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Organic Lifestyle in the Santa Ynez Valley ~ Finley Farm

As a tribute to this wonderful lifestyle we lead in the Santa Ynez Valley we will be running a series of articles over the next few months highlighting the culture that is the SYV.

Chris and Johanna Finley, of Finley Farm, reside in Santa Ynez with their two children, (a third on the way), two dogs, two cats and a handful of chickens.  We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Johanna Finley.  We chatted over coffee and learned about their journey to becoming one of the most successful and popular organic farms in the Santa Ynez Valley.

SYVWC:  Ok, let’s start with the obvious question…How did you become farmers?

JF:  In college (UCSB), Chris and I worked for a peach grower.  I did their marketing and sold peaches at the farmer’s market in Santa Barbara.  We did this all through college and when we graduated we worked the job fulltime.  We managed all the Santa Barbara markets and drove back and forth to Fresno to pick up the fruit.  Chris was also working for another farmer and doing their Hollywood farmer’s market.  As we saw all of their incomes, none of the expenses of course, we thought, ‘Oh, we can do this’.  Chris has a green thumb and we had always gardened, so we set out and rented an acre in El Capitan Canyon.

SYVWC:  What did you grow?

JF:  We grew everything to make salsa.  Farmer’s markets are extremely hard to get in to and we knew they wouldn’t just let us in with just tomatoes, or other individual vegetables.  So, we grew everything for salsa.  We would harvest it and take it to a certified kitchen that night, make salsa, amazing salsa, and take it the next morning and sell it all at market.  It was tough and not profitable, but it was a great learning experience and we decided that for sure, we wanted to farm more.  So, we took a drive to the Santa Ynez Valley because farmland is so hard to come by on the coast.  Water can be an issue as well.  So, we thought, let’s go look for proper ag (agricultural) land and see what happens.  Within a week, we had rented a house on a three acre plot.  It had just been horse pastures and the owners said we could farm it and so we did.  We jumped in feet first and went for it.  We were still working for the other farmers, but within less than a year, we were only farming for ourselves.  Self-employed!  We got into the Hollywood market and our main crop was heirloom tomatoes.  That was 2004, and we have just grown and expanded from there.  We were doing other smaller markets, including Solvang.  Solvang market was one of our very first markets, and we are still there today.

SYVWC:  So that was the initial goal, just grow a little every year?

JF:  We never really had any clear cut “goals”.  It was more like, ‘Ok, this is working’.  And every year we just saved up money to expand acreage or purchase seeds or equipment.  We would harvest what we had, literally load it into the truck and drive to the back doors of local restaurants here in the valley and ask for the chef.  We were so excited when we’d sell six bunches of dill!   We were able to start creating accounts for ourselves this way.

SYVWC:  Doesn’t get much more grass roots than that.  Such a sense of community in that.

JF:  Yes!  And that’s basically how it started.

SYVWC:  Why organic?

JF:  Um, well, why not organic?  You know, organic is…..People think it’s such a different, special thing, and it definitely is special, but it’s really just old fashioned.  Back in the day there were no large corporate chemical companies and organic was just the way people farmed.  So that’s one way we like to l look at it.  We aren’t trying to be elitists or exclude certain people from being able to buy our food or anything like that.  It’s just natural and we are the ones doing the farming.  We don’t want to be exposed to that kind of thing.  We also like to be good stewards of the land.  We like to practice crop rotation and proper farming techniques for soil health and the sustainability of the land we work.

SYVWC:  What are the biggest challenges in farming, and owning a small business in general?

JF:  The biggest challenge with farming is that we are self taught.  We do not come from farming backgrounds, so everything we’ve learned about farming we have taught ourselves.  We have definitely had advice along the way, but no two farms are alike and you have to figure out your own methods of cultivation and farming practices.  The man hours are endless, so we are always pursuing more efficient methods.  Owning a small business has its separate challenges as well, but mostly they are confined to office time.  It’s just finding the time for office time and that is a huge challenge in itself.

SYVWC:  So, I guess the biggest daily challenges are similar.  Time?

JF:  Yes, the workload….the hours…

Check back next week as we wrap up our conversation with Johanna!




