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This article originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register (October 9, 2015). Ask any winemaker and they will tell you that wine is made in the vineyard. It is not possible to make good wine from bad grapes. And, vineyards are not stagnant, offering variety. So, whether you own a vineyard or purchase fruit from a grower, winemakers are very careful in selecting their vineyards. Case in point, Larner Vineyard, situated in Ballard Canyon in Santa Ynez. Larner Vineyard, Ballard Canyon Ballard Canyon is located between Santa Ynez Mountains, a transverse mountain range, to the south and the San Rafael Mountains, created by the San Andreas Fault, to the north. Ballard Canyon is in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley and is the home to 17 vineyards and six producers. The Pacific Ocean is 17 miles to the west and fog comes in and burns off by 11:30 a.m. By 12:30 p.m. there is a cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean. Specializing in Rhone varietals, Ballard Canyon became an AVA in October 2013. Of the 600 acres planted, 300 of the acres are planted to Syrah. Larner Vineyard was planted in 1999 by founding family members Stevan, Christine, Monica and Michael Larner. Sitting at an elevation of 500-680 feet above sea level, the property is a total of 134 acres with 34 acres planted and 30-40 acres still to plant. The varietals planted are Syrah (23 acres), grenache (6 acres), viognier (2.5 acres), mourvedre (2 acres) and malvasia bianca (1.4 acres). The Larner Vineyard has transitioned from sustainable to organic and is in the process of being certified.
When I received an invitation to the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival Grand Tasting, it was the prefect excuse for a weekend getaway. The Spring Weekend Festival takes place over 4 days with the Festival Grand Tasting as the main event of the weekend. We drove up early Saturday morning to the River View Park in Buellton. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the temperatures were moderate with a lovely cool breeze.  With over 100 wineries pouring wine, along with food and music, we strolled from tent to tent to taste some of the best wines in the region.
Looking for a day trip from Los Angeles?  Heading up to Santa Barbara wine country is always a great option! It will be a full day but there is alot you can do. Start the morning off with a drive up the coast. Take the 101 freeway to CA-246 exit toward Lompoc/Solvang which is approximately 130 miles north of LA.  After the drive, you may be ready for a hearty breakfast and there is one joint that is sure to please your appetite. Ellen’s Danish Pancake House 272 Avenue of the Flags, Buellton, CA 93427 Located around the corner in Buellton, CA, Ellen’s Danish Pancake House is a family owned restaurant that is sure to curb your hunger. This full service American and Danish restaurant has a wide array of menu choices from their famous Danish pancakes, to savory steaks and seafood. Ellen’s is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. They also serve homemade jams, salad dressings, and offer daily specials. After breakfast, head 15 minutes to Santa Ynez and start wine tasting.