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Kathy Marcks Hardesty: New tasting rooms in SB wine country
From the Vine

Kathy Marcks Hardesty: New tasting rooms in SB wine country

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For my June birthday, my husband Dan Hardesty and I enjoyed a five-day staycation in Solvang and visited most nearby small towns. Not only did our stay provide fine wines and great eats, it sated our adventuresome spirits. There’s little more I love as much as sharing my favorite finds. And what an ideal getaway for a mini vacation. No crowded airports, and fewer tourists filling the tasting rooms and restaurants as the weekends seem to bring. That’s why it’s recommendable at the start of summer.

We finally returned to the new tasting room of Hitching Post Wines on Hwy. 246 in Buellton. It proudly sits alongside its sister restaurant, the famous Hitching Post II. The good news is that the tasting room offers that terrific Hitching Post BBQ we all know and love. Chef Frank Ostini has a gleaming Airstream Santa Maria style BBQ with a full kitchen inside parked beside the patio. Guests can choose to dine on picnic tables outside in the spectacular outdoor garden overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley Mountains, or inside the tasting room. It was over 101 F when we visited so we definitely headed inside where we could enjoy our wine tasting while feasting on our lunch in the cool, comfortable tasting room.

We ordered an outstanding lunch selection, the grilled artichoke with spicy smoked tomato mayonnaise, portobello mushroom burger, and the steak sandwich with caramelized onions. All of it totally delightful, plentiful, and reasonably priced. You get five wines by choosing the traditional flight for $15 per person, or the reserve wine flight for $20. What’s nice here, you can choose a tasting flight, glass of wine, or bottle. With the latter, you can always take the other half of it back to your hotel to enjoy later. We bought several of their rose and pinot noirs to take home for our cellar. Learn more at www. Hpwines .com.

We also had some great new surprises in Los Alamos. I love the way this tiny town is blossoming as an extraordinary culinary center for food and wine. But it’s not just happening there, it’s throughout Santa Barbara County. That said, there’s a comfortable convenience about Los Alamos. Find a shady parking spot, and it’s a very short walk to all of their tasting rooms and restaurants. I like to make a day of it, and what better way to spend your afternoon on a day off.

We stopped in while returning home and discovered the small town’s newest tasting room, Lo-Fi, a very good find. The small wine tasting spot is right next to longtime favorites, Bedford Winery. It’s also between Pico General Store and Casa Dumetz. We tasted through the Lo-Fi wines being poured that day, and found them all delicious and reasonably priced. We chose the 2018 sparkling cabernet franc rose, 2018 chenin blanc, and 2017 cabernet franc Coquelicot Vineyard to bring home, and we’ve enjoyed them all.

Lo-fi is owned by winemakers Craig Winchester and Mike Roth, who have been lifelong friends. Roth is also the winemaker for the brand Coquelicot, which has a tasting room in Los Olivos. The partners believe in in a minimalist winemaking philosophy: “We make wines for everyday imbibing. The wines aren’t over-manipulated, over extracted, over-ripe, or over priced.” Lo-fi , like the aforementioned is located on Bell St. in Los Alamos. You can find their webpage at

Afterward we enjoyed a tasty, late lunch at Bell’s, the newest restaurant in Los Alamos (in the former site of Bell Street Farm), we ordered a wine that was also new to us. It was Folded Hills 2018 sparkling Lilly rose, a 100 percent grenache rose that paired beautifully with our shared house salad and French dip roast beef sandwich. While I haven’t been to the Folded Hills tasting room in Montecito yet, the first tasting room to be established there, I will undoubtedly visit.

Their sparkling rose was a beauty, completely dry yet had delightful red fruit flavors, and it’s easy drinking. Their winemaker is Angela Osborne, who also makes her unique brand, Grace Wine Company, named for her grandmother. Her signature grenache rose is named, “A Tribute to Grace.“ Once I heard that, I wasn’t surprised I loved her rose made for Folded Hills. Owned by Andrew and Kim Busch, Folded Hills Ranch was founded by his father, August A. Busch, Jr. in 1954. I can’t wait to taste more of their wines, which I found on their webpage at www. Foldedhills .com. If you want to taste wines at their organic Folded Hills Santa Ynez Valley ranch, you must make reservations in advance. Give yourself a well-deserved vacay in your own backyard — you’ll have no regrets.

Kathy Marcks Hardesty can be reached at



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On July 26, Conrad Gonzales of Santa Ynez Valley taco counter and café ValleFresh will officially shutter his current Los Alamos location and transition into Cisko Kid Food Enterprise, his newest culinary venture. According to the Santa Barbara County chef, caterer and restaurateur, he will partner with Santa Maria Valley winemaker and farmer James Ontiveros of Ranchos de Ontiveros vineyards to launch their Los Alamos-based collaborative project: a wine tasting room, event space and eatery called “Cisko Kid Los Alamos.”

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