Thursday, August 27, 2015

Oktoberfest Celebrations to Attend Outside of Munich

My kids are back in school, the nights are getting cooler and the cicadas are out in full force.
Summer must be coming to an end….boo!
With football right around the corner as well I am saddened that in the blink of an eye we will go from warm long summer evenings to brisk short days in no time. But with that change comes my favorite time of the year for beer, FALL (or autumn for all of our friends not in America or actually more sophisticated than myself).
Why do I love fall beer? One word…Oktoberfest! And with that special marzen style beer comes the actual Oktoberfest celebration. If you’re looking to celebrate in Munich, you better get your buns moving because it’s getting pretty close to festival time and rooms or flights are going to become even more expensive than they are already. But fear not, there are great celebrations of Oktoberfest on our side of the pond that have wonderful beer, great food, fun folks and are nice places to vacation a little bit more on the cheap this year.
So while we’re all planning our meet up for Munich 2016, let us guide you to the places you should be hitting this September and October that you may have never thought of.
La Crosse, WI
La Crosse, WI  photo courtesy jongela19
Oktoberfest in La Crosse is one of the better attended celebrations outside of Munich. In past years it has drawn upwards of 150,000 people and is sure to be well attended this year as well. With close proximity to the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago, Oktoberfest La Crosse is not only a good time but also easily accessible for folks in the Upper Midwest. This years event is scheduled from October 1-5 which means that you should catch some awesome fall colors in this Mississippi River town as well. As I am an “everything about Wisconsin is fantastic” sort of guy, La Crosse had to be at the top of my list.
Cincinnati, OH
River town number 2, Cincinnati photo courtesy Chris Breeze
This is the mother of all American Oktoberfest celebrations. Your town may have little parties planned, but none of them top Zinzinnati. This celebration has been held every year since 1976 and is attended regularly by over a half million people. Set in downtown Cincinnati near the banks of the Ohio, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is a must attend if you can’ make it to Germany and love to revel in the Midwest in late September. This years event is held from September 18-20 and is an easy hop for basically anyone from St. Louis to Pittsburgh to Nashville.
Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario Canada
Munich? Nope, Kitchener, Ontario photo courtesy Active Steve (as opposed to inactive Steve like myself)
Does 9 days of Bavarian reveling in Canada with 1 million of your closest friends sound like a good time to you? It does to me. That’s why you need to head to the Great White North to celebrate the second largest Oktoberfest celebration in the world in the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. Outside of the beer drinking (which is obviously hugely important) you will find traditional dances, parades and even a German maypole at this celebration. If you’re ready to celebrate like a Bavarian with a little added “eh”, make the easy trip from Toronto October 9-17 this year. Nothing says you are happy with your life like poutine, munich sausages and marzen style brews.
Villa General Belgrano, Argentina
A little slice of Bavaria in Argentina photo courtesy Pablo Flores
If celebrating in the fall isn’t really your thing, how about flipping hemispheres and celebrate the ushering in of spring. One of the great beer festivals of South America is celebrated in a small mountain town in Argentina and regularly draws 50,000 beer loving folks for 11 days of celebrating. Like the festival in Munich, the Argentinian party hosts large barrel tappings (in large wooden barrels), a Bavarian parade and even a crowning of an Oktoberfest Queen. The event is officially called The National Beer Fest ( though Oktoberfest Argentina is now acceptable to use as well) and has been going strong since the 1960’s. This years event runs from October 2-12. If you want to party like the Bavarians in a setting not very different from the Alps and just happen to be in South America, then get your pretzel loving self to Argentina.
Blumenau, Brazil
Once again I ask, Munich? Nope, Brazil! photo courtesy Augusta Klug
Looking for a subtropical climate to go along with your stein of brew? Well then hop over to the 2nd largest Oktoberfest in the Americas (behind Kitchener-Waterloo) in Brazil. The crowds are estimated to be near 750,000 annually for this warm weather Oktoberfest. Created in 1984 to help boost the local economy after a devastating flood, the Blumenau Oktoberfest has skyrocketed in popularity ever since it’s inception (it doesn’t hurt that the makeup of the area is high in German ancestry). Like the Argentinian Oktoberfest, the festival in Blumenau features an Oktoberfest Queen. But what sets it apart is it’s Chopp in Meters competition. If you can drink a meter of beer (practice with yards if you’re non-metric) without the glass leaving your lips, then head to Brazil for this competition. No drooling allowed either. This years festival will last from October 7-25 ( holy crap that’s 18 days) which makes it easy to hop between both Brazil and Argentina if you’re so inclined to drink lots of beer.
Beyond these great (and large) festivals, there are celebrations in bars and beer halls across the the world.  If a town has ever ever housed a German immigrant, there is bound to be an Oktoberfest celebration. San Diego, for instance, has a festival in every town surrounding it (and why wouldn’t they since there’s a brewery around every block there). Denver blocks off back to back weekends at the end of September to celebrate (since they have a brewery adjacent from every Walgreens). So no matter where you are you are sure to find Oktoberfest style suds being tapped and “Roll out the Barrel” being played by someone in lederhosen.
No matter where you go though, make sure you at least hoist one brew for Ludwig and Therese and have a barrel of fun in the process.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Denver Brewery Tour in the Fun and Funky RiNo District