A Taste Of Summer

Just when you start to feel like the season is coming to an end, with the kids getting on your last nerve, the close of the Summer Olympics, and the barrage of back to school ads…. Nothing like a good little heat wave to remind you we are still in the throes of summer!  With the hot week we just had, we drank lots of great wines.  COLD wines!  Here are four standouts.


Blair Fox 2010 Vermentino, $25-  This wine is ridiculously refreshing!  A glass of summer sunshine.  It has the perfect balance of citrus and mineral components.  Hints of green apples and a slight saltiness linger in your mouth. It has great acidity and quite an impressive finish.  This wine is crisp enough to sip alone, but substantial enough to serve with dinner. This wine begs for oysters!  Also try halibut with lemon and thyme, pasta with homemade pesto (from all that basil in the garden) and grilled veggies.   We recommend drinking this al fresco on a warm night with great friends.

Martian Ranch & Vineyard 2011 “Down to Earth”, $20 – This Grenache Rosé is the best summer crush around!  One sip of this wine and you will be flooded with memories of sunsets on the beach, backyard barbeques, kids playing hide and go seek until the street lights were on and summer’s best gift: fresh strawberries (picked from the yard, and eaten there on the spot, just slightly warm. YUM!).  And there are plenty of strawberries in this glass!  From the nose, to the flavor, delicious, ripe, red strawberries with slight hints of herbs (rosemary?).  This wine has a great structure and a surprising finish.  This wine screams to be consumed POOLSIDE!  We suggest a light lunch by the pool (where you should stay sipping until dinner. This wine is serious enough for supper too).  Maybe a charcuterie and a cheese plate (Mmmm, a truffle brie with fresh baquette), roasted corn salad, and grilled chicken with Herbs de Provence.

 Cinque Stelle Albariño 2010, $25 – This wine comes from one of the new kids on the block in Los Olivos.  And what an impressive effort in this delightful wine! (Actually, we were impressed with the entire line-up).  The aromatics of this wine really get you ramped up to discover the flavors that await you.  And it does not disappoint.  Grapefruit, peach, and citrus dance with one another, while giving a slight nod to the earthiness that is, perhaps, just a bit more of a wallflower. This wine teases at being sweet and has such great acidity that it could pair easily with any food.  We had it this weekend with cream cheese stuffed Jalapeños wrapped in bacon and it was beyond a perfect match to balance the slightly spicy, salty poppers.  Would also be great with shrimp skewers with garlic butter, a Thai chicken salad, or veggie wraps with Chipotle mayonnaise.  We’re thinking an all day feast at the beach.

Artiste “Windy Day”, $32 – Ok, this wine is beyond interesting!  Such a modern take on old world grapes.  (60% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Grigio).  A wild boquet that brings to mind fields of long, tall grasses and sunflowers.  (Think France and Italy). Once on your lips, think island life baby!  Pineapple, guava and banana (??), along with an ocean spray of green apples, welcome you like old friends and invite you to sit down and break bread.  There are intriguing green notes in the background.  Peppers, herbs and, again, grass.  The fabulous acidity of this wine will make you want to nosh.  A beautiful sweet and spicy gazpacho, arugula salad with pine nuts and shaved Parmesan, scallops in a coconut curry sauce or Grandma’s fried chicken (eaten cold perhaps).  All perfect!  Definitely picnic worthy, preferably under the stars.



Urban Wine Trail-Passport Weekend: The Superlative Edition

Originally posted on Santa Barbara Wine Talk

by mcvino

This weekend marks a coming-out party of sorts for one of the most exciting new ventures in the Central Coast wine world. The Urban Wine Trail in downtown Santa Barbara is a collective of 17 wineries that either operates a production facility, tasting room or both, right in the heart of Santa Barbara. What is so exciting about this venture is the combination of top-rated wines, world-class cuisine, shopping, lodging and some of the best ocean views in the world. This collection of wines is some of the very best that the Central Coast has to offer.During this first “Passport Event”, the wineries of the Urban Wine Trail will open their doors and numerous bottlings to guests who only have to pay one fee. Accessing over 50 wines, this is truly the best opportunity to taste some amazing wines, and walk around one of the most fascinating downtown areas in America.With 17 wineries and a lot of ground to cover, it may be somewhat difficult to navigate which wines you should taste, what tasting rooms to avoid and what you cannot miss in this fantastic party. Much like your high school graduation – there are some not to miss awards that will make it much easier to select where to start and where you should never leave. Most Likely to Succeed: Sanguis Winery.

