Aspen Times Weekly: Get Funky With It
IF YOU GO ...
As I said there, are over 20 wineries to explore on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail but here are a few must stops in the Funk Zone.
131 Anacapa St.
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Santa Barbara Wine Collective
131 Anacapa St.
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AVA Santa Barbara/The Valley Project
116 E. Yanonali St.
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Pali Wine Company
116 E. Yanonali St. Santa Barbara
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Santa Barbara Winery
202 Anacapa St. Santa Barbara
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111 E. Yanonali St. Santa Barbara
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Bedding down in santa barbara
The Fess Parker -
a doubltree hilon resort
633 E. Cabrillo Blvd.
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Four Seasons Santa Barbara
1260 Channel Dr., Santa Barbara,
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Belmond El Encanto
800 Alvarado Place
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So you want to taste some great wines without getting your shoes dusty? Then consider a trip to the hyper-cool Funk Zone in Santa Barbara.
There you’ll find a collection of 20 or so outstanding wineries and tasting rooms operating out of mid-century warehouses and factories, cheek to jowl with art galleries, performances spaces restaurants, surf shops and a guitar bar. All are kissed daily by the salty scent of the sea and the soothing breezes of the Pacific that is just blocks away.
Tucked between Hwy 101 and the ocean, just south of downtown, there may be no other urban zone in the world (maybe Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy) where you can taste so many great, locally produced wines in such a small area. Particularly are great are the Chardonnays and Pinot Noir.
Begin with the Aspen connection to the Funk Zone. The Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant is a hip, but funky — there’s that word again — space that pours, not just the local grapes, but great wines from the world over. Brian McClintic, who did a stint at The Little Nell when he was working toward his Master Sommelier pin, took a career path that was a bit more adventurous than most Masters and moved to the Funk Zone to open up his dream wine concept.
Both a retail shop and a wine bar, you can sample the best wines by the glass from, say, the Canary Islands (a sparkling red Listán Negro-Bodegas los Bermejos Lanzarote, Maceración Carbónica) or from right up the road in Santa Ynez (a Gruner Veltliner by Solminer). You can purchase by the bottle, or the case, or you can simply sit and linger over a glass of wine and a plate of Jamon Serrano, some Le Pommier Camembert cheese or a bowl of house-marinated olives with citrus peel, chili and rosemary. The vibe is incredibly casual and comfortable with a young seaside set of artists, surfers and foodies.
Sharing a wall with Les Marchands is the equally eclectic and equally comfortable Santa Barbara Wine Collective. A “community tasting room” in the sense that it is made up of a collective of winemakers who pour in the same space, this is the place to try the wines of Raj Parr’s Sandhi, as well as those of Babcock, Ca’ del Grevino, Qupe, Fess Parker and The Pairing. The glass garage doors open to a patio that is cool and spontaneous, and it is a great place to compare the wines of the region on a sunny afternoon. And right ’round the corner is Lark, a restaurant that has was on OpenTable’s national “Top 100 Hot Spots” list in March and boasts a hip and current dining scene.
There are other great tasting rooms as well, including the Santa Barbara Winery (the original Funk Zone winery), Lafond Winery (which just celebrated its 50th year under Pierre Lafond) and the Pali Wine Company (named for Palisades High School, the alma mater of this writer). Pace yourself as you work your way around.
But my favorite visit was to Seth Kunin’s AVA Santa Barbara, subtitled: The Valley Project. Kunin, who has another tasting room a couple of blocks closer to the beach for his Kunin Rhône-style wines, opened this educational outpost to let people explore the wines of the region in their totality. Under huge, artistically sketched murals that detail the locations, climate and soils of the five Santa Barbara wine regions, is a bar where wines grown in each of those regions are poured. The space is modern, bright, light and airy, and I could stay all day to sip and talk with the staff about the wines of Santa Barbara.
Of course, if you are staying in Santa Barbara, you don’t have to get too funky. There are a number of amazing hotels, including the hillside hugging El Encanto, Ty Warner’s Four Seasons Biltmore, and the Fess Parker, a Doubletree Hotel that acts like a luxe resort. The Fess Parker is the closest of these to the Funk Zone, just a short walk, or Uber ride if you choose, and it is right across from the Santa Barbara’s main beach. Affordable, authentic and centrally located, it is my choice for a Funk Zone weekend.
Of all the world’s great wine regions, Santa Barbara may be the easiest one to get to from Aspen. Hop on a United flight (OK, that can be an issue) to San Francisco or Los Angeles, connect to the cuter-than-a-Hollywood movie set, Mission-style Santa Barbara Airport, pick up a car and you can be in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley by mid-afternoon. Or the Funk Zone.
Kelly J Hayes. lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab, Vino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org