Over the weekend The Wife and I took a wine tasting adventure in Santa Barbara County. We had a great dinner with some old friends at an event sponsored by my favorite winery in the region. I also got a small amount of shopping to re-stock the wine cabinets here at Soffit House. While a little bit of hunting yielded some nice bottles, they were frankly too expensive for what was being put in them.
I’m becoming more and more disenchanted with the Santa Ynez region. It is growing too expensive and too proud of its wines; $10-$12 a tasting is a bit steep as compared to the quality of what is being poured; you have to be in a wine club in order to get anything at a reasonable price point. Well, I am in a wine club in that region and have been for some time now — so I’ll stay, but the region overall leaves me less than pleased. The ethic in the Santa Ynez Valley seems to be “sell the tastings at as high a profit as the traffic will bear, and cater only to the very wealthy.” This comes close to filtering me out. I’m very near the point of saying that I’m simply not going to be buying wines at those wineries any more because the economics of it have placed it out of the range in which I’m willing to play.
We also did Danish tourism in Solvang. Those Danish people up there serve breakfast all day and they serve it fast. I don’t think we had to wait more than three minutes for either breakfast we ate, and we’re talking substantial food here – omlettes, Belgian waffles. The Wife would likely have been very pleased to spend all day poking around tchotchke shops, but the kitsch meter was off the charts and I’d had my fill of Faux Scandinavian Ultracute after about, oh, three minutes. We compromised at a few hours and then decided to take the long way home.
Our route back was, by my design, very out of the way. We took the coast highway north to Santa Maria and got on Highway 166 eastbound. Highway 166 tracks the Cuyama River inland to the Sierra Madre Mountains. From there, we hung a left on Cerro Noroeste Road and climbed into the Los Padres National Forest. Cerro Noroeste is one of the higher mountains in the range and the road climbs up to almost the ridge of the mountains. The Wife got to enjoy some spectacular views and I got to wonder about the lack of guard rails. After peaking on Cerro Noroeste, the road eventually turns in to Mil Portrero Highway and then Cuddy Valley Road, all of which deposits the traveler in Frazier Mountain Park with access to Interstate Five and back home to the Antelope Valley. It added about half an hour to the travel time that continuing on the 166 into the Central Valley and taking I-5 would have taken; it was visually more interesting and the road was of a surprisingly high quality — but I doubt I’ll do it again because the isolation was a little bit freaky.
I was struck by the remarkable diversity of climate groups we’d been through on our route; we’d seen both arid and lush Mediterranean areas, rich and fertile river valleys, low Alpine pine forests, a desert dryer than the one we live in, and we drove by the amazingly still-blooming Poppy reserve. California offers a lot of different kinds of places to be in relatively close proximity, which is something of a marvel in itself.