No sooner did we get back from our trip when I got a call from a friend from England (Isle of Wight) saying she was here, at last. Hooray! I haven't seen Helen since we met her on our trip to Denmark three years ago, but we've been in touch electronically ever since. Helen and her friend from Arizona, Alicia, spent Saturday night through yesterday with us. Playing SB tour guide for new people is one of my favorite things to do (See my Big List O' Links - it has an entire Santa Barbara section, in case you ever visit). I was all for making a big day out of Sunday, but we didn't want to push the girls, so we had a nice lunch with friends after our regular services and got a late start to wine tasting.
Being from Arizona and England, the girls had no idea of what awaited them -the drive up over the mountains behind town and into the Santa Ynez valley has some of the most beautiful views you'll see. They couldn't get enough of the vistas that stretch east and west and out over the ocean....but than again, I can't either. I feel incredibly blessed by the sheer accident of being born here in this little slice of unique California coastline. Despite being stolen from its' original caretakers, built on, fought over, shaken by earthquakes, drowned in tidal waves, burnt, smothered in landslides and (now) overpopulated....it is still a place of incredible natural beauty as well as having some great human additions.
Enough about that, though...we were headed for the bottoms of our glasses. I mean, the tasting rooms - first Kalyra, where I got to give the "How to taste wine in four simple steps" speech (Swirl, See, Sniff and Slurp) to our vineyard virgins. Not surprisingly, they loved the sweet/white wines - most people don't start drinking big, strong-flavored wines that are heavy on tannins right away. The girls were lovely guests, oohing and ahhing over the view, the wine, keeping their glasses, hic! the wine, the dogs that wander around freely around the property and the day in general. Kalyra happens to make excellent dessert wines - an Orange Muscat a Tawny Port and a rich, raisin-y Syrah Port. I am not a white wine drinker, as a rule, but their Gewurtztraminer (Ger-VERt-tra-meen-er) and their Viognier are both superb. My favorite taste was the Old Vines Zinfandel - the fruit was deep, rich and jammy and balanced with some tannins, not enough for that puckery feeling after you swallow.
The afternoon wound down with a stop in Solvang (since we met in Denmark, going to a large Danish town was a natural choice), a pitstop at Cold Springs Tavern. The evening started with dinner at The Palace* a quick nightcap at Blue Agave and stretched on to include watching the Grammy award show. The Dixie Chicks are not near good enough for five Grammies, sorry. Can we say politically motivated much? On the plus side, Scott has a new artist to play for cocktail hour. We had a late Monday morning breakfast and toured the girls around downtown before they hit the road to San Francisco - they'll be back on Thursday and I've got a ton of work to do, so I'm 'checking out' for probably a week. So....that's what I've been up to - what have you all been doing?
*If you ever get the chance, take a Brit out for a Cajun dinner. Suggest they sample the crawfish pasta lafitte, gumbo, jalepeno corn muffins, and blackened ahi. Mmmmm spiiiicy.