The Last Bite — Summer’s Don’t-Miss Dish in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine
Want the Summer Tomato Gazpacho recipe? Get it here.
At Presqu’ile Vineyard & Winery, food and wine are symbiotic. This modern winery was established in 2007, specializing in cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah from Santa Barbara County. They also make sparkling wine! The name means “almost an island” in French (pronounced press-keel) and was named after a property the family lost to Hurricane Katrina, as well as perfectly describing this sheltered oasis in Santa Maria Valley.
Presqu’ile’s 200-acre property on Clark Avenue contains estate vineyards, gardens, winery buildings and spaces, a pond, and a 1-acre farm. The farm is the epicenter of the menu at Presqu’ile, helmed by Chef Julie Simon, who’s been running the kitchen since late 2019.
French-born Chef Julie Simon has an accomplished resume spanning a decade throughout the Central Coast, where she worked with acclaimed kitchens, events and farm-to-table endeavors. During this time, she followed her appetite for learning, continuing to change and hone her skills, and finding meaning in what she’s cooking. Having developed an obsession with growing her own food, she began planting and managing a small farm-plot, to create food for herself and dinner events for friends.
Presqu’ile’s belief in a “sense of place” plus her own acre of land to farm undoubtedly lured Simon to the winery. Creating a permaculture garden and growing produce sustainably and organically is a perfect fit for the in-house chef, where she creates locally-sourced dinners and menus to pair with the wines.
Since the garden’s inception, she has worked the garden herself, propagating seeds in her home, planting and weeding, and even setting gopher traps. She’s a farmer as much as a cook, and grows up to 90% of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers on the plates at the winery, especially in summer. The hardest thing to grow here? Lettuce. “Too many bunnies,” Simon says.
Her favorite part of the job is working the garden each morning, picking garnishes for that day’s dishes and being in the dirt. This labor of love pays off in the fresh simplicity of her dishes in the Mezze Picnic served alongside the current wine flight. With Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Californian influences, Simon’s picnic spread is more than just appetizers paired with wine; it thoughtfully dishes up all the flavors of this land and the season.
The Mezze Picnic consists of 5 or 6 small dishes, tailored to the season. Summer’s offering includes:
- Gazpacho made with the garden’s overripe and not-so-perfect looking tomatoes and other produce, which changes with the seasons
- Hummus/Bean Dip based on white or garbonzo beans with lemon, oil, allium and aromatics (depending on what’s freshest)
- Farmer’s Cheese, a blend of soft cow, goat and sheep cheeses, with roasted strawberries and balsamic for summer
- Farm Vegetable/Salad from lettuces and greens from local purveyors with seasonal local vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers
- Protein for summer: marinated beef with local gremolata (vegetarian options available)
- Bagna Cauda sauce on grilled vegetables and crusty bread (literal Italian is “hot bath”)
- House-made focaccia, crackers, and pita to sop up all the delicious flavors.
Summer Tomato Gazpacho recipe
Want the full recipe? Get and print it here.
To make Simon’s Summer Gazpacho, gather together the ripest fresh tomatoes, shallots or white onion, garlic and a little watermelon (or stone fruit). It’s ok if produce is overripe and/or bruised. Cut the tomatoes, shallots/onions and garlic in half, and mix with salt, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and lemon zest. Let this sit and macerate 1-4 hours on your countertop. Blend the whole mixture in a high-speed blender, slowly adding fresh olive oil for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with basil and edible flowers.
Read about Presqu’ile sparkling wine here.
Taste & Tour at Presqu’ile Vineyard
Presqu’ile has some interesting options for visiting the winery and vineyards, and all of them include food. Chef Julie Simon creates a delicious and beautiful Mezze Picnic, with seasonal sharing plates and dips, with many ingredients coming right from the 1-acre winery garden. It is quite a feast, and includes comforting dips and dishes like gazpacho as well as more exotic flavors and plenty of fresh herbs and edible flowers. You won’t leave hungry! And the wine pairing is perfect.
Another fun way to visit is to do the Estate Horseback Tour, seeing the 400-acre estate and vineyards, San Rafael Mountains, Solomon Hills, and Santa Maria Valley. This tour ends on a private terrace overlooking the property, with the Mezze Picnic and wine pairing.
And to get a close look at what happens in the vineyards and in the winery, reserve the Private Wine & Food Tour. This tour through the state-of-the-art winery begins with sparkling wine, and a look at the modern tasting room, expertly integrated with the nature outside (Frank Lloyd Wright would certainly like it) and moves into the 240-foot barrel cave, which is also a tunnel to the rest of the winery above.
You’ll take an elevator up to Presqu’ile‘s tank room, which is at a higher elevation so that gravity can do the work of moving the wine instead of electricity. This is where fermentation and punch-downs happen after the grapes come in. Higher up still is a walkway above the tanks to the outside, in the back of the winery, where the grapes arrive to be pressed.
You’ll then walk outside to see the pond, where irrigation water is held, plus several vineyards that grow the grapes you are sipping in your glass plus solar panels that power the winery. You’ll then enjoy single-vineyard wines along with the Mezze Picnic in a private lookout terrace surrounded by 280-degree views of our vineyard, the San Rafael Mountains, Solomon Hills and Pacific Ocean.