for a meal at La Super Rica Taqueria. This simply laid out, real value-oriented Mexican eatery makes their tortillas to order and serves food worth waiting for.

Foodies should also make it a point to eat at the Hitching Post in Buellton; the steaks and ribs here are wood-grilled to order, and the comfortable atmosphere here makes it a most enjoyable way to end a long day of wine tasting.



Paso Robles

This is definitely an area worth exploring for at least two days. We usually stay at the quaint and comfortable Paso Robles Inn right in the heart of town, since there are quite a few wineries nearby.

Those open to the public include the Denner, Justin, Linne Calodo, Tablas Creek and Four Vines wineries.

There are a few others where you would need to make an appointment—Terry Hoage, L'Aventure, Villa Creek, Graves and Booker immediately come to mind. But since these are essentially one- or two-person operations, so appointments might be hard to come by. But the wines are so good, it's definitely worth a try.

The best option for foodies here is the Villa Creek Restaurant, right across the town square from the Paso Robles Inn. It also has a really well selected wine list. Artisan Restaurant is also a solid dining option.

For a most incredibly romantic experience, consider staying at the Just Inn and eating at Deborah's Room, both located at Justin Winery & Vineyards. It will be a weekend you will forever remember.



Napa Valley

It is always so invigorating to hear from so many people about their visit to the heralded Napa Valley. However, there is really no sense recommending wineries, as everyone seems to have their favorites.

For the foodies, here's a heads-up: For a solid, good, hearty meal, consider Bistro Don Giovanni. For a creative, high-end experience, consider Redd.



San Francisco

Before you fly back home, there are a few really cool, relatively undiscovered places that wine lovers and foodies should definitely make a point to visit.

First, head to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch at Nonna Rose's Restaurant, located below Alioto's. The Crab Cioppino and the Linguine Con Vongole are outstanding, to say the least!

Other must-try stops would be Delfina and A16—both in the Marina area. These Italian-oriented eateries offer delicious food and interesting wine lists.


”;By the Glass”; appears every second Friday in HiLife. To contact Chuck Furuya, visit