Terroir Matches the Spectacular Ambiance at Sunstone


When the Rice family purchased 55 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley, little did they know they’d caught a terroir tiger by the tail. And that’s a good thing!


The family was new to winemaking, but they thought the slopes along the Santa Ynez River with their southern exposure, the soils with their rock and sand, the early morning fog and windy afternoons boded well for the grapevines they planned.

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Bike, Fly, Ride, Take a Train! — Different Ways to Tour California Wine Country


Back in the day, the only way to see wine country was from your car. Times of course have changed. Here are our top picks for alternate ways to view different California wine regions:


  • Temecula – Balloon ride. The simplicity of this small valley and its temperate climate (just an hour north of San Diego) makes this the perfect up, up and away locale. Champagne is the traditional after soaring toast. ( or


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One Little California Appellation You Won’t Want to Miss

Carmel Valley in Monterey County is tucked away against the Santa Lucia mountains just 11 miles south of beautiful Carmel. It’s a delightful wine country, laid back, with worthy wines and a lot more sunshine than you’ll find on the coast. The warmer climate is good news for reds like Syrah, Zin, Cab and Bordeaux blends. This little appellation offers some great restaurants and about 20 mostly small family wineries making the most of this “secret” wine country.


Added bonus: Very nearby is the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, world renowned for its Pinot Noir. And if you drive just a few miles further south on hwy. 1, you’ll discover Point Lobos State Park. There’s nothing quite like watching sea otters floating on the kelp beds eating super fresh shellfish. Try a Chardonnay with that?


Is it Time for a Winter Wine Country Splurge?


How fast can we say YES!!  Here are 3 wine country splurges that will get you going:


  1. Sunstone Villa, Santa Barbara

Oh my.  Have you ever visited a winery where there was no reason to ever leave?  Sunstone is a gorgeous property in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley, with a charming country-style tasting room and the jewel in its crown:  The Villa at Sunstone.  Every piece of this fabulous villa was brought over from small villages in France by Sunstone’s founders.  Handcrafted, just like Sunstone wines.  It offers luxury, vineyard and mountain views and an unmatched wine country stay.  This small family winery, by the way, hosts more than 100 events each year from family reunions to wedding to corporate gatherings…wine country destination, for sure! or 800-313-9463 or 805-688-9463


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Holidays in Wine Country


Being in wine country during the holidays is a terrific idea.

All the wineries are dressed up in their best holiday finery, and everybody’s in a festive mood.


The wine country also offers festive fun.  Robert Mondavi Winery kicked things off on Dec. 6th with its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony (and buggy rides through To Kalon Vineyard–fun!)

• 8th Annual Sonoma Valley Gingerbread Contest — See them at the wineries and vote for your favorites during December.

• “Wine Tasting All Winter Long” in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley. Buy a pass, and taste wines throughout the valley  anytime during the winter months.

• Dec. 1 – Dec. 31– Sonoma’s Holiday Wine Trolley – Every Wednesday, take the Holiday Wine Trolley decked out in Victorian splendor from Sonoma Square. Visit 4 festive wineries, catered lunch and get your holiday shopping done!  Fee.

• Dec. 13-14- Grape Vine Wreath Making Party, Inspiration Vineyards, Santa Rosa

• Dec. 13 – Gloria Ferrer Winery Holiday Crab Feed

• Dec. 19 – Summerland Winery’s “Ugly Sweater Party”! With wine, of course! (just south of Santa Barbara).

Sip with the Season!

It’s the Holidays — AND You Have a Small Family Winery


Too many parties, not enough time?  Wrestling with wrapping paper?  If you’re feeling overwhelmed during the “holidaze”, just consider what California’s small families wineries face.  When we spoke with Sunstone Winemaker Bion Rice the other day, second generation at this remarkable small winery in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley, we asked him was most surprised him about having a winery.  “How challenging it is, operationally.   As much as I think I can control all the elements in Nature (he laughs), the wine industry is highly complex.  Many people think it’s just farming a vineyard but there are a hundred decisions between grapes to bottle and a hundred variables.  Then, you add hospitality (Sunstone recently opened Villa Sunstone, a one-of-a-kind- ultra lux facility constructed of vintage European materials).  We have over 100 people a day on average coming to our winery.  We have 100 events a year here from weddings to private parties.  Add to this selling wine to restaurants and stores and direct to customers, our wine club …”

Add the holidays, and well, you get the picture!  Harvest time isn’t he only busy season at California’s small family wineries.

Clos Pegase — A Napa Landmark


Ah, Clos Pegase.  On hwy. 29 in Napa Valley just south of Calistoga, its elegant signature is something unique.

The sleek architectural vision of this upscale winery actually were the result of a design competition.  Spare and modern, but with classic Greek and Roman lines,
Clos Pegase is a presence in the valley.

But the vision of founders Jan and Mitsuko Shrem extended far beyond their wine facility.  As lovers of fine wine, they knew terroir was absolutely important.  They made sure to secure estate vineyards at both ends of Napa Valley, Calistoga and Carneros, so that they could make both reds and whites of outstanding character.

Jan named the Carneros estate after Mitsuko.  Jan purchased 365 acres so the vineyard could demonstrate his love for Mitsuko every day of the year.  Though the winery now has new owners, the spirit of Clos Pegase lives on in its beautiful spacious grounds, classic design and superlative wines.  The Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc featured this month in our Premier Series are beautiful examples of not only premium Clos Pegase quality but outstanding value….

It’s a winery to keep close!

David Pack’s Napa Crossroads — Great Thanksgiving Music

What happens when a Grammy award-winning producer and vocalist gets together with Napa Valley wine notables (with no musical experience) to produce an ode to Napa?  Something darn good.  Continue Reading >

Sonoma Plaza after harvest


Some places in wine country have certain seasons that we really love.  Sonoma Plaza after harvest is one of them.

At this time of year, the pressure is off the winemakers and workers — the wine is in the barrel — and it’s time to take a stroll among the huge trees of the plaza’s 8- acre park, breathe in the cold fall air and drop by one of Continue Reading >

Mountain wineries are It in fall


Any time of year, mountain wineries are cool.  Whether they’re on Howell Mountain above Napa Valley, in the topsy-turvy Santa Cruz Mountains perched over the Monterey Bay or high in the Sierra Foothills around Placerville near Lake Tahoe, they have their own special character. Continue Reading >