Before I tell you where you should be going, I must tell you where not to go. Arguably the best winery in Santa Barbara, the Wizard of Sanguis, Matthias Pippig and his ruby-slippered apprentice Jessica Gasca have a problem that every winery wants to have – no wine to sell! Strictly dedicated to a very loyal mailing list and distributed ever so slightly into fine retailers and restaurants, the small production Sanguis winery does not open their Oz-like door for the general public. My suggestion is sign up for their newsletter and find out how you can get on their mailing list, as these wines are worth tracking down!

Best Foreign Exchange Student: Margerum Wine Company

On any day of the week in Santa Barbara County, you can taste and enjoy no less than 10 different wines that Santa Barbara’s own Doug Margerum produces. On the cover of every Central Coast publication imaginable, Doug Margerum has taken his popularity, name and namesake and placed it on every wine list that exists in the county. Do not get me wrong, Doug’s Central Coast wines are some of the finest available, but for passport weekend, I suggest another route for the true wine lover. Walk into the Margerum Tasting Room, at the head of the Wine Cask restaurant, and make them open the following wines.

1. JL Vergnon Grand Cru Brut

2. Quercus Ribolla Gialla

3. Margerum Rose VDP

4. Fanny Sabre Red Burgundy (they should have one floating around)

5. Chene Bleu – anything would be amazing

6. Kracher miaud Trockenbeerenauslese 2001

Now you may be looking at this list and wonder what sort of a blog you have discovered, but one of the best and most fascinating things about the Margerum Tasting Room is that it also features the wines that Doug imports from around the world. There is no better opportunity in Santa Barbara to taste wines from these regions around the world that would outshine the 6 above. So make yourself known at the Margerum Tasting Room that you want to taste the best that Margerum has to offer (it just so happens that they are all imported!)

Grill master’s Trophy: Jaffurs Winery

When Craig Jaffurs opened up his wine production facility in Santa Barbara, it should have come with a fire pit built right on the street. Probably not up to code, Craig decided instead to create a series of wines that would make any tri-tip master wet his pants in excitement.

Jaffurs Winery has made a name for itself in crafting deep, rich, spicy Rhone reds that are a perfect foil to any slathered, grilled meat that you throw down this summer. Starting with his single-vineyard Syrah, Craig takes several of the best Syrah vineyards (Bien Nacido, Larner, Verna’s) and turns them into fantastic, terroir-driven interpretations that have a Jaffurs flair about them all. If you get to taste through more than one of the single vineyards, you will see a common theme – great structure, rich, hauntingly dark fruit and a peppered-bacon finish that will have you noticing one key element – they are all in check. Jaffurs is not a Rhone producer that goes crazy on alcohol. They are big wines, but they are also great food wines, pairing with BBQ to prime rib and everything in between.

Personally, I find no better Petite Sirah on the market today. Rich, violet with hints of Cacao and Columbian coffee that will leave Juan Valdez giving up his standard beverage. If you are into big daddy red wines – Jaffurs is your first stop. Before you go to any other winery, cleanse your palate with his Viognier – viscous, tropical and honeyed, it would awaken your tongue and your salivary glands – on to the next one.

The Son Also Rises Award: Whitcraft Winery

Drake Whitcraft doesn’t have it easy. Along with an endless supply of Pliny the Elder and other delicious brews, Drake has possibly one of the most difficult jobs in wine – be better than Dad. In 1985, when Drake was about 3 (Drake could be either 30 or 50 or 15, the beard throws me off every time), Chris Whitcraft started Whitcraft Winery, and over the next 20 years, gained a reputation as one of the finest wineries on the Central Coast, learning from the likes of Burt Williams (yeah, the Williams Seylem guy) and Joe Heitz. Fast forward to 2005, son Drake took over the small production winery and has taken the program to new heights (or Heitz, get it?).

There are no better Pinot Noirs on the Urban Wine Trail, and Drake makes several. Focusing on vineyard sources that are sustainable, and produce amazingly different vineyard characteristics, Drake produces Pinots from Santa Barbara, Sta. Rita Hills, San Luis Obispo and Anderson Valley. So which is the best? Well the answer is yes – they are all amazing. So the best thing to do is try them all, isn’t that what the passport is all about? What you will find is that Drake’s Pinots (and his sick Grenache from Stolpman) are wines that can age just like his dad’s and are complex, rich and elegant, eclipsing what Whitcraft has ever done in the past.