Ratio Beerworks Dear You French Saison Denver Brewery Tour
Ratio Beerworks Dear You
On a recent weekend getaway to Denver, we decided to see what we could of Denver without a rental car.  This meant sticking to the downtown area and neighborhoods just adjacent.  As Denver is one of the best cities in the US for beer, we wanted to get to know Denver’s beer by joining a Denver brewery walking tour.  We learned Denver has an up-and-coming neighborhood where we would find exciting microbreweries just north of downtown, the RiNo neighborhood.

Mario Zoots Mural RiNo Denver Brewery Trou
Mario Zoots Mural
RiNo stands for River North Art District.  RiNo used to be an industrial area, but is now an up-and-coming hotspot filled with a mix of creative businesses including breweries.  RiNo is a special neighborhood and a new one for travelers to visit.  Not only are the businesses within the neighborhood of the creative and artistic type, the neighborhood itself has become a palette for artwork.  Buildings and alleyways proudly display colorful street art on the walls, creating a public outdoor museum.

Art Alley RiNo District Denver Brewery Tour
Art Alley
We joined Denver Microbrew Tour’s newest brewery tour, the RiNo Tour.  The RiNo Tour is a guided walk through the RiNo district and covers about a mile of territory.  Our walking tour visited three breweries, one cidery, and a home brew shop, and included stops along the way to admire RiNo’s street art.

While visiting the breweries, our guides Derek and Ethan taught us more about beer and the brewing process.  We were even taught the proper way to drink a beer.  Did you know there are steps to drinking beer?  I thought that was only in the wine world.  Step 1: Look at the beer for color and translucence.  Step 2: Swirl the beer, as the foam left on the sides of the glass indicates residual sugars.  Step 3: Smell the beer, looking for its aromas.  Step 4: Drink said beer to see if you like it.

Ratio Beerworks RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Ratio Beerworks
The Denver microbrewery walking tour met at Ratio Beerworks, a brewery with a fairly substantial tasting room with long communal bar-height tables and an industrial vibe.  We started with the Dear You, a French-style saison.  Dear You is cloudy from the yeast, lemon yellow, and slightly sour, a great beer for a hot day.  We next tasted Ratio’s Repeater, an extra pale ale.  The extra is for having more malt than the usual pale ale. 

Ratio Beerworks Extra Pale Ale RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Ratio Beerworks Repeater
Our final taste at Ratio Beerworks, which we enjoyed while visiting the back of the brewery where the brewing happens, was of their Hold Steady, a Scotch ale.  Scotch ales are hit and miss with me, as sometimes I find them too sweet and too strong.  Hold Steady, in my opinion, is the perfect Scotch ale.  It was full of flavor but not too sweet nor too strong.  As Goldilocks would say, it was just right.

David Choe Mural RiNo Denver Brewer Tour
David Choe Mural
A few doors down from Ratio Beerworks is one of Denver’s many works of street art by the famous graffiti artist David Choe.  David Choe’s is a rags to riches type story, kind of like the RiNo district.  He went from stealing as a kid, to getting arrested for graffiti, to creating art with soy sauce and urine in a Japanese prison, to completing mural commissions for the likes of Heidi Fleiss and the founders of Facebook.  He creates art for people who don’t give a f*@k about art.

