Stretching out like a wild cat awakening from a long spring nap, our tremendous wine industry in Santa Barbara County is reopening up from Santa Maria Valley to Santa Ynez, the Sta. Rita Hills, and Lompoc. Admittedly, they will have to adhere to the strict guidelines of social distancing, including only serving us wine tasting while seated at tables outdoors for a while.
We cannot stand at the tasting bar, or walk around without a face mask yet. You can only remove the mask while seated at your reserved table. For some tasting rooms, like Fess Parker alongside Foxen Cyn. Road with their gorgeous garden patio, there will be plentiful seating. Most tasting rooms, however, like Tercero in Los Olivos will have very limited space outside in which to serve you. In the case of small tasting rooms, I advise you to always make an advance appointment. With all tasting rooms, you may be able to call ahead the same day, to reserve a table.
In my effort to support our great local wine industry, I will report from the press releases I have received about their re-openings, including some longtime favorites that remained shutdown much longer. The news of their reopening is quite a relief, and I hope you will continue to support them as they need our business now more than ever. By the way, in some areas the restrictions are stricter than others but please be supportive, remember that they must follow the law. I’m just grateful this is supposed to be “the new temporary normal,” as I hope we soon get back to more relaxed conditions.
For about two weeks, Santa Barbara County wine tasting rooms were able to seat guests inside and outside keeping every party safe distances apart. Then on July 2nd I received several notices from wineries about only being able to serve tastings outdoors, but at least they were no longer forced to serve meals, too. Local favorites like Fess Parker Winery are open for outdoor seating, but advance reservations are required. I still recommend you call ahead if you’re in the area, when you might be able to fill in a canceled or available space. That has worked well for me.
At Fess Parker, you must taste outside, and you must wear a mask when entering, leaving, or visiting the restrooms. They do offer pre-packed lunches (including vegetarian), and wine club members receive complimentary tastings but may only bring along three guests. They can only accommodate groups to ten or fewer. Guests must sit with their reserved members, and outside foods and picnicking are not permitted. They do limit the time to 90 minutes you’re at a table. Make your reservations at fessparker .com.
All of the rules except the latter time limit are common at all Santa Barbara County tasting rooms, even smaller operations like Tercero. Owner/winemaker Larry Schaffer admits, must of the tasting rooms in Los Olivos are doing all they can to create an safe environment for their guests: “Even though I’m limited to keeping tables at five or less people, because I can spend more time with all of my guests, I have more sales with fewer tasters.” His normal hours in Los Olivos are from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Thursday though Monday, but he’s a one-man-show who’s there nearly every day, so you can call if you’re in the area and he will try to provide an appointment for you. Get details at tercerowines .com.
Like me, you probably wonder if we will see any wine festivals in this year. Well, I just learned the very popular Avocado and Margarita Street Fest in Morro Bay which doesn’t happen until September, will not be a public event this year. Yet there is some good news, according to the event organizers: “You can still get your avo, you can still get your marg—we’re moving guac-tail hour to your house!”
They can actually make some treats available in your home, which you can order before then and they will ship a special box to you in early September. The number of boxes is limited so don’t wait long to order your box. You can save shipping fees by arranging to pick it up yourself at the Avocado Shack in Morro Bay. The avo-marg box provides enough to serve 10 people and contains: “Yes Cocktail Co. Mixer (to which you’ll add your favorite tequila or it’s not a real margarita), Morro Bay limes, three ripe avocados (half of one for use in the cocktail mixer and the rest for an avocado farmer approved guacamole recipe that’s included (like any Central Coast rez needs that for our favorite dip), one entry into the “year supply of avocados giveaway” on Sept.12th, the “perfect avocado tool,” an official Avocado-Margarita trucker hat titled ‘Haas Queen,” a mixology video by Yes Cocktail Co. and virtual tour of avocado farms. The price is $44 (not including shipping) for a box that serves 10. For full info and ordering visit: Avomargfest .com.
As for the rest of the fall events, I fear they will all be postponed until next year. They may all become virtual, but I hope not.