The Santa Ynez Valley
Central California is full of sprawling vineyards and exceptional varietals, but it’s Santa Barbara’s urban wine scene that is attracting the attention these days. Located a stone’s throw from volleyball friendly East Beach, the city's wine zone lies in the heart of its downtown: an arty, industrial area, where oenophiles and hipsters unite at the newly renovated Municipal Winemakers tasting room, open since 2007.
Winemaker David Potter crafts small-lot wines with grapes sourced from select vineyards in Santa Barbara County (and he's still a part of the winemaking team for two popular Central Coast vineyards, Fess Parker Winery and Epiphany Cellars). Potter's current releases include Bright White, a crisp, dry Riesling; Bright Red, a spicy blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah; and Dark Red, a concentrated mix of Cabernet and Syrah.
Dave Potter checks harvest.
The Municipal Tasting Room has a 2009 Syrah and 2010 Chardonnay on tap–available by the glass ($7) or in one-liter refillable growlers that read, “drink this now” ($25). Its generous wine club, called Club Awesome (because, well, it’s just that), offers an inviting venue for sampling local varietals, learning about the winemaking process, and kicking back with friends.
After recently expanding the tasting room to accommodate even more thirsty patrons, the airy industrial space has a tin roof, a concrete floor, and is appointed with vintage file cabinets, typewriters, marquee-style signs, and other throwback, eclectic touches. Huge barn doors open to a breezy patio where visitors imbibe amid the ocean air, and out front, a rotation of food trucks stop by with offerings to pair with tastings.
This holiday season, tasting room expert Cassidy Ugles suggests pairing the 2009 MCS - a light bodied, earthy blend of Mourvedre, Carignane, and Syrah - with turkey dinner, while the 2009 Cabernet’s notes of tobacco, mint, and crushed berries compliments dark chocolate desserts. He says that more intrepid chefs who might whip up, say, a suckling pig belly, would be best suited with the 2008 Dark Red, a blend of 55-percent Syrah, 40-percent Cabernet, and five-percent petite Bordeaux.
If someone else is cooking this year, Municipal’s recyclable growlers make a fun, quirky gift, and the one-liter bottles–equivalent to one-and-a-third bottles of wine–are always a hit at dinner parties. Now open until 11 pm Thursday through Saturday, the tasting room is also an off the beaten path hot spot for a nightcap with in-the-know wine lovers.
With wine on tap and artisenal cheese plates from local shop C’est Cheese available in the vintage refrigerator, there’s no better place than The Municipal Tasting Room, to kick back and sample what Central Coast vineyards have to offer.