The beauty of joining a Denver microbrew tour is you don’t have to be a beer lover to enjoy the tour.  The tour is both for people who love beer and also people who don’t know much about beer but want to learn more.  Probably more than half of our group preferred wine over beer.

Brew 'n Q Malted Barley RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Brew ’n Q Malted Barley
We moved on to Brew ’n Q, a shop with provisions for homebrew and barbecue.  We visited this eclectic shop to learn more about malted barley and what it does to beer.  We tasted different barley malts, tasting the difference between lightly roasted and dark roasted and even some with a sour flavor.

Stem Ciders RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Stem Ciders
We headed over to Stem Ciders, a brewery of a different kind, a craft cidery.  Stem Ciders has been making ciders since 2014.  Stem Ciders’ ciders are different from the ones you buy in the store.  They are much drier because they don’t add any sugar, something only about 5% of cideries do.  This is cider the way it should be made.  The apples are crushed at the orchard and the juice is frozen before being shipped to Stem Ciders.  The juice is defrosted, fermented, dry hopped, then filtered.  Because no sugar is added, their cider is one of the “healthier” alcoholic drinks you can enjoy, and it is also gluten free.

Stem Ciders Remedy RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Stem Ciders Remedy
Our first taste at Stem Ciders was of their Remedy, a dry cider hopped with citrus-flavored hops.  Next we tasted their Branch and Bramble, the rosé of cider.  Branch and Bramble is pink like a rosé and is a dry cider with raspberries.  Our final taste was of Le Chêne, a cider aged in oak wine barrels.  The cider was tart and had a heavier feel from the aging process.

Epic Brewing Intermountain Wheat Beer RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Epic Brewing Intermountain Wheat Beer
We moved on to Epic Brewing, a brewery that started in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The tap room is decorated with interesting touches like light fixtures made from the cone bottoms of stainless steel fermentation tanks.  Our first taste was of the Intermountain Wheat Beer, a session-able beer, also known as a porch pounder.  We were told wheat beers are not meant to be analyzed, so I’ll just say it was good. 

Epic Brewing 825 State Stout RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Epic Brewing 825 State Stout
Our next taste was of Epic Brewing’s Utah Sage Saison, a Belgian-style ale brewed with three of the four herbs mentioned in the Simon and Garfunkel song.  This would make a good holiday beer and it definitely had a finishing taste of sage.  We finished with 825 State Stout, which was poured from a nitro tap.

Our Mutual Friend Brewing IPA RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Our Mutual Friend Brewing IPA
Our final stop on our Denver brewery tour was at Our Mutual Friend Brewing.  I loved the miniature tulip tasting glasses.  Our Mutual Friend is unique because they roast their own malts, controlling the flavors they wish to achieve.  We finished our Denver beer tasting with OMF’s IPA.

Denver B-cycle RiNo Denver Brewery Tour
Riding a Denver B-cycle through RiNo
The meeting point for Denver Microbrew Tour’s RiNo tour is about a 30-minute walk from Larimer Square.  If you don’t have your own wheels, a really easy way to get to the meeting point is to ride there on a Denver B-cycle.  There are B-cycle stations all over the city, the RiNo district is accessible from the nearby South Platte River Greenway Trail, and there’s a station to drop off the bike one block away from the starting and ending point of the tour.

There are a lot of breweries and a lot of beers in Denver.  Let Denver Microbrew Tour guide you to some of the best microbreweries in Denver and introduce you to Denver’s up-and-coming RiNo neighborhood.

Thank you to Denver Microbrew Tour for hosting our tour and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

A Denver brewery tour through the RiNo (River North Art District) neighborhood.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

No Coast Small Towns You Need To Hit For A Beer

Lists, lists and more lists. It seems like every week I read a new list of the great beer towns of America. Each one of these lists is carefully crafted with an arbitrary number of towns with some of the nation's pioneers of craft brewing. Portland, Seattle, San Diego, New York, Tampa and beyond are always represented. These cities are always mentioned as the cream of the crop of beer towns.

