Central Coast eats, day 2: wine country
After leaving Santa Barbara, we spent day two of our road trip exploring the Santa Ynez Valley wine country. For those of you who've seen the movie "Sideways," this is "Sideways" country. We stopped in Solvang to buy bread, cheese and fruit for a picnic lunch. Solvang was founded by Danish settlers -- escaping those Minnesota winters, no doubt -- but today the town seems to be a theme-parkish tourist trap, unfortunately.
We stuck around just long enough to visit one tasting room -- I believe Stolpman was the name of the winery -- where a very kind, not-at-all-condescending employee answered all our rookie oenophile questions about which grapes grow best where and what people mean when they talk about French versus California winemaking styles. If you're like me and you're kind of intimidated talking about wine but you'd like to learn more, ask these folks questions when you go wine-tasting. They're not just glorified bartenders!
Then we took our picnic to Rusack Vineyards, just outside of town, where we bought a bottle of their Chardonnay. I'm not usually much of a Chardonnay fan -- I tend to find it too rich or something, for lack of a better word, and instead I like crisper whites -- but this was good. They blend a steel-barreled one with an oaked one. It was a nice balance, at least to this amateur palate.