Why it's a good idea to join a local Wine Club
This past weekend we had the privilege of going out to Santa Rita Hills to visit Cebada Vineyard for a Champagne Brunch. Santa Rita Hills is an appellation in Santa Barbara country known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Tucked in a valley, the mountains run east to west, allowing for coastal air to travel inland for an extended, and mild growing season. While Cebada is not technically in Santa Rita Hills, the grapes enjoy the same distinctive environment.
We discovered Cebada through our friend and fellow wineo, Geena. Geena used to work at Drake back in 2014 when we were members there and was presented with the opportunity to manage Cebada. Through Geena’s dedication, Cebada has now grown into one of Santa Barbara’s most beloved tasting rooms.
We joined the Cebada wine club last fall. It is the third local wine club we’ve joined (we only allow ourselves to be in one at a time, it can get pricey if you are not careful!) It is walking distance from our house, has reasonable hours, fun décor and a bright happy atmosphere. There are some obvious reasons why you should join a wine club, and some that are more special.
Duh. This is the most obvious reason to join a local wine club! Most tasting rooms will pour members through the current flight of wines, and usually treat you to something off menu. We usually turn our visits to Cebada into a cheap date night and use it as a special place to take out of town friends (there are many of you).
No matter how commercial or how tiny, each winery and winemaker has a special story that compliments their wine. As you enjoy your free tastings, you’ll have the opportunity to engage with the staff and learn these stories.
Cebada winemaker/proprietor Sandy Newman has her own unique story. She takes a distinctive approach to her business, growing far more than just wine grapes on her farm. (Both she and Geena make a point to refer to the property as ‘the farm’ because it is so much more than a vineyard!) Sandy originally planted blueberries on her property back in the 2000s when she purchased the 100 acre parcel. Since then, she’s produced a variety of fruits and vegetables including currants, green tea, avocados, mulberries, apples and kiwi. She planted her first grapes in 2007 with her first vintage in 2011. She compliments her Cebada Wine Brand with her farm, Forbidden Fruit Orchards, to create a farm fresh experience for her visitors. Most importantly, you can taste the love and tender care that goes in to all of her products.
An example of the fusion between the wine and the farm is Sandy’s trademark Forbidden Fruit Libation, a blueberry dessert wine that ironically, does not have any grapes in it. It pairs amazingly with paring chocolate, sharp cheeses or, Sandy’s sparkling Blanc di noir.
Our visit to the Farm was for an exclusive members only event. We were greeted by Sandy this with a blueberry mimosa (2011 Blanc de Noir with a Forbidden Fruit Libation float). We were introduced to the group and we eventually sat down for brunch. Since Cebada is only about 10 years old, the wine club is still small and intimate which made for a fun bunch of people.
Brunch was amazing. Sandy and Geena partnered with The Lucky Hen Larder to create a menu that incorporated as much from the farm as seasonally possible. Over 50% of the meal was sourced directly from the farm. The highlights were the fennel-maple sausage, dried apricot and banana scores, the blueberry cornmeal muffins, the rosemary sea salt butter and the homemade blueberry pie.
We need to talk about the Bourbon Vanilla French Toast for a minute. I usually don’t like French toast but WOW! Made on half baguettes, it was not too eggy, charred to perfection and covered in powdered sugar. I topped mine with the blueberry syrup, I was in heaven. (I’m going to try and recreate this. You’ll know it was successful if you see a post about it later.)
After brunch we got the opportunity to disgorge our own champagne bottles. Disgorging is the final process in making champagne where the yeast is removed from the bottle. The yeast is pushed to the neck of the bottle, creating a seal. Under pressure, the yeast plug is released from the bottle and you’re left with crisp bubbly. This process was surprisingly manual and I now appreciate the higher price tag on sparkling wines! We took our bottle home and are saving it to celebrate Matt’s upcoming graduation.
Additional Things to Consider:
- When looking for a local wine club, there are a few things to consider.
- Are there a limit on free tastings?
- How many shipments are there a year? Can I pick them up in the tasting room? How long will you hold my shipment? How much is the cost per shipment?
- Can my boyfriend and I, who do not have the same last name, come in separately and enjoy the same perks?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- What type of events do they have? How expensive are they? How often are they? Events are great, but if they are too far away and too pricey you probably won’t go!
Cebada Wine is located at 8 E De La Guerra St | Santa Barbara | CA | 93101 where you can try all their wines and products. Their tasting menu includes a wine and chocolate flight; a Chardonnay and honey flight; a traditional flight; the famous blueberry mimosa on the weekends as well as all of the products from the farm.