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Winos Rejoice

Great finds, affordable prices.

Whoa, I started out pretty strong with a bank robbery, right? So let's go in a different direction and talk about one of my passions - wine!! Not sure I should be proud of this or not, but one of my baby's first words was "whhine".

I truly love the flavors in adult grape juice (the buzz doesn't hurt either :), and don't think it needs to cost a lot to be a treat for your tastebuds. My husband and I have become quite the connoisseurs, not in a pretentious way, we just love venturing out and discovering new wines.

Everyone's palates are different, but here are the CA wineries that me, my better half (Damon), and my bestie (Tracee) love:

  • Buscador (Santa Ynez) - An independent winery founded and ran by Matt, a pessimistic, yet funny guy who is fun to chat with. His wine does not disappoint.

When Damon and I first discovered this gem, we were running down Industrial Way to make it to tasting rooms before they closed. We got there 15 minutes before closing time and went to a cute wine tasting room (one which will not be named) - they rudely told us they couldn't serve us. Feeling dejected, we wandered next door to Buscador. Empty, surf-themed with a warm wood and wine vibe, we danced to the radio playing overhead. Matt, the owner, eventually came in dragging his signs in from the street. He told us to stay and gave us a full tasting and I'm so glad he did - we're now members and fans for life! We left with a case of his wine and walked by the rude ladies who denied us a tasting earlier. It was such a perfect Pretty Woman moment. "Big mistake. Huge!"

  • Carucci (Los Olivos) - Another independent winery, founded and run by Eric, a dad with a good sense of humor. Wine quality is inconsistent, but when it's good, it's awesome. His standouts are Grenache and Rose. We are members!

  • Dawn's Dream (Carmel) - A cute spot in downtown Carmel with amazing Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Chards can be divisive, but I love this one - smooth and creamy. The Pinot Noirs are named after the winemaker's daughters - all different and all delicious. We are new members!

  • Eberele (Paso Robles) - We showed up for a tasting to learn it was free, which is unheard of these days! Sitting outside staring out at vines that