Most Likely to Party: Carr Winery

Anytime that you are able to step into a winery and take pink bubbles to go – you know in your heart of hearts that anything related to this place is going to be fun. In what looks like a hollowed out airplane silo, Ryan and Jessica Carr have created an atmosphere at their eponymous winery that rivals the best party in town. Carr has created a very cool growler-type program, where you can get your own refillable bottle and fill it with several of their delicious offerings, which are always in small production. Still one of the top vineyard managers in Santa Barbara, Ryan is able to capture some of the best fruit sources for his eclectic mixture of bottles, including one of the best white wines in the county.

The Pinot Gris produced from Turner Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills is an homage to really a combination between the bright crispness of classic Italian Pinot Grigio and a weighty, waxy, higher acid tip of the cap to the Alsatian Pinot Gris. Being just a short walk to the harbor, it is a great match to oysters and Santa Barbara prawns.

In addition to all of the amazing wines that Carr offers at their winery/tasting room, they know how to throw a party. As you come into town for Passport Weekend, I would recommend finishes your day at Carr. Most likely, they will have the best after party every night, including great live music and themed parties that make you realize what has been know all along to the Carr’s – wine is fun!

Now of course there are many other wineries to check out and if you come for all 3 days of the tasting, you can work your way around to possibly all of the open wineries. If you have extra time, check out the phenomenal Sauvignon Blanc at Grassini Family Vineyard’s new tasting room by Wine Cask. Also make it a goal to hit up Municipal Winemakers, who will always have at least 2 varietals you have never heard of and 3 blends that will make you shake your head. Municipal has a great future ahead of them, as they are truly about creating great wine and not buying into the critics or making wine for a particular customer, just making good wine.

The Passport event here this weekend is a new, exciting chapter in the future of Santa Barbara wine. It will truly show the wine-drinking world that there are many layers and opportunities to enjoy some of the best wines in California, without having to drive to the boonies. This event will open the door for a lot of new excitement in the area and pave the way for some new tasting rooms that will be coming onlaine in the next year downtown.

Enjoy the party and the secret, before the masses find out!

Summer of Chardonnay

h1 style=”text-align: center;”strongSummer of Chardonnay/strong/h1
address style=”text-align: center;” rel=”nofollow”By Jon McDaniel/address rel=”nofollow”address style=”text-align: center;” rel=”nofollow” /address rel=”nofollow”address style=”text-align: center;” rel=”nofollow””It may be summer of Riesling in New York,/address rel=”nofollow”address style=”text-align: center;” rel=”nofollow”but it”s all Chardonnay in Santa Maria”/address rel=”nofollow”nbsp;

This weekend, hundreds of wine drinkers will converge on a href=”” rel=”nofollow”Byron Winery/a in Santa Maria for one of the hottest wine new events in America – a href=”” rel=”nofollow”the Chardonnay Symposium/a.

Over 50 producers from across the globe will be pouring their take on one of the world’s most popular grapes. Now to me, over 75 different Chardonnays in one place ranks up there with a Root Canal Convention, but if you are curious about what this grape is all about, there is no better place in the world to learn all there is to know about Chardonnay.

I have heard the following analogy many times, and have adapted somewhat as my own – Chardonnay is the chicken breast of wine. On its own, it really doesn’t taste like anything in particular. It doesn’t hold the aromatics of Viognier, the potential sweetness of Riesling, the haunting herbaceous flavors of Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay is a big, thick, blank canvas for one person and one person alone – the winemaker. There are so many different decisions that go into the production of Chardonnay that can take it in 12,000 different directions. Chardonnay is a true way for a winemaker to show what they are all about.

