|A magpie in wine country
Less than an hour's drive from Santa Barbara are many vineyards and wineries that welcome visitors. We decided to combine wine tasting and birdwatching today. Just as we got away from the freeway, we caught sight of an unusual type of magpie, and later observed various hawks, swallows, goldfinches and other birds.
Beyond this birding area we came to the crossroads of Palmer Road and Foxen Canyon Road where there's a tiny hamlet called Sisquoc with one vacant general store and a few houses. While much of California is vastly overcrowded, this is the really empty part, and very pleasant, with beautiful rolling hills -- almost mountains. Foxen Canyon Road is the winery route, with quite a number of vineyards.
|Tres Hermanas Farmhouse and gardens
We began at Tres Hermanas winery, where we tasted some very appealing wines and learned about the family that owns the winery. Tres Hermanas means three sisters -- the woman pouring our tastes of wine told us that the three sisters are her daughters. She and her husband chose the name in hopes that the three girls would join the business when they finished college. Indeed, two of the three, all now in their thirties, do work there. And the middle daughter is a horse vet who lives and works very close by.
|The 2014 vintage growing at Tres Hermanas Winery
Her family has been farming there for well over 100 years, and her husband belongs to another long-established local family. Currently they continue to raise cattle as well as running the winery, which sells only at the sales room and by direct orders or their wine club, as well as to a few restaurants, so you probably wouldn't have heard of their wine. We enjoyed the wine and conversation, and bought a couple of bottles.
|Wine vats at Foxen Winery
Our next stop was Foxen Vineyards, where we've tasted wine before. It's a much bigger outfit, so the young women pouring wine are employees, not family. While they are nice, the conversation tends to be only about the contents of each bottle -- also, the crowds were becoming bigger. Our next stop was an old favorite, Zaca Mesa. Though we like their wine very much, today it was overcrowded and noisy, including a live band playing in the courtyard. Fess Parker Winery was similarly busy, so we quit tasting and went on to Los Olivos, a charming little town, also very busy.
|Humming bird feeder on a winery porch in Los Olivos
After a late lunch in Los Olivos, we continued birding on a really deserted road along a creek. Unfortunately there's barbed wire on either side of the road so you can only look towards the beautiful hillsides and listen to the birds singing.
Needless to say, we started on one of our new bottles with our very simple dinner when we got back to our Santa Barbara apartment.