As you approach the Santa Ynez Valley from southern California, you’ll be driving over “the pass” – if you know what’s good for you. Meaning, if you drive like a local. And, as you make that final stretch after all those gorgeous winding turns, you’ll make a left onto route 246 (not to be confused with root 246) and come across your first winery tasting room: Gainey Vineyard.
It’s a sight for sore eyes. It’s the gateway to the region. It’s the Welcome to Wine Country. I almost always pull in on my way into town so my friends and I can have at least one tasting-room-sweeping-vineyards experience before nightfall. It affords some of the most typical and picturesque landscape in the valley, a mission-style tasting room and an outdoor tasting area complete with vineyards on one side and cows on the other.
“Ohh,” your friends will look around wide-eyed. “This is almost as pretty as Napa.”
The Gainey tasting list is plentiful and varied, so everyone’s tastes can be accommodated and you get to drink out of big lovely Riedel glasses (yes, your take-home glass is part of the fee and it has a Gainey logo but it still looks nice). And, it tastes good after that drive. The Chardonnay is a solid offering, the Merlot is popular, and drinkable, but the Cabernet Franc is my favorite on the list. But the very best thing they always do is rinse out your glass in preparation for tasting the Riesling (the sweetest wine on the list) with the Riesling. Now, that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.
Welcome to Santa Ynez wine country, the warmest welcome in the valley.