Now in general, there are two major decisions that a winemaker must make to dictate the style of their Chardonnay’s final product (two of many decisions, but you get the point).

emspan style=”color: #993300;”Malo-lactic fermentation.  Simply, it is the process that turns malic acid (like in a granny smith apple) to lactic acid (ya know, like milk).  The more that the winemaker lets this process occur, the more lactic acid will be in the final product.  This causes those flavors of butter, the creaminess of Chardonnay/span/em

emspan style=”color: #993300;”Oak.  The use of oak on Chardonnay shows more than most other wines of its kind. The winemaker must decide if they are going to use a new oak regiment, a mixture of new and old oak, or stainless steel tanks.  The more new oak, the more toasty, caramel, popcorn flavors that you get./span/em

What is great about Chardonnay is that is you go full-bore, 100% malo, 100% oak; you create a completely alien experience to those that go 0% malo, 0% oak.  It is a true chef’s kitchen.

So if you have no idea what about Chardonnay you like, or if you find Chardonnay absolutely repulsive (what you know about Chardonnay), what do you do? Is this event really worth going to?  Absolutely.  Here are 3 different wines that reach 3 completely different styles of Chardonnay, and 3 different profiles of wine drinkers.


stronga href=”” rel=”nofollow”Foley 2010, ‘Steel’, Sta. Rita Hills – $30/a/strong

a href=””img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-2086″ title=”2009foley” src=”” alt=”” width=”480″ height=”389″ //a


When you look at the grape Chardonnay, and decide to do absolutely nothing to it, no window dressings, what do you really get? The fine folks at Foley Winery, one of the drivers of business and acclaim to Sta. Rita Hills make about 7 different Chardonnays. Yes, 7. There are some wineries that don’t make 7 wines! Foley has decided to take the Chardonnay grape and break it down into several different single-vineyard bottlings. The most interesting and against the grain is their 2010 “Steel”. Now this is not just the Chardonnay for Superman; it is a Chardonnay for everyone who has spit out a swig of Kendall Jackson in their life.

Bright, crisp, summery. This Chardonnay has loads of bright citrus and peach flavors. When you smell it, your nose is a bit tricked into thinking that perhaps this is a classic Pinot Gris from Europe, maybe even a lighter Rhone-style wine. On the palate, you taste the freshly picked flavors of the Chardonnay grape. It is truly ironic that this Chardonnay is perhaps the most pure Chard on the market.

This is the wine that is perfect for these warm Santa Ynez days. Light in flavor, without that huge dry finish that you get from big bruiser Chardonnays. It is a great pairing with grilled chicken, summer salads and as a patio white. Use Foley “Steel” to trick all of your friends that subscribe to the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) newsletter.  You may turn some non-believers into Chardonnay lovers with Foley’s amazing effort.


stronga href=”” rel=”nofollow”Byron 2009, em rel=”nofollow”Nielson Vineyard/em rel=”nofollow”, Santa Maria Valley – $32/a/strong

a href=””img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-2087″ title=”byron-logo” src=”” alt=”” width=”259″ height=”147″ //a

The year was 1984, when Kenneth Byron Brown (yeah, that Ken Brown) first started a wine brand called Byron. Over the past 28 years, Byron has made a name for itself as one of the most nationally recognized producers of Burgundian varietals on the Central Coast. A combination of classic California flavors with French sensibilities, this is a blend of many different principles of winemaking.

This particular Chardonnay comes from the oldest vineyard in Santa Barbara. Planted in 1964 by Uriel Nielson, this is a cool climate Chardonnay vineyard that never reaches the over-ripeness of some of its Southern and Westerly sisters.

Seeing only about 10 months of oak, with about 20% of that being new, you notice the hints of oak on the finish, which makes a lot of sense when you taste flavors like cardamom, baking spices and my favorite Chardonnay descriptor – Honey-flavored Teddy Grahams (remember biting the heads off of those things? Anyone???)

What is so fascinating about this particular Chardonnay is the tropical elements that you find.  Layers of guava and pineapple can trick you into thinking Sauvignon Blanc on the nose, but the palate – whoa!  For me, Chardonnays that have a gingery flavor are always some of my personal favorites.  The 2009 Byron Nielson does not disappoint.  Like some sort of tropical parfait, the palate gives you those classic creamy flavors, but ginger beer and jasmine also find its way into the casino online glass.  This is a tricky wine, because winemaker Jonathan Nagy uses 100% malo-lactic fermentation – but you would never know it.


stronga href=”” rel=”nofollow”Qupe 2010, em rel=”nofollow”Bien Nacido Vineyard – Y Block/em rel=”nofollow”, Santa Maria Valley – $20/a/strong
p style=”text-align: center;”a href=””img class=”aligncenter wp-image-2088″ title=”2010qupe” src=”” alt=”” width=”535″ height=”425″ //a/p

