Updated: Dec 9, 2020
On my most recent trip to the Santa Ynez Valley, just north of Santa Barbara, I set up a tasting appointment at Grassini Family Vineyards.
The winery is located in an idyllic setting nestled in the hills of the extremely warm Happy Canyon appellation, known for producing Bordeaux varietals and thoroughbred race-horses. Grassini is actually located on Genuine Risk road, which happens to be the name of a female horse that won the Kentucky Derby in 1980. The owners of Grassini initially set out to raise horses, until Mrs. Grassini realized she was allergic to hay. This lead to a transition to a wine estate.
The tasting was led by our guide, Jared, who grew up on the East Coast but moved out to California to pursue a career in wine. Included in the tasting was a tour of the tank room, the barrel room, and the bottling line. Jared even demonstrated how they dip the bottles in wax by hand to coat their reserve bottlings: a true "labor of love."
The tasting consisted of 5 wines: the Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Articondo Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. All of the wines were well-made and quite balanced. The Sauvignon Blanc Reserve was a departure from typical Sauvignon Blancs as it spends 10 months in oak vs. the typical stainless-steel treatment, which was evident in the body and structure of the wine. My personal favorite was the Articondo blend which, interestingly, consisted of a hefty 32% Petit Verdot to provide color and structure.
The tasting fee was $45, but that amount can be used as credit toward purchasing wine. This is a win-win for both the guests and the winery, and allows the winery to get its name out to a bigger crowd. Aside from tastings, Grassini also hosts weddings and the tasting facility doubles as lodging for the wedding party. All in all, this was a great experience and one that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting the area.