Lisa Walker
August 16, 2012 | Wine Country Travel | Lisa Walker

Climbing Into a Wine Cloud

This weekend my friends and I travelled above the ocean fog of Santa Barbara to a place where the only thing that shines brighter than the sun are the wines. Thanks to Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours and Touring & Tasting, we had our first taste of the Santa Ynez Valley wine experience—and it left us thirsty for more.

When I started planning this happy birthday weekend, I turned to Touring & Tasting’s brand new Concierge Services, which assists interested travelers in planning their wine country tours/vacations. Their expertise lead us right smack in the back of a six passenger open-air jeep on our way to Cloud Climber's “Back-Country Wine Tour” through Santa Ynez Valley.

The tour began with a humorous welcoming from our esteemed tour guide John, who reminded us, “no this will not, I repeat, will not be anything like the movie Sideways.” So we tossed our disdain for Merlot out into the hot wind and were off. Forty-five minutes later, we arrived at our first stop, beautiful Bridlewood Winery. Talk about ambiance! The 105-acre estate is filled with picturesque views in every direction—which we were able to enjoy during a tasting on the elegantly styled patio. Their acclaimed estate Syrah was, unsurprisingly, my favorite.

By personal request, our next stop was Brander Winery. On that 100+ degree-day, I knew I had to have their Sauvignon Blanc. We promptly tasted the famed wine then purchased a bottle to go with our sandwiches from Panino (lunch is included as a part of the tour package). We enjoyed the food and wine pairing in Brander’s quaint patio, a delightful contrast to the vast grounds and throng of visitors at Bridlewood.

Our next stop was the Danish inspired town of Solvang. A person could spend an entire day simply walking along its brick-layered streets, marveling at the architecture, and wandering in and out of boutique shops and tasting rooms. We, however had only enough time to wander into Sort This Out Cellars, a Vegas-style tasting room, complete with card tables and the movie “Swingers” playing on repeat. This upbeat tasting experience was just what we needed to keep us going.

After a day of wonderfully different wine tasting experiences, the final stop literally put the icing on the cake. “Johnny Boy”, as we had now started referring to him, made a special appointment for us to do a private wine and cupcake pairing with Keith Saarloos, winemaker for Saarloos and Sons. It ended with a delicious pour of “Honor + Prepare” in my glass, a signed bottle in my shopping bag, and a verrrry happy photo left on their tasting room photo booth.

It was time to go home.

So, our tour guide, D.D., and now new best friend, John, left us right where he found us—back in Santa Barbara safe and sound, dreaming of our next Cloud Climbers adventure.


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