4 New Favorites From Santa Ynez

The Santa Ynez Valley holds a special place in my heart for tasting and finding great wine. Even when it’s raining, it’s beautiful — filled with rolling hills, craggly oak trees, friendly people, and delicious wine. Here are four recent discoveries from the region that I’m loving right now.

Artiste Winery: The Umbrella

Artiste Winery tasting room in Los Olivos, with artwork and library wines on display.

Formerly owned by Sunstone but now independent in its own right, Artiste’s winemaker does a cool thing where they start off with a piece of artwork and then blend a wine based on the emotions of the art. This not only gives you a very unique wine for each release, but also a gorgeous label that deserves to be framed after you’re finished. My favorite here is The Umbrella ($57), a harmonious blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Viognier (co-ferment). It’s silky, fruity, and spicy; I’d pair it with some juicy chicken and call it a day.

Epiphany Winery: 2019 Grenache

Beautiful red lineup at Fess Parker, owner of Epiphany Winery.

This is a winery that I’ve been coming to for many years now, and I can rely on them to have at least one or two memorable wines that I love. What’s funny is I can’t remember loving a Grenache from them as much as this 2019 Grenache ($42). Literally from the first inhale, you pick up the vivid raspberry, cherry, and baking spices, which follow through on the palate in the most delicious way, complemented with notes of chocolate and vanilla. Looking at the label, though, I recognize Rodney’s Vineyard as the birthplace of some other favorites from Fess Parker over the years, so I guess I have a type.

Waylan Wine Co.: 2021 Sauvignon Blanc

Crisp whites shine at Waylan Wine Co. in Los Olivos

This winery is a new discovery for me, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn they’ve been growing and supplying grapes for many of the wines I’ve loved from Santa Ynez over the years. Between their single-vineyard Grenache and single varietals of Gamay and Cinsault, I was struck by the super-fresh Sauvignon Blanc ($32), something of a rarity here in the valley. It’s tropical, bright, floral, and paired just perfectly with a turkey and brie sandwich from Panino around the block.

Brick Barn Wine Estate: 2021 Cabernet Franc Rosé

After several visits this is still my new favorite winery in Santa Ynez. They are relatively new compared to some of the others in the valley, but what they lack in years they make up in skill, dedication, and fantastic wines. They also have a beautiful barn-inspired tasting room flanked in red brick, cozy seating areas, and a picturesque patio host to live music. Anyways, the wine: it’s really good. The chardonnays are crisp and bright, the reds are flavorful and elegant. I tend to love their Pinots (like the 2019 Pinot Noir Reserve, $75), but my current obsession is the 2021 Cabernet Franc Rosé ($38). It’s everything I want in a rosé and more — soaring acidity, bone dry, endless fresh watermelon and strawberry, goes down easy, instantly transports you poolside on a hot summer day. I’ll be drinking this from now until fall.

Look, these are not my ONLY favorites in Santa Ynez — I have many more! One day I’ll put together my comprehensive hit-list, but in the meantime, these are just 4 highlights from my most recent experiences.