On the Pacific

Firestone Vineyards & Curtis Winery

fess parker double tree resort
The Atrium at Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort - Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Part 2 of the Series: Wines of Santa Barbara

In this article, we’ll get settled into our Santa Barbara hotel on the coast and head out to explore Firestone Vineyards and Curtis Winery in Los Olivos!

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Santa Barbara at Last

After a very long day’s travel, Yvonne and I had finally arrived at our first night’s destination. We were standing at the front desk of the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort (now called the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort).

It was a beautiful sight, situated in an absolutely ideal location in Santa Barbara, California. The hotel was just across the street from the ocean and not far at all from the marina. It came with great views and ample venues by the way, at which to enjoy some excellent California cuisine!

For this particular night, however – after checking into our room – all we needed was a relaxing cocktail, some snacks, and a well-deserved, restful night’s sleep. The first two of those were provided by the Barra Los Arcos Cafe, just off the lobby and open daily from 11am until midnight.

Sweet Dreams & Early Breakfast

Here, “A tasty appetizer menu and specialty drinks were available.” We enjoyed some Grey Goose on the rocks, a glass of Fess Parker Chardonnay, some excellent crab cakes, a salad, and some soothing conversation. And then, both Yvonne and I were more than ready for 8-hours or so of sweet dreams!

We decided on an early breakfast the next morning (also enjoyed in the Cafe Los Arcos) in the hotel lobby area. Here we discussed the day’s plans with the concierge. He recommended several local sights to check (e.g. the Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center, downtown area, and the marina where Brophy Bros. Restaurant is located).

He also provided directions to the Fess Parker Winery (and, we found out, about 30 others that also existed!). This was a destination we had put at the top of our list since our first glass of his tasty chardonnay several months ago.

Vista Point, Chaparral & Pine

vista point
Taken at Vista Point over the Santa Ynez Mountains

The trip over the Santa Ynez Mountains – part of Los Padres National Forest – was full of sharp curves but the day was perfect and the scenery gorgeous as we climbed steadily uphill from the coast. Upon reaching the highest point, somewhere around 4,000 feet in elevation, we stopped briefly at a “Vista Point” to take a look at what the vista had to offer.

Unfortunately, “taggers” had left their mark on nearly every possible rock and limb, but the graffiti was easy to ignore when one is confronted with a panorama for which no camera could do justice.

The smell of chaparral and pine, and the beautiful blue canopy over the endless jagged peaks and deep valleys were reward enough. We were on what we were told was an old, covered wagon trail and I found it difficult to imagine the trials and tribulations of taking even a horse across these hills, let alone a covered wagon. Thank heaven we had plenty of horses under the hood of our car!

Firestone Vineyards

firestone vineyards sign
Firestone Vineyards – photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

We sailed down the other side of the hill and past Lake Cachuma, Santa Ynez and made a brief stop in the small town of Los Olivos. There, we purchased a light snack at a local store and relaxed at an outdoor table, just enjoying the day. The weather was delightful, and we shared our snack and some conversation on this exquisite morning. It was a relaxing break, and we were now ready to continue the last few miles to Firestone Vineyards. Firestone would be our first tasting venue of the day.

Factors Perfect for Growing Grapes

There are probably more than two dozen vineyards dotting the valleys here. This is an area that is as Mediterranean a climate as one could find without actually going to Europe. Summers are long, very warm, and almost without rain, save for the occasional thundershowers in late summer.

Winters are short, mild and can be rainy with nights that can be quite cool. This is a sea-tempered climate, and all these factors of course are perfect for the growing of grapes. The area has unique gravelly loam with rocky sub-soils that, along with the climate, combine to create a marvelous environment for wine production.

Firestone is a beautiful facility, situated on a hill and surrounded by 500 acres of estate vineyards. The tasting room features an island bar and picture windows that overlook the vineyards. Although we opted not to take advantage that day, tastings and tours are less than 30 minutes in length and are offered daily.

View Firestone wines available for shipping at BuyWinesOnline.com.

Curtis Winery

Just up the road from Firestone is the Curtis Winery, one of a collection of boutique estates established and owned by the Firestone family. Here the wines are crafted in the Rhône-style and are in a whole different class flavor wise. For me, they were just a bit sweeter, but I enjoyed all of those that we tasted – from the drier Sauvignon Blancs to the rich Syrahs to the Dessert Port-style wines.

Join me next time (in Part 3) as we head to Fess Parker’s Winery & Vineyard.

Places to Stay in Santa Barbara

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