Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Apr 29, 2011

Frolicking in Foxen Canyon

It had been a few years since my parents last visited Santa Barbara wine country, and now that I've been vineyard hopping numerous times, I was excited to take them to my favorite spots.  Time and time again, I've found myself drawn to Foxen Canyon - stunning scenery, delicious wines, and a little less crowded than the other wine trails.  It's one of the furthest from the city (about a 40 minute drive inland), and takes you through beautiful mountains and valleys.  The vineyards on the southern part of the trail favor syrah, grenache and viognier because of the warmer, inland climates.  As you head further north, you'll find more pinot noirs and chardonnays because of those cool maritime breezes and climate.

We started our late morning at Fess Parker, which has a rustic tasting room with a huge stone fireplace and an extensive outdoor patio for al fresco tasting and picnics.  And don't be fooled by those coonskin caps strewn about - the descendants of Davy Crockett make some darn good wine.  It's very rare that I truly enjoy every single pour on a tasting menu, but with Fess Parker's, I was tempted to buy every bottle on the list.  I settled for one of their wine clubs instead, and walked away with a bottle of syrah and chardonnay.

We sat out on the patio for lunch, since we hadn't eaten since the early morning and the wine was already going to our heads.  Fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil on ciabatta bread hit the spot and got us ready for Foxen Winery...

Foxen actually has two tasting rooms - a big, new solar-powered one and "The Shack" aka foxen 7200.  I love the Shack for its ramshackle-ness, kitschy shrine with wine paraphernalia, and half indoors/half outdoors set-up.

Besides being featured in Sideways, it also has an interesting history (you know how I love random historical facts!).  The winery is named after an English sea captain who purchased a Mexican land grant of 9000 acres, now known as Foxen Canyon.  Captain Foxen adopted the anchor as his ranch cattle brand, and the insignia is now the winery's trademark.  One of the original brands is actually in the Shack.  Oh, and did I mention they're liberal with the anchor temporary tattoos?

We doubled back up the road to hit up Curtis, which is part of the Firestone Family Estates.  When I go wine tasting with "Malbec" and her family, we always visit this place.  When the Firestones established Curtis, it was one of California's first wineries dedicated exclusively to Rhone-style wines.  We had the pleasure of meeting Kate Firestone, one of the founders, who is still actively involved in running the winery.  This tiny British former ballet dancer made us feel so welcome and is truly dedicated to the craft.

Our last stop was at the Epiphany tasting room in the heart of Los Olivos.  Grand Avenue, the main street in town, is pretty much all tasting rooms and boutique wine shops in Victorian style houses and fake Western store fronts.  Pretty much all of the tasting rooms here cater to wine collectives - vintners who cull their grapes from multiple vineyards and don't necessarily have the land to plop down a tasting room on-site.  If you're looking to park once and stumble from tasting room to tasting room, this is the "wine trail" for you.  Epiphany was actually started in 1999 by Fess' son, Eli - an award-winning winemaker in his own right.  And purchasing a bottle at Fess, will score you comp tastings here.  Epiphany focuses on small productions and makes mostly syrah and grenache wines, but since the summer will be coming up, I ended up buying a bottle of grenache blanc.  I'm sure it will be cracked open soon at a future Lush Chef dinner!