Thanks for the Wineries…

SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, California-While we’re in the mode of giving thanks, and heaven knows eating and drinking, let us give thanks for the harvest and for the folks who make wine from it!

SB Farmer's Market
This gorgeous photo was taken by friend and chef Stephanie Valentine at the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market.

The beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, where I am lucky to live part of the time, is part of California’s “other” wine country – the one that’s not Napa – the one made famous by the quirky and popular indie movie Sideways that came out a few years ago. Vineyards stretch across the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills as well.

Along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, the Oak Savanna vineyard in autumn at Rancho La Zaca, with the San Rafael mountains in the distance.

Now I love my wine but don’t know much about it. Fortunately there are plenty of people around here who do, including His Grace (aka my sweetheart and Rancho La Zaca patron) and many of our wonderful friends. Winemaker Jim Clendenen of the esteemed Au Bon Climat label is one; Richard Koehler with his eponymous label is another – he’s right down the road from us. Also right down the road is the Curtis Winery owned by the Firestone family, with whom we – 35 all together – celebrated Thanksgiving this year. Jenny and Dick Dore*, along with Bill Walthen, head up the Foxen Winery, producer of the acclaimed Sea Smoke vintage, among others.

Curtis Winery Thanksgiving
The barrel room at Curtis Winery was handsomely transformed by the Firestone girls - and a few of the boys - into a beautiful and festive setting for our Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving 2011
Thanksgiving 2011 in full swing. What a delicious time!

Andrew Murray and his family are also among our good friends. Andrew is a second generation winemaker who struck out on his own a few years ago, and he had the gumption this year to have three wines to score in the 90s in Robert Parker’s tally. (I should note that all of these winemakers produce very high-scoring wines.) Like I say, I don’t know much but I do know that is huge. Andrew also has a very good website and blog that is fun (and educational!) to read.

There’s another winemaker in our valley, who also happens to be the vineyard manager here at Rancho La Zaca, but the Feliz Noche label and the winemaking are all his. Felipe Hernandez gets his own post – next week.

Meanwhile you can click on any of the links above to go to the winemakers’ websites, and you can order directly from some, or join their wine clubs. And what a great gift idea, yes?!

*Dore is pronounced dor-RAY, but I haven’t figured out how to do accents yet.


  1. Happy end of Thanksgiving weekend Frances. Love the photo of friends and family at the winery. Your blog is really enjoyable. Looking forward to seeing you at the end of the week!!!

  2. Lovely description of a wonderful dinner and circle of family and friends – I know because I was there and witnessed you adding magic touches to the table. May Thanksgiving remain witih you, Frances, all year long.

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