Visiting Santa Ynez valley has been on my “To Do List” for quite some time now. I have wine tasted in many wine regions from northern to central California but I have not ventured further south than the fantastic Paso Robles wine region, which I visit annually. Finally I can say I have been to Santa Ynez valley! What a treat it was!
In May, when my son and I visited colleges along the central coast, I decided he and I should take a detour inland to visit the quiet oak studded Santa Ynez valley that is filled with sprawling green-grassed horse ranches and gorgeous vineyards that follow the curvature of the rolling hills.
Santa Ynez valley has a history of farming, ranching, and horses, as well as being home to Mission Santa Ines’, founded in 1804 by the Spanish Franciscan padres. The region has six townships: Santa Ynez, Solvang, Buelton, Ballard, Los Alamos, and Los Olivos. The valley community maintains a historic western atmosphere, where the locals describe it as, “rustic, authentic, and bold.” All true. Santa Ynez valley is considered one of the West’s greatest horse regions. There are numerous horse ranches raising world class thoroughbreds. In addition, the valley is home to over 100 wineries. So it seemed only fitting that I combine both to get a true taste of the Santa Ynez valley experience.
We decided to visit Vino Vaqueros, which is owned by husband and wife team Peter and Jaye Ganibi, who have been involved with horses most of their lives. Peter has been a life long horse enthusiast who played professional polo for many years and now is a professional horse trainer.
Vino Vaqueros offers private 90-minute trail rides, which are led by an experienced trail guide. Vino Vaqueros is a unique outfit that has created relationships with the local ranches and vineyards, which have granted them access to their properties. Vino Vaqueros trail guides lead horseback rides through some of most breath taking property in the Santa Ynez valley.
On a sunny Saturday morning, my son and I joined Vino Vaqueros’ trail guide Carly for a ride through Estelle Vineyards. Carly is a local from Santa Barbara who grew up riding horses and who was very informative about riding as well as the area and its history. She was very friendly and a lot of fun…and where else can you find a trail guide sporting a hot pink Vans baseball cap. Love it Carly! Also accompanying us on our trail ride were the two ranch dogs, Kate and Doc. They followed along our ride and added to the overall amusement of our experience…especially when the two of them jumped into the cattle trough for a swim! I guess this is a great way to take their morning bath. Carly led us through Estelle Vineyards’ beautiful 1,000-acre property on the east side of the valley. The vistas across the valley were magnificent. We rode through the property’s rolling hills and eventually wound our way down to the vineyard where we past their cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and syrah vines.
To add to the unique experience, Vino Vaqueros has partnered with a few of the local wineries for a combined trail ride and wine tasting experience. After trail riding, we were instructed by Carly to drive two miles to Roblar Winery where I sampled a flight of five Roblar wines, which were perfectly paired with delicious small plates of food.
Roblar Winery is located in the heart of Santa Ynez valley on 40 acres. Roblar Winery has planted on the estate varietals that grow well in their specific microclimate: sauvignon blanc, merlot, sangiovese, grenache, and semillon. The property is beautifully landscaped and the buildings are elegant yet rustic. I had my choice of wine tasting locations; the large wood paneled tasting room, the elegant dining room, or the breezy outdoor patio, which is where I chose to sit under the trellis and cool off from my trail ride. Roblar’s tasting philosophy is to bring together great wine, great food, and great company. They foster this concept by offering beautifully executed food paired with their delicious wines as you sit with family and friends in the relaxed and beautiful atmosphere of their winery. Roblar’s executive chef is Laurence Hauben who is from northern France. Laurence creates seasonal tasting menus throughout the year that change with what is at peak of ripeness. She puts great thought and effort into pairing food with the wines that utilize estate-grown fruits and vegetables and sources the balance from local farms.
To start, I was poured the 2012 Block One Reserve sauvignon blanc, which was paired with asparagus points with chevre and sprinkled with lemon zest. Secondly, I tried the 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir which was paired with duck rillettes and pickled cherries. The third pairing was with their 2010 Cuvee Tinto (syrah, merlot, and tempranillo) with the arugula salad with radishes, snow peas, pistachios, and a mustard seed vinaigrette. My fourth pour was the 2010 Ottimo (cab and syrah), which was paired with the poached beef tenderloin with kale and cherries with a black truffle salt. The final pour of the day for the dessert course was the 2010 Triomphe (cab, merlot, cab franc, and petite verdot), which was delicious with the flourless chocolate torte with strawberry coulis and red wine ganache. All of the wines were delicious and the food pairing was absolutely perfect, which made the whole experience so special and enjoyable.
Visitors have two options for wine tasting with the paired small plates; a three-course or five-course selection. Reservations are required and a cost is associated with this food and wine experience. Visitors can also just drop in and taste Roblar’s wines at their beautiful tasting room without reservations.
I highly encourage you to visit the Santa Ynez valley if you haven’t already done so. There is so much to do in this community. The towns offer fantastic restaurants, local museums, art galleries, great shopping, and antique stores, as well as the beautiful Lake Chumash for water activities. There are many hotel accommodations and B&Bs, as well as a guest ranch where you can stay and really experience the Santa Ynez lifestyle. For a real luxurious experience, Santa Ynez is also home to the Fess Parker Resort and Spa, as well as their winery. Santa Ynez is only 30 minutes north of Santa Barbara off highway 101 and 25 minutes from the ocean.
I plan to go back soon and stay longer where I may explore more of this beautiful landscape and all that it has to offer. Thank you Vino Vaqueros and Roblar Winery!
2178 Mora Avenue
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
ROBLAR WINERY & VINEYARDS
3010 Roblar Avenue
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
(805) 686-2603 reservations required
Brian York, Tasting Room Manager
SANTA YNEZ VISITORS ASSO.