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Welcome to Gardens to Tables Travel Articles Touring the Santa Ynez Valley with Sustainable Vine Wine Tours
Touring the Santa Ynez Valley with Sustainable Vine Wine Tours Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Shepphird   
Richard Sanford at Alma Rosa

A trip to the Santa Ynez Valley wine country usually starts with visits to tasting rooms in Los Olivos, Solvang or Santa Barbara. And then, perhaps in an ode to “Sideways” (which was filmed there), it might move out to the wineries themselves to taste the wine (and hopefully not injure any spit buckets in the process). 


For those looking to deepen that experience, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours offers the ability to not only go out into the vineyards to learn more about the source of the wine -- this includes the grapes and, more importantly, the soil or (in wine terms) the terroir -- but also to spend time with the winemakers. On a recent tour, Sustainable Vine owner Bryan Hope took us through the valley (in a biodiesel van), where we stopped first at the Alma Rosa Winery and were able to visit with Richard Sanford (pictured above), who not only planted the first grapes in the valley 40 years ago but was also the first to go organic (inspired in part by his wife’s vegetable garden). 


Sanford is one of those people whose face is etched with a lifetime (or, at least, 40 years, following a stint in the Vietnam War and college at UC Berkeley) of doing something he loves. His philosophy: “Farm the grapes properly and let the wine make itself.”


Ampelos VineyardOur next stop was lunch, held under an oak tree on the Ampelos vineyard, where owner Peter Work helped explain some of the biodynamic methods he used -- and pointed out the barn owl box whose inhabitant helps keep the pesky predators in check organically and the new solar panels (beyond the vineyard right). The final stop was Demetria Estate, whose winery and vineyard -- also biodynamic -- is located on a gorgeous hilltop adjacent to the Zaca Mesa property. 


We learned something at each stop that not only illuminated the making of wine but also gave us tips that could be used in our home gardens (and vineyards, for those taking the plunge). One of the interesting facts I learned from the very-knowledgeable Hope is that many of the wines that are farmed organically are not labeled as organic because the USDA decided that if a wine contained added sulfites (naturally occurring in wine) it could not be labeled organic. I know I’m now going to be a lot more keen on checking labels for wine that was farmed organically and not so much for wines labeled simply as organic.


As a Santa Barbara Car Free partner, Sustainable Vine offers a $10 discount to those who show they traveled at least part of their trip car-free (easy to do with bikes and electric shuttles available throughout downtown Santa Barbara and Amtrak stopping right in the middle of town). Check the Santa Barbara Care Free website for more details.

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