One of the things these cities have going for them is population. With population comes exposure to a large number of beer drinkers and capital to grow beyond their respective borders. It's much easier to get on one of these great lists if everyone across the country can drink the beer from your town in their own town.

So what happens to the little guys? The towns that don't have 2 hour commutes or 40 breweries in their town still produce fantastic beer and you may have never heard of them. What happens when you put a town with character and 1 brewery together? Sometimes you get a great beer town that you may only fly over. So move over Austin and Boston, it's time for a list of the great towns off the coast to hit for a great local beer.

Manhattan, Kansas

The beer of the Little Apple photo courtesy J. Jeremiah
Most lists you'll see for great beer cities include the Big Apple, so we'll include the Little Apple. Manhattan is a college town, and most college towns in Middle America have a brewery. Manhattan has 2 breweries and 1 of them happens to be one of the best in the Midwest. Tallgrass Brewing Company with it's famous 8 Bit Pale Ale is brewed in the Little Apple. Take the 2 hour drive from Kansas City for some college fun and great beer.

Decorah, Iowa

Love small town charm and great beer courtesy Denise Krebs
Another college town makes this list, but this time we are talking a very small college town. Nestled in the rolling corn fields of Northern Iowa sits Decorah, home to Luther College. Decorah sits on the banks of the Upper Iowa River and boasts one of the best breweries in the US. This town of 8000 residents are the lucky hosts of the Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. There aren't many breweries that top 95% on beer advocate, and Toppling Goliath is worth it. Take the 2 hour drive from Dubuque or La Crosse and enjoy the small town charm and amazing beer in Decorah. You won't regret it.

New Glarus, Wisconsin

Can't miss in New Glarus
There aren't many towns in America that capture the essence of a small European town quite like New Glarus. Settled by Swiss immigrants, this small southern Wisconsin town is a not over the top representative of a Swiss Village. From cheese to baked goods, you can't go wrong with a trip to New Glarus. What puts this wonderful town over the top is the amazing New Glarus Brewing Company. For over 20 years this small town brewery has been winning awards for its fantastic ales and lagers. They even make light of their location with a No Coast Pale Ale.

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth is truly a city of all seasons courtesy Randen Pederson
When I think of a town that is naturally beautiful in all 4 seasons, Duluth is the city that always pops in to my head. Nestled on the banks of Lake Superior, Duluth is a fantastic spot to head to in all seasons if you love outdoor activities. From skiing to biking to kayaking to hiking in the fall colors, you will not be disappointed with a trip to Duluth. And in recent years Duluth has become a hub for craft beer growth. At least 7 breweries have sprung up in recent years and they match the fantastic landscape that Duluth offers. Make the trip from the Twin Cities for more than hockey, hit it for the beer as well.

Dillon, Colorado

My happy place with great beer. 
I can't imagine a place I'd rather spend time in than this gem in the Rockies. Dillon sits on the aptly named Lake Dillon, surrounded by 12-14 thousand foot peaks. From skiing in the winter to water sports, golf and just plain relaxing fun in the summer, Dillon has it all. This is one of those place that takes your breath away every time you arrive. And guess what? The beer is out of this world. The 2 breweries in this small Summit County town are both award winners on the grandest scale. Dillon, Colorado is an honest to goodness can't miss, so come with an empty growler and don't miss it. This may just be beer/scenery nirvana.

So there you go, a list without the big 13, or is it 10 or maybe 20 biggest beer names in America. These are not places with direct flights - OK maybe like 4 direct flights - that aren't going to be on your travel agents top itineraries, but maybe should be. Each one of these towns is full of character and full of beer, but not 80 different kinds of beer. And that's just fine because we'll take quality any day.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tasting Santa Maria, a Central Coast Wine Region

Santa Maria Valley Central Coast Wine Tasting

When we travel through California I am constantly amazed by how many great wine regions we have, many of which are not well known outside of California.  Central California holds several Central Coast wine regions both big and small.  Recently we returned to Central California and went wine tasting in Santa Maria, one of the Central Coast’s smaller wine regions south of the Paso Robles wine region, to discover what kind of wine the area holds.  We found cute little wine tasting rooms with personalized service and wines that are unique, delicious, and affordable.  While Santa Maria is known for their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, we were drawn by Santa Maria’s semi-sweet whites, rosés, and unusual red varietals.