Years ago, at the height of the Here are a few libra love horoscope celebrities born on October 17th and their romantic connections and associated sign:Eminem (Libra) and Kimberley Anne Scott (Capricorn)Alan Jackson (Libra) and Denise Jackson (Aries) libra love horoscope Relationship CompatibilityOct 17More October 17 Birthday AstrologyOctober 17 is associated with Birthday Number 9October 17 is associated with Tarot Card 4 of WandsDiscover the most popular October 17 birthdays including Eminem & Chris Motionless. buttery Chardonnay craze, a wine came to be that was a game changer. Donned as “Cougar Juice” because of its’ popularity with the ladies of a particular age group, Rombauer is one of the most popular and ordered wines in restaurants across America.  Ladies, I am here to tell you that your Rombauer drinking days are over. Qupe has taken the flavors that are so popular in Rombauer, and made it enjoyable for Cougars and Cubs alike.

The grapes come from the famed Block-Y on the most famous vineyards on the Central Coast, Bien Nacido. However, this is the re-birth of that Y Block, which were originally Gewurztraminer vines in the 1970s, then Chardonnay in the 1980s, until it died and like a Phoenix was resurrected back in 2005. Qupe has taken oak and malo-lactic fermentation and miraculously found a way to impart acidity and delicacy to the wine.

Using 25% new French Oak barrels and 100% malo-lactic fermentation, a famous chef in Dublin could not put a tastier pat of butter in your glass.  Rich, unctuous, sexy and full, Qupe’s Y Block makes the answer simple – Why Block what you like?

Tons of grilled peaches and pears lend itself to a follow up of butterscotch and cobbler crumble – loads of cinnamon, spice and nuttiness.  You would be nutty not to throw your Cougar Juice out the window and don some Sex Panther – because this Qupe Chard works 100% of the time!

So now that you have seen some variety in the Chardonnay offerings in Santa Barbara, the question still remains – is it worth getting over your hatred of the much-maligned grape and attend the Chardonnay Symposium?

It is a resounding yes!

So who really should attend the a href=”” rel=”nofollow”Chardonnay Symposium/a this weekend? Aside from the fact that Chardonnay is the favorite wine of pirates around the world (just think about that – it will come to you), this event is perfect for one particular demographic. Single 24-29 year old men. Rich, big, buttery, bold Chardonnays are the drug of choice for blonde divorcee women from Orange County. It”s going to be like National Geographic episode – Cougars on the prowl! Gentlemen, if a more experienced lady is on your radar, the first thing that you must learn. Ladies love Chardonnay!

The best – slash – worst – slash – most intriguing part of the whole Chardonnay experience at Byron this weekend will be the panel of Chardonnay producers that will speak about the manipulation of the grape in a Who’s Who forum for the public. This discussion will be lead by the California Editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Steve Heimoff.  Not only is Heimoff known for his massive scores that he gives to seemingly pedestrian wines, but he is also notorious for his politics and soap box Facebook postings.  What happens when a nutty, radical left-wing, Anti-Capitalist, protesting little man meets hundreds of Kistler-drinking, rich, pro-Tea Party friends of the GOP?  It equals the best ticket in town my friends!

It will be like Thunderdome for wine drinkers.  Imagine an arena to taste so many different interpretations of the same grape. If you are on the fence about attending this weekend’s Chardonnay Symposium, go for all of the amazing definitions and tweaks of the world’s most famous grape, and stay for the glorious people watching!

Figueroa Mountain Farmhouse ~ Peaceful and Glorious

Up on top of Figueroa Mountain, it is peaceful and glorious.  Once long ago I sent a stranger this way to search for inspiration.  He wanted to write a song.  I said, “go see the wildflowers bloom and sit amongst them with your guitar.”  He did as instructed, came back with a song and we became life-long friends.  The Mountain has a way of filling people with inspiration.

Now, lucky I am to live at the Figueroa Mountain Farmhouse, a famous retreat known worldwide as a secluded mountaintop escape.  As the ranch manager, I greet various guests who come to stay at this grand paradise.  The Farmhouse can be rented for an array of occasions such as corporate retreats, family vacations, wine-country stays, and other events including boutique weddings of up to 85 guests.

