Due to the fact that i am up in the Santa Ynez Valley a lot i am trying to capture a little of each of the 4 seasons which unlike most of Southern Cali’s 2 seasons can actually be differentiated between  in the Central Californian Climate.Image


#27 – A Real Watering-Hole – The Cold Springs Tavern



After checking out the Painted caves, you can continue on the road you are on through the actual town of Painted Cave at the top of the mountain. Keep following the road and when you get tot he T make a left. This road will then bring you back up to the 154. When you hit the 154 make a right and continue about 1/2 a mile. There is only one place you can turn left at before you hit the Cold Springs Canyon Bridge. Make a left onto Stagecoach Road following it towards the right. There is a sign there showing the eight way to go.


Once you navigate a few more sharp turns with an amazing view of the bridge on your right, you will find the tavern tucked back in the corner of the canyon. The building was originally built in 1886 as a stop for Stage Coaches traveling across the Santa Ynez Mountain Range, often exchanging horses or repairing buggies to make it the rest of the way over the mountains. The structures have not been changed and only been repaired when necessary, bringing you back in time the minute you step foots onto the property. Now on a Tuesday, the place doesn’t look that exciting, but if you make you way up here on a Sat or Sun in the summer time, you are in for a fun time, as well as a heaven for people watching. The mixture of culture and personalities is matched by few other places in the world. The tavern is a stop on almost every bike tour heading along the California coast so you are likely to see about 100 or so motorcycles upon arrival. There is always someone revving up a motor, or showing off their rides in some other hot shot way. Along with the bikers are the international tourists, US Travelers, city folks, farmers locals and every other kind of person you can imagine. The place usually has a live band, often something folky or into the classic rock direction to entertain drunken dancers, occasionally  joined by someone whose liquid courage has encouraged them to try and take over the microphone. The bad part is, you dont want to be driving on the 154 when all these people are leaving … Bring a DD.

Along with the booze which are flowing freely, the weekend bring THE TRI-TIP SANDWICH. It’s the best one iv’e ever had. Along with the fresh bun and hefty serving of meat comes an array of sauces, my favorite being the wasabi mayo. They are 8 bucks but well worth it. 1 will fill you up, but given that you might end up being here all day, i’ve gone through 2 or 3.

If you are making this trip on a weekday, you will likely find the place quiet and empty, perfect for a romantic meal or a family outing in their highly acclaimed restaurant, which serves a variety of game and the kind of comfort food you would hope to find when dining in a ~130 year old tavern in the middle of the woods. Trust me, its amazing !

The main entrance to the restaurant is located in the center of the image. There is another separate building to the left, which opens as a bar on the weekends. click on the photo to see their website.

This is the old Buggy Shop where you can get repairs done and switch out your cavallos

The old jail doesn’t look like much, but then again, there was no where to run anyway.

#22 – Snow Covered Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley

Wow. Today was one of the most beautiful days I’ve had here since moving to Santa Barbara two years ago. Although it was on and off, the mountains were reflecting sunlight from the “thick” layer snow that fell during the storm on Figueroa Mountain. A thick layer of snow here means anything over a half a foot. And that about maxes out our yearly total. No snowboarding here.By about 4pm most of the snow had evaporated, which given the climate of this area, is pretty good amount of time for nature to give you the chance to enjoy the scenery. There’s nothing quite like a sun-lit vineyard with a stormy backdrop and snow on the mountains. With the weather constantly changing there was a new surprise waiting as we left each vineyard, ranging from hail to rain to wind gusts that blew the guests hair into a frenzy.

The photos here are from Kalyra Vineyard and Bridlewood Estates Vineyard in Santa Ynez, California.

Kalyra Vineyard is owned by an Australian Wine maker who is most known for his Port style wines. Although they serve a variety of other delicious wines, the dessert wines are what stand out here to me.

