Santa Barbara Wineries & The Ranch House
|October 1, 2013|
My boyfriend Graham and I celebrated our anniversary this past month and took a day trip to Santa Barbara to visit the wineries. We were looking for a fun and unique experience we could do in a day without putting a big hole in the wallet.
We started at the Fess Parker Winery and took a tour of the property. Tours are available at most wineries but have very limited schedules. If you are interested in tours, be sure to check all their websites for the offered times and call ahead to reserve your spot.
Note: When the wineries say “tour,” what they mean is a tour of the facilities where they make the wine – which most often does not include the vineyards.
All the wineries have a tasting menu and they are all very affordable – between $5 and $15 average per tasting. A great way to be able to sample more places is by sharing the tasting menu. Most of the local wineries pour you a little more than a small sip, plenty enough to share.
Graham definitely seemed like he knew what he was doing, clearly by looking at the photos. And there I was drinking away, only spitting it out when I didn’t like it. Check out this article to learn the how-to’s on wine tasting: http://www.winemag.com/how-to-taste-wine/
At Fess Parker, a local restaurant set-up a BBQ and cooking station to prepare small meals for guests. Although, the restaurant didn’t have any business cards or fliers with them so I don’t remember who they were (marketing fail!). But they were seriously lifesavers because none of the wineries we visited had actual food other than cheese and crackers to buy and were very overpriced. We did not come prepared at all. I was so jealous seeing some of the veterans, with thier picnic baskets full of fruits, cheese, and meats. Next time, packing a picnic is a must!
We stopped at the Curtis Winery and I tasted the best dessert wine I think I have ever had. At this winery, the server asked what types of flavors I like, so of course I told him I have a sweet tooth. My favorites are Riesling and Moscato. He told me he had the perfect wine and bet on his job that I would love it. Boy was he right! It was like drinking syrup. I was not going to leave that place without a bottle of my new favorite: Curtis 2012 Viognier.
After we were all wined out (yes – it can happen), we left and headed to The Ranch House in Ojai for dinner. I’m not going to lie, I was really worried about this place because Graham had shown me the website and it looked like they hadn’t updated it since the 90s. Also, looking at the map, this place was far out of the way. Not to say I didn’t believe Graham when he told me I’d love it, but between the drive and the outdated website, I was worried.
We drove up and the outside did not impress me at all. Walked inside and the first thing I saw was a super outdated looking bar (also not impressed). When we walked outside where all the tables were, I was shocked! It looked like it was straight out of Pinterest! There was a cute little garden and the tables were arranged in a tier overlooking the garden and other tables hidden in their own little nooks to create a very romantic and private setting. Being in the middle of nowhere (at least that’s where I thought I was), no way did I ever expect a restaurant like this. I was in such awe, enjoying the whole thing I barely took any photos (for being a food blogger). Lesson learned: you can’t judge a restaurant by their website or street view.
While we were deciding what to eat, the chef came out from the back and started picking a few herbs from the garden to cook with. Again, I was very impressed.
What I ordered: Potato Soup, Grilled Diver Scallops, and the New Orleans Delight
The scallops were probably the best scallops I have since Graham and I’s first anniversary (we were celebrating our 7th this year). I had to order them because on the menu it said “The best thing I ever ate.” -Cat Cora. The scallops certainly exceeded my expectations.
To finish off the night, we had the New Orleans Delight. It was very good. Four out of five of the regular dessert options had coffee in them which is a bummer for anyone that dislikes coffee – so it was a good thing I’m a java lover.
I would definitely recommend taking a trip to The Ranch House. They value fresh, local and sustainable foods with their beautiful garden and free-range Chicken Chevrie. Just be sure to make reservations in advance. This place is very popular so walk-ins are often not able to be accommodated.