For now, I am just going to talk about residential stays… this includes those family vacations, girls weekends, bachelor parties, wine country getaways, romantic stays, you name it – just as long as it is 25 guests or less.

Renting the Farmhouse for a residential stay is actually an amazing deal.  The rates vary depending on the month but range from $1,400 a night down to $1,000 a night.  The house sleeps 14 comfortably and can accommodate more with a few blow-up mattresses (also provided by the Farmhouse).   I’ve done the math for you… it’s between $100-$71.42 a person a night to stay at the Farmhouse based on a 14 person occupancy.  Pretty sweet deal right?

Now the important stuff… the Farmhouse itself is pretty nifty, built in a very curious manner, with lofts, ladders and nooks throughout the house, a sunroom, a den, four fire-places.  These fireplaces come in handy during the colder months.  And if you are lucky enough to get a rainy weekend, with thunder and lightening, the mountains echo the thunder and it reverberates throughout the entire sky.  You truly feel closer to heaven than you can imagine.  Catch it on a sunny day and you can see the landscapes unyielding beauty for miles and miles and probably one of the most amazing sunsets of your life.

The property sits against the Los Padres National Forest, giving you access to great hiking areas throughout the mountains that surround the Farmhouse.  The famous wildflower bloom spot occurs just up the hill from the Farmhouse as well, another great hike or drive up the road.  Natural springs dwindle down below and wildlife abounds.  It’s a bird-watchers paradise with easy to spot red-winged blackbirds, finches, hawks, and more.

The Farmhouse itself is host to a fun variety of bird, one that seems somewhat prehistoric — ostriches!  We’ve got nine ostriches that supply eggs in the spring and early summer months, which we give to our guests.  They make for a tasty omelet but bring an appetite because it feeds about ten people.  I’ve heard it’s impossible to make an over-easy ostrich egg.  If you can do it, let me know.

In addition to bedding and ostrich eggs we also provide a really awesome grill and firewood for you to cook up your meals.  The house is fully furnished with modern amenities such as coffee maker and a television (in case you have to catch up on Grey’s Anatomy), but you do have to bring your own food and drinks.  And (I almost forgot to mention), we have a jacuzzi for you to sit under the stars (which are VERY bright here at night), with a glass of champagne and relax, really, really, relax.

So, if you think you might want to gather up a few friends and book a weekend at the Farmhouse, give me a call, I’d be happy to make a reservation for you.   And if you mention that you read this blog – I’ll discount your stay $100.



Angela Soleno,


Captain Ron – Winemaker?!?