Riverbench Winery Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

Our first Santa Maria wine tasting stop was at Riverbench.  The wine tasting room is in a farmhouse built in 1927 for a dairy farm.  While Riverbench is one of Santa Maria’s newer wineries, as they started producing wines in 2004, Riverbench’s vineyard, which was planted in 1973, is the second oldest in Santa Barbara County.  The vineyard currently has 287 planted acres.

Guests can choose from the regular wine tasting menu or the sparkling wine tasting menu and either taste in the tasting room or sit outside at one of the café tables.  The day we visited was perfect, warm and clear.  We sat outside with our dogs and listened to a two-piece band, sipped our wine, and enjoyed the view of the vineyards.

Riverbench Winery Patio Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

Our favorite wine at Riverbench was the 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir.  This rosé is just barely blush colored.  It is acidic, bright, citrusy, and has mild flavors of rose petal.  Whole Pinot Noir grape clusters are pressed, then filtered quickly, which gives the wine a very light color.  As a final touch, the top of the bottle is dipped in light pink wax to let you know it holds something very special inside. 

Another favorite of ours was the 2014 Riesling.  While sipping on our glass we could see the Riesling vines just across the way from the tasting room.  The Riesling smells jammy and tastes a little like sour jelly candies.  It is off-dry, tart, a little puckery, and yet also slightly sweet.

Riverbench Dog Friendly Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

Riverbench makes four chardonnays.  Our favorite was the 2014 Bedrock Chardonnay which is fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks.  The fact that it never touches oak allows the real taste of the Chardonnay grape to come through.

Riverbench also makes a number of Pinot Noirs.  Our favorite was the 2012 One Palm Pinot Noir.  This is an unusual Pinot Noir, full-bodied with a thick aroma and full of flavor.

Rancho Sisquoc Winery

Rancho Sisquoc Tre Vini Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

The tasting room of Rancho Sisquoc Winery is in a wood cabin surrounded by trees and grass.  Their logo is a picture of the San Ramon Chapel located a few hundred yards away.  The winery has 350 acres of vineyards and 3,700 acres of open land perfect for cattle.  The first vines were planted in 1968, the first Cabernet was bottled in 1972, and the Santa Maria tasting room was opened in 1977.  Rancho Sisquoc Winery only creates 100% estate wines.

Rancho Sisquoc Winery Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

Our favorite wine at Rancho Sisquoc was the 2013 Sylvaner.  They are the only winery that grows the Sylvaner grape in California.  In fact, the only other places it is grown in the United States is Washington and New York.  Sylvaner is an Alsatian grape similar to Riesling.  We were told the first owner of the winery discovered the grape when marching with General Patton.  The Sylvaner has a taste of apple and is very slightly sweet.  At $14 a bottle, my only regret was not buying more than two bottles.

Rancho Sisquoc Wine Glasses Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

Our other favorite wine at Rancho Sisquoc was the 2012 Tre Vini.  This is a super Tuscan style blend of Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, and Petite Sirah.  It is so good it won gold at the New World International Wine Competition and also at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Another star is the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is made with grapes from the oldest of Rancho Sisquoc’s vines.  The Cabernet is blended with 7% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc and is aged for 16 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels.  The wine is acidic and will store well.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards

Kenneth Volk Wine Tasting Santa Maria Central Coast

Kenneth Volk is a bit of a legend in the Central Coast.  In 1977, while he was a Fruit Science student at Cal Poly State University at San Luis Obispo, he made his first wine with a trash can, a baseball bat, and grapes given to him by a vineyard student.  It was at this time he realized wine was his calling.  His first job was at Edna Valley Vineyard and he knew at the time that the Central Coast was eventually going to rival wines from popular California wine regions and elsewhere in the world. 