Bridlewood with Snow on figueroa mountain

Bridlewood with Snow on Figueroa Mountain

Bridlewood Estates (above), has recently been acquired by Gallo, the wine mafia. Although I won’t get a near a bottle of gallo’s name brand wine, they do own a few really good estates, including this one. Favorite here include they flavor profiled Syrah, especial the smokey “Dusty Trails” and the BIG “Six Gun”. I pretty much like everything on their current taste list including a stainless-steel fermented Chardonnay that is Fresh and Crispy, great for any Summertime BBQ. The Viogner is floral on the nose but has a dry taste and finish making this a great one for poultry and fish. They also grow the online Estate Zinfandel in Santa Ynez, on a nice south-facing hill that gets enough sunshine to grow this hot-climate grape. And i gotta say its not bad. Although i’m going to stick to the jammy Paso Robles Zin’s, it’s tasty and lighter.

Kalyra Vineyard (below) is owned by an Australian Wine maker who is most known for his Port style wines. Although they serve a variety of other delicious wines, the dessert wines are what stand out here to me.

Kalyra Vineyard, Gwuertztraminer

Kalyra Vineyard, Gwuertztraminer showing first buds. Let's hope they don't get too cold tonight ... It's supposed to be 33* :( No Anti-Frost sprinkler systems here ....

Bridlewood Vineyard Racetrack with Snow on Figuera Mountain

Bridlewood Vineyard Racetrack

Figuera Mountain, Santa Barbara County

Figuera Mountain

If you want to learn more about wine and the Central Coast Growing Region, have someone from Captain Jacks Tours take you around the area. The company has some great guides for different tours including, Santa Ynez and Santa Rita Wine Tours, Coastal and Harbor Kayaking as well as Horseback Rides into the mountains by day and along the beach at sunset time. Maybe I’ll see you on one of the many great tours offered,

#21 – Rainy day at Gainey

Here is a shot of Gainey Vineyard. Although it’s raining a bit up here in the Santa Ynez valley, the wine is flowing and those seeking an alternative drinking experience to the traditional green beer can be found enjoying the Pinots and Syrah’s of the area.

Gainey Vineyards

Gainey Vineyards

#5 – Wine 101 – World Class Organic Wine from Santa Rita


World Class Organic Wine from Santa Rita

Although at first sight this may look like a run down farmhouse with some cactus growing along side but don’t be fooled because inside you will find some of my favorite Pinot Noirs in the Santa Rita Valley. The Sanford family were pioneers of the Central Coast Region way before the movie Sideways drew crowds of tourists into the area. Although many of their vines now belong to the Benedicts ( and no matter how i look at it, it seems to have been a shady deal ) at about 40yrs of age they still have some of the oldest Chardonnay Vines in the area. Mr. Sanford is a very relaxed guy who enjoys the simpler life out on his vineyard and chooses to practice organic farming, even when selecting to use twist-off caps rather than cork, which can take decades to regrow. Now although these vines will decrease in production there is a certain flavor and feeling that you get knowing so much time has gone into the growth of the vine. I’ve had a couple of vines that were from 85 year old vines from France and i must say that with age does come character.
Having worked as a Wine Tour guide here in the region for a few years, i’ve tried many of the wineries out here. Some others on my list of recommendations are: Bridlewood for their world class Syrahs, especially their bold flavored “Dusty Trails, Brander Vineyard for Sav. Blanc, Imagine Wines for Zinfandel, Syrah and their newest addition, the 2010 Zinfandel a great party gift, BD or the PD meaning Boxer and Panty Dropper. Other favorites include: Rusack (Riesling), Shoestring (Syrah, Syrah Rose,Merlot, Blends), Fess Parker (Variety), Khoeler (Off-Dry Riesling, Cab, Sangiovese) and Foley (High End Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Hope you find my recommendations useful !

You can find Alma Rosa just a few miles west of the 101. Exit Santa Rosa Road and head into the Santa Rita Valley. The entrance only has a small sign but look for the first vines on the left side of the road. You’ll have to follow a small rocky road and cross a tiny little waterbed ( easily done with small car ). Just past the homes of the owners you’ll find this hidden gem. Tell them Yens from Captain Jacks sent you !

Or if you want to come on a tour with me into the Santa Ynez or Santa Rita Valley, email me and ill set you up with a great tour of the region.