Napa Valley Wine Tasting / Wineries

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Eat, Drink Santa Barbara Wine Country

By Heather Irwin

Long before Santa Barbara's wine country hit it big on the silver screen, or much of anywhere else, Doug Margerum was already its biggest fan. In the early 1980's his family purchased a beer and wine store in Santa Barbara that soon housed one Southern California's most impressive collections of small production and hard-to-find wines from around the world. But at the heart of it was a second collection—that of the best wines being made in Santa Barbara County. Today, that small store, The Wine Cask, (813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, California, 800.463.9463, or store.winecask.com ) has the largest collection of Santa Barbara County wines in the world and is one of the only places you can find multiple vintages of the same local wines.

Turns out a little foresight was a good thing. This year, Santa Barbara was on the short list of contenders for Wine Enthusiast magazine's Wine Region of the Year (the Colchagua Valley in Chile won top honors) and is home to an increasing number of top-tier wineries and growers in Southern California. Oh, and there was that movie…you know the one.

Not content to just sell wines (as well as run two restaurants under the same name); Margerum has recently joined the ranks of Santa Barbara winemakers. Operating out of just 240 square feet of space--about the size of a nice hotel room—his winery is easily the smallest in the county, if not the state. The winery bottles only a few thousand cases of wine each year, but Margerum's Rhone-style M5 (in its second vintage) and Syrahs are topping the must-have lists of the region's wine enthusiasts.

Operating out of his matchbox-sized space located behind the Brander Vineyards facility in Los Olivos, Margerum calls himself a “garagiste”, after the small, independent-minded winemakers of France who use garages and other small spaces to create unique, handcrafted wines on a micro-scale. Receiving praise from The Wine Spectator and others for his small production Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and M5 blend, Margerum says he's creating wines on a “human-scale” – bottling a few thousand cases, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands or even millions of cases done by larger manufacturers.

Now, the Wine Cask has come to Wine Country. The new Santa Ynez outpost is located inside Fess Parker's Wine Country Inn ( 2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos, California, 805.688.7788 ) and also features a casual winebar, Intermezzo. The restaurant features an award-winning wine list (running some 65-plus pages) and includes Margerum's own wines.

If you go:

Wine Cask, Santa Barbara: 813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, California, 800.463.9463, or store.winecask.com .

Wine Cask, Los Olivos: 2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos, California, 805.688.7788  

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