In 1981, he started the Wild Horse Winery which grew to be huge and was eventually sold to Peak Wines, a Jim Beam brand.  In 2004, he started Kenneth Volk Vineyards and released its first wine in 2006.  He used to grow some grapes on 200 acres, but now sources everything from other vineyards.  His long history and contacts in the wine making industry enable him to have his pick of some of the best grapes of the Central Coast. Even though the vineyards are not his, he is very hands-on in the farming process and participates in the decision-making.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards Red Wine Tasting Santa Maria Central Coast

What makes Kenneth Volk Vineyards’ wines unique from others in the Santa Maria Valley is Volk’s use of heirloom varietals, grapes that are both old and rare in contemporary winemaking. 

The 2014 Malvasia Bianca from San Bernabe Vineyard in Monterey is a dry white heirloom wine that has a tart beginning and a floral aroma.  Another white heirloom wine is the 2012 Verdelho from Pomar Junction Vineyard.  The Verdelho has a citrusy aroma and flavor.

One of our favorite heirloom wines was the 2011 Mourvedre from Enz Vineyard in Lime Kiln Valley.  While Mourvedre is a red wine usually used for blending, Volk thinks it does well on its own.  The vines have been producing grapes for over 80 years.  The wine had the flavor of cranberry.  Another favorite of ours was the 2012 Negrette from Calleri Vineyard in San Benito County.  The Negrette has a deep purple color, almost like grape juice.

Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery

Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

When we drove up to Cottonwood Canyon Winery we were greeted by a bright orange two-story tasting room surrounded by green lawns with vineyards down the hill.  Cottonwood is a destination winery with an outdoor amphitheater where bands play on Friday nights while guest enjoy wines by the glass or the bottle.  Another unique feature is Cottonwood’s wine cave which can be toured as part of your wine tasting.

Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

When the Beko family purchased the property in 1988, it was planted with 46 acres of Chardonnay vines that were 15 years old.  The estate is now 78 acres and specializes in Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinot Noir.  Rose bushes grow at the end of each row and are used as an indication of the health of the vines.

Cottonwood Canyon Wine Grapes Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

At Cottonwood they like to pair wine tastings with food, so our tasting started with the 2012 Chardonnay paired with their homemade pickled asparagus.  This was my favorite Chardonnay of the weekend.  It was crisp and clean and topped with the controversial screw top.  We tasted another Chardonnay, a Rosé, and a Pinot Noir before heading outside and down the hill via a few flights of stairs to visit the wine cave.

Cottonwood Canyon Fermentation Tanks Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

Outside of the wine cave I was surprised to see the fermentation tanks outside exposed to the elements.  To my recollection, I have never visited a winery with fermentation tanks outside.  They are thickly covered by an insulating material which helps keep the contents of the tanks at a constant 62 degrees.  I was also surprised to learn the winery doesn’t have their own bottling area, but rather hires bottling trucks that come out to the winery at bottling time.  The sorting of the grapes also occurs right in the vineyards.

Cottonwood Canyon Wine Cave Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

We entered the cool, manmade cave to find tunnels full of wine barrels filled with aging wine.  Cottonwood’s unofficial motto is, “We do the aging so you don’t have to” which means your wine is ready to drink as soon as you get it home.  We enjoyed a barrel tasting of 2014 Syrah which still had strong tannins and a verdant vegetable flavor.  We then headed back up to the tasting room for a taste of the aged 2011 Syrah.

Cottonwood Canyon Barrel Tasting Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

During our tour we learned a new wine making term, malolactic fermentation.  Malolactic fermentation is a process where tart malic acid is converted to softer lactic acid.  Green apple flavors are on the malo end of the spectrum and buttery flavors are on the lactic side.  As an example, the 2012 Chardonnay I preferred was 60-70% malolactic complete, which is why it was more crisp than buttery.

Cottonwood Canyon Dog Friendly Santa Maria Wine Tasting Central Coast

We visited four of Santa Maria’s wineries during our Central California weekend getaway, but there are over 20 wineries in Santa Maria from which to choose, not to mention more in surrounding areas.  The wineries are in close proximity to one another, most on or near Foxen Canyon Road.  The four we visited were within a 10-mile radius of each other.  An added bonus is many of Santa Maria’s wineries, including the four we visited, are dog friendly in case you’re traveling with your pets.

Thank you to Club Carlson and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce Visitor & Convention Bureau for hosting our visit to Santa Maria and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.