Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery

6121 E. Highway 246, Lompoc

Phone: (805) 737-6222

Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Price: $10 for a flight of six wines
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Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery sits on a beautiful piece of land just a half-hour away from Isla Vista. Known for its pinots and chardonnays, this winery offers a wide range of tastes in a gorgeous setting.

Assistant Tasting Room Manager Valerie York noted that about 200 people per weekend visit the ranch-style property. The expansive estate, located in the Santa Rita Hills region of Santa Ynez Valley, offers a stunning vista with rows of grapevines and coastal oaks dotting the hillside. Without a doubt, it’s a great place to imbibe.

“We have picnic areas where you can bring your own lunch and eat outside,” York said. “We have a croquet set, you can play soccer — you can be here and enjoy the environment.”

The centerpiece of the visit was the bright, high-ceilinged tasting room, which features several bars, a huge fireplace and a set of comfy leather chairs. The place bustled with energy on my visit, but grabbing the attention of a server proved no problem and I soon embarked on the vineyard’s flight of wines.

The 2009 Rosé kicks off the tasting, offering a light and refreshing flavor perfect for scorching summer days. It was bright and refreshing, and one of two wines I purchased from that day. This rosé is so good I’d drink it for breakfast.

While the winery is famous for its chardonnays, I’m certainly no connoisseur and I found the 2008 Chardonnay, Steel, a little too biting for my taste. I preferred the 2007 Chardonnay, Rancho Santa Rosa, which uses classical techniques such as whole-cluster pressing and fermentation in oak barrels. It’s a crisp and fruity wine, with a really nice aftertaste.

After sampling a few of the free crackers, I settled in for the reds. The first — the 2007 Pinot Noir, Rancho Santa Rosa — was the best wine of the day, full-bodied and earthy. The aroma was amazing, with hints of cherries and blackberries. I picked up a few bottles of this amazing pinot to take home with my rosé.

York said the current favorite among customers is the similarly flavored Pinot Noir, JA Ranch, which is not currently featured as a tasting selection. My server generously poured me a glass, however, and the wine had a wonderful, full body.

“Our most popular wine right now is the Pinot JA,” York said. “It’s very earthy and is fermented for 20 months in oak barrels.”

The final two wines of the tasting — the 2007 Pinot Noir Bar Lazy S Ranch and 2006 Rancho Santa Rosa Syrah — tasted especially delicious after the first five pours. The pinot noir had somewhat strange hints of tobacco, but I could easily imagine this as a wonderful complement for steak. The last taste of the visit, the syrah, wasn’t too memorable, but the tasting guide informs me that it “has a nose dense with blueberry and boysenberry aromas.”

After finishing up the flight of wines, I wandered the grounds and saw the barrels and stainless steel used during the fermentation process. That’s one of the great pleasures of visiting a vineyard like Foley Estates — seeing the production of the wine and then tasting the delicious results.

Lincourt Vineyards

1711 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang

Phone (805) 688-8554

Hours: Daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Price: $10 for a flight of six wines

For a completely different atmosphere, head over to Lincourt Vineyards in Solvang. The winery is the epitome of simpler times, Tasting Room Associate Debbie Jacobson-D’Amelio noted, and servers pour wine for guests in a quaint farmhouse.

“It used to be a dairy farm,” she said. “It is a 1926 Sears Craftsman kit home.”

The vineyard, a relaxing final stop on any wine country tour, provides tasters with a range of six local wines. Jacobson-D’Amelio said the winery specializes in several grape varieties, although a few sell better than others.

“Our Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular,” she noted. “But our cabernets and pinot noirs are also favorites.”

The first pour, from a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, comes directly from the vineyard’s front yard. A great start to the tasting, this wine had delicious tropical undertones of cantaloupe and kiwi.

The next two whites, a 2008 Pinot Blanc and 2007 Chardonnay, were largely forgettable, but improved tremendously when I sipped them outside on a deck overlooking the vineyard’s signature windmill. The pinot blanc, vinified in stainless steel, had a nice bite to match its floral notes.

The reds proved less enjoyable on the whole compared to Lincourt’s white varieties, although the crisp cherry aromas from the 2007 Pinot Noir stood out as particularly noteworthy. The chalky 2006 Merlot, however, quickly found its way into the dump bucket — the only wine which received that honor from me during my trip to wine country. The last pour, the extremely rich 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, rounded out my tasting with a robust, full-bodied wine. To be honest, I don’t recall what Lincourt describes as flavors of “Worn leather… and underlying layers of eucalyptus and cigar box,” but the wine did seem incredibly overpowering.

Despite some of the unforgettable vinos I had imbibed during the tasting, the setting could not have been better, with picturesque lawns and gardens perfect for spending an afternoon drinking some of Santa Barbara’s best wines. To escape from Isla Vista and step into truly simpler times, make sure to stop by and sample Lincourt’s wines on any tasting tour.

Terms to Sound Pretentious While Wine Tasting:

Flight of Wines: This somewhat ridiculous phrase is used to describe a selection of wines (usually between 3 and 8) presented by the tasting room. A good deal, I found, is six wines for $10.

Acidic: Use this when a wine tastes sour, and you’ll sound more intelligent than if you just said it tastes awful.

Balance: Say a wine has this if it tastes good, since it means all the flavors are harmonious and no one aspect dominates.

Body: One of those classic wine tasting words, which refers to the impression of weight or fullness on the palate. Mix it up and use full-bodied, medium-bodied or light-bodied to sound particularly pretentious.

Bouquet, Nose or Aroma: How to say “smell” in the world of wine tasting.

Smoky: If they tell you the wine comes from an oak barrel, this word likely applies.

Spittoon or Dump Bucket: This is provided for pouring or spitting out wine, and is used by people to avoid intoxication. Clearly, this is not I.V. approved.

Tannin: This is one of the key acids found in wines, particularly reds, that comes from seeds, stems or skins. If the wine makes your mouth pucker, immediately use this word.

Other recommended terms: Earthy, bright, dry, delicate and floral, when appropriate.