Published December 22, 2013


Can never resist heading back to the charming little wine village of Los Olivos to watch their Olde Fashioned Tree Lighting ceremony that makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time. To paint a picture, a local crowd gathers signing Christmas Carols surrounding a flagpole dressed like a Christmas tree. At darkness, a 5 year old girl dressed as an angel lights the tree with her wand as her father lifts her to the bottom of the tree… erh metal pole with green flappy wings. All the tasting rooms in a 4 block radius (over 40 now) are open late and stores invite you in for warm cider and toasted nuts. It’s a beautiful thing.

Tell me about your favorite holiday festival and, if there’s wine there, this thirsty vagabond will be there!

A few new tasting rooms, like Larner Vineyard and Winery, stand out with their wares and wisdom. While some winemakers come from scientific, culinary, and various other creative backgrounds, Larner’s winemaker developed skills through the study of rocks. His wines are all about the soil. And the soil in the Ballard Canyon AVA must be what makes his Malvasia Bianca bright with lemon zest tartness and crispness. It is a refreshing pairing for Asian dishes or rich picnic food. The Viognier is like a bowl full of nectarines with butter and vanilla. The perfume in most viogniers is cut with soft supple yet thick lemon curd.

Grenache is king in this country and Larner’s is big with earthy notes and a dark crimson color. The Syrah starts off with plum and cocoa from 24 months in barrel and a teensy bit of earth, typical of this region. But the reserve Syrah has the big body, balanced tannins, and earth that make it the best pairing for a big steak dinner with all the fixings. Finally, the cult that follows 100% Mourvedre will be happy to know Larner’s is only 40 bucks and packed full of berry, plum, and cherry with that chocolaty leather texture you crave.

More appellation adventures of my month in this region.


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