Wine Tasting Santa Barbara: Sweet Tooth Edition

This story originally appeared in California Winery Advisor.

When we go wine tasting, so much of what we remember are the experiential tastings. A walk in the vineyard, a barrel tasting, one-on-one with the winemaker and food and wine pairings are all experiences that one will recall once they get home. I found two memorable wine tasting experiences in Santa Barbara that took food and wine pairing to another level.

Cheese is the most common wine pairing at a winery. There are also pairings with tapas and chocolates, as well as with molecular gastronomy spoon bites in which an entire meal is deconstructed and then reconstructed into one bite that mimics the dish. I once found a pairing with snack foods.

The common theme with most wine and food pairings is that the wine is paired with savory bites. But the key with wine and food pairing is to have fun and try different things to see what will work. So, if you have a sweet tooth, here are two fun wine tasting Santa Barbara experiences – with cookies and cupcakes.

Cookies and Wine at Loring Wine Company

420 East Hwy 246, Buellton, CA 93

We are not talking Chips Ahoy, mint Milanos and Girl Scouts cookies at this Santa Barbara wine tasting. At Loring Wine Company, the wines are paired with artisan cookies created by Tasting Room Manager April Pharoah who is also chef and owner of Mela Foods, which specializes in baked products for wine and beer pairings.

Inspired by the pinot noirs produced at Loring Wine Company, April began experimenting with cookies as they were something that could be pre-prepared and did not need to be heated up or refrigerated before serving. Playing with different flavors, and using a shortbread base for most of the cookies, she has created a dozen different cookies to date.

The cookies are not sweet and sugary, as the more sugar in a cookie will make the wine more bitter, April explained. Loring Wine Company started in 1999 by Brian Loring, focuses on fruit-forward pinot noirs and April has created a different cookie to pair with the wines.

A Sample Wine and Cookie Pairing:

2015 Santa Lucia Highlands AVA Chardonnay paired with a lemon brulee cookie – The wine has notes of apple, baking spices, and stone fruit. When paired with the cookie, the citrus notes of the cookie shine while the cookie softens the acidity of the wine.

2013 Mateo Russian River Pinot Noir paired with Montmorency cherry shortbread – The pinot noir, with notes of cherry, herbs and soft spices, hit the front of the palate on first sip. But with the cookie, the cherry notes popped and the wine shined as it filled the palate.

2015 Santa Lucia Highlands AVA Pinot Noir and 2014 Kessler Haak Vineyard Pinot Noir paired with fig and gorgonzola shortbread– With this pairing, the savory cookie reacted differently with each wine. With the dark red fruit and earthy Santa Lucia pinot noir, the gorgonzola in the cookie is what stood out. But with the spicy, cherry Kessler Haak pinot noir, the wine was elevated.

2015 Rancho La Vina Vineyard Pinot Noir paired with a Mexican hot chocolate cookie – The dark cherry, spice and earthy notes of the wine were in perfect balance with the cookie.

Cupcakes and Wine at Saarloos & Sons

2971 Grand Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441

Saarloos & Sons is a family farming operation who believes that “we live to honor those that have come before us, and to prepare the way for those to come.” The family farms every vine themselves from their Windmill Ranch in Los Olivos and each wine they produce is under 400 cases in total production. Their charming, eclectic tasting room is in an old house in the town of Los Olivos.

Amber Vander Vliet, a baker, opened Enjoy Cupcakes in 2009 in Santa Barbara. In addition to her shop in downtown Santa Barbara at the Santa Barbara Public Market, her cupcakes are available at Saarloos & Sons. Each week she would bring them into the tasting room and people started to eat the cupcakes with the wines.

Saarloos & Sons began officially offering a wine pairing with mini-cupcakes, six unique flavors that change each week. Each cupcake, which itself is not sweet, has a little bit of cream filling and a little cream on top. This creates a truly unique wine tasting Santa Barbara experience.

A Sample Wine and Cupcake Pairing:

11 (Eleven), My Daughter 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc with a strawberry orange chardonnay cupcake – The citrus notes of the wine really came out when paired with the cupcake.

Extended Family 2014 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley with a vanilla malt with “fries” cupcake – Combined with tart cherry and cola notes of the wine, the pairing was a mini drive-in meal.

Workhorse 2014 Estate Syrah, Windmill Ranch Vineyard with a chocolate blackberry syrah cupcake – The dark chocolate and dark fruit flavors of the cupcake really brightened up the wine.

19Fifty111 The Anniversary 2014 Cabernet/Syrah with a sundae pie cupcake with Oreo filling – The wine on its own had aromas of dark fruit and tobacco but the sweetness of the cupcake brought out fruit notes of the wine.

Honor & Prepare 2014 Estate Petit Sirah with a Samoa cupcake topped with dulce de leche frosting and caramel drizzle – The big tannic wine was sweeter and rounder when paired with the sweet cupcake.

Courage 2014 Silver Eagle ODG Field Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with a snickerdoodle cupcake – The cinnamon in the cupcake was a harmonious pairing with the cabernet sauvignon.

Read the original story in California Winery Advisor.