pBeldar Conehead. Karen Hill from GoodFellas. Snake Plissken. Apart from being some of the finest characters ever portrayed on the big screen, these 3 have a lot more in common than you would first believe./p
pAll 3 of these characters own their own wine brand. Dan Aykroyd has created Dan Aykroyd Wines – which seems to be somewhat generic California wine. Bracco owned the now-defunct Italian brand Bracco Wines, where a label was slapped on purchased juice. Kurt Russell is the owner of Gogi Wines in the Sta. Rita Hills./p
pThe fact that all 3 of these worldwide celebrities (and many more for that matter) own their own wine brand is not that surprising. When you have more money than you know what to do with, you try, or so I have been told, you attempt to diversify your portfolio and invest in projects that you are passionate about, or that will bring you another revenue streams.  Most of these projects are just about vanity; just about the bottom line of having your name on a product, much like Pee Wee Herman toys or Danny DeVito Limoncello./p
pThe similarities stop there. Living here in the a href=”” rel=”nofollow”Santa Ynez Valley/a, I meet and see celebrities and famous people all the time (more of some than I would ever want to see – different blog), so when I met Kurt Russell for the first time, he was like any other 60 year old man with amazing hair. Then, he started talking about wine. He started talking about this project that he was working on with Peter and Rebecca Work of Ampelos Vineyards. As soon as I heard about the intensity and length of which Kurt was talking about wine, I knew that this was no vanity project – this was legit./p
p style=”text-align: center”a href=””img class=”aligncenter wp-image-2037″ title=”kurtwine2″ src=”” alt=”” width=”563″ height=”375″ //a/p
p About a year went by, and then I was invited to taste the project at a small function in Southern California.  In true Hollywood style, it was at a swanky bar in West Hollywood called the Spare Room at the Hotel Roosevelt.  There was a bowling alley inside kids. When I saw Kurt and listen to him talk about these wines, you could see that he lit up like a schoolboy. This was something that truly interested him./p
pThe project is called GoGi – a lifelong nickname of Kurt.  When he was filming that classic tale “Death Proof” here in the Santa Ynez Valley, Kurt fell in love with the area and with the wines of Santa Rita Hills.  After a meeting with the folks at Ampelos, GoGi was born in the 2008 vintage with about 25 cases.  But how are the wines? As Captain Ron would say after losing his glass eye – “You gotta get ‘em custom fitted”, which is exactly what GoGi did!/p
pKurt has currently two releases – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir/p
p style=”text-align: center” stronga href=”” rel=”nofollow”2010 Chardonnay, ‘Goldie’, Sta. Rita Hills – Price $53/a/strong/p
p style=”text-align: center”a href=””img class=”aligncenter wp-image-2028″ title=”Gogi Chardonnay” src=”×842.jpg” alt=”” width=”491″ height=”404″ //a/p
pNow I am assuming that this is called Goldie because Find it in Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendar -> Fetch New -> Select Your PreferenceYou can set your iPhone to automatically go to sleep – a feature known as Auto-Lock – after a certain amount of time. of the Golden color of the wine….(maybe because of Goldie Hawn, but I’m sure it’s the color).  This is classic California Chardonnay.  About 50% new oak on this wine, it meets a great combination of richness of fruit and some toastiness in the oak.  For those they love big, bold, rich Cali Chardonnay – this is what you will enjoy. It comes from a vineyard just next to Sea Smoke./p
pOn the nose, it takes you to a land of rich, hearty flavors of creamy peach sorbet served on a spread of honeyed graham crackers. A balance comes over the nose that is complex and haunting.  A good haunting though – not like the nightmare of 3000 Miles to Graceland./p
pThere are a lot of expectations that come with a nose that big, that bold.  If it were to be a thin, fruity palate – it would a href=”” rel=”nofollow”be/a like having Tango with no Cash.  However, the flavors in the nose lead to a cornucopia of layers on the tongue.  Creamy, rich, tropical and buttery, this should be the last Chardonnay you ever drink if you love bold flavors.  If you love the big boys of Napa – this is for you.  Butterscotch, lemon meringue, baked apples. All of these flavors bring your mind to a great blending of California and Meursault./p
pIs it pricey?  Yes, absolutely.  However, with such limited production, big flavors – it is worth it and then some./p
p style=”text-align: center” strong style=”text-align: center”a href=”” rel=”nofollow”2009 Pinot Noir, ‘Bosty Boy’, Sta. Rita Hills. Price – $75/a/strong/p
p style=”text-align: center”a href=””img class=”aligncenter wp-image-2046″ title=”Gogi Pinot1″ src=”” alt=”” width=”548″ height=”602″ //a/p
pstrong /strong/p
pI have no idea what Bosty Boy means. If I had to take a guess, it may mean something about Boston, where Kurt is from.  It also could mean – just buy a bottle of the wine.  When I first tasted this wine – I was transported to another time and dimension. It was like I walked through a strange gate and moved through the stars and on the other side was a world where Pinot Noir was currency./p
pBig, rich, smoky, spicy, fruity.  Look up Pinot Noir and every descriptor can apply here. It rivals the density and fruit-forward flavors of Kosta and Kistler and that Smoke winery I’ve heard so much about./p
pPlain and simple – if you like Pinot Noir, you need a bottle of this wine.  Make the Executive Decision and buy it./p
pSo Kurt Russell is making some wine.  They are big, unapologetic and lush. They are wines that will make you want to Escape from New York AND L.A.. They are wines that would solve the Big Trouble in Little China.  They are wines that will be here and gone faster than a Tequila Sunrise./p
p style=”text-align: center”a href=””img class=”aligncenter wp-image-2040″ title=”kurtwine” src=”” alt=”” width=”539″ height=”404″ //a/p
pLuckily, you have the opportunity to see what a celebrity project tastes like when the celebrity actually cares about the product…..and Kurt Russell really does care./p
pSo enjoy./p

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