Many wines are intimately connected through their producers, whose offspring are differentiated by the various labels, such as Fess Parker which carries both the Fess Parkery Winery label and Epiphany, as well as a few others. This gives winemakers more freedom to create and brand new families of styles as well as the marketing aspect to appeal to an entirely new audience.
Santa Barbara Winery is well known in this area. The name speaks for itself. This is Santa Barbara, and this is their wine. Santa Barbarians are very fond of these wines. Not only is this winery rich in history, but the wines themselves are of high quality and a sure crowd-pleaser at many of the functions one finds here. Aside from the wines that label the winery itself, they also are known for the LaFond family of wines.
Pierre LaFond, himself, started the Santa Barbara Winery back in 1962. It was the first winery to open in this area following prohibition, and the winery has been in the same location, after its original move, since 1964. Today, with more than 200,000 acres of vineyards scattered throughout the region, Pierre LaFond continues to produce award-winning wines.
The LaFond winery focuses on three wines: Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay. A few that deserve mention is the 2006 Arita Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir, which won Gold at the 2009 Orange County Wine Society, and the 2007 SRH Pinot Noir, which won Silver in the same competition.
The Santa Barbara Winery experiments with unique varietals and offers a few more choices such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, and Pinot Gris, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Negrette, Petit Verdot, and Lagrein. This winery can add an award to its list as well. The 2007 Santa Rita Hills Reserve Chardonnay won double Gold in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and at only $22, you won't be able to find a better one at that price.
Joanie Hudson, Marketing and National Sales Director for both wineries, has a couple of her own favorites. Using the word “love” for these wines, she points to their Lagrein first, due to its "obscureness, and its rich and unique flavor.” The Lagrein, she says, is “dense, dark, and brooding." When it comes to food pairing, “this wine is great with winter fare such as polenta and stewed meats. It is an Italian varietal from the Alto Adige region.”
Another one of her favorites is the Lafond SRH Pinot Noir “for its approachability, complexity, distinct flavor profile, and versatility.” Not a stranger to wine and food pairing, she has been writing a blog that occasionally highlights this subject on their website, and suggests that “it's usually best to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. Also, to be a good food wine, the wine needs mouthwatering acidity between bites.”
One can surely enjoy these wines at the winery in downtown Santa Barbara, but if you’re looking to add a delicious meal to the experience, the LaFond Wine Bistro on State Street is the place. The Bistro offers many events to entertain, from Jazz Trios and Sundays with the Vintner, to Grilled Cheese night, which is everything but ordinary. The chefs design the most extraordinary combinations, such as their recent creations of Gruyere with Prosciutto, St. Andre with Shaved Pears, or Tallagio with Roasted Garlic Mushroom Duxelle. The only difficulty is in choosing which one to order. A suggested solution may be to share. Whether wine tasting or satisfying food cravings, Santa Barbara Winery and Pierre LaFond Bistro are sure to please.
Private tastings at the winery are available by appointment for groups of 6 to 12. The cost is $25, and includes a selection of cheese, bread and fruit. For more information, call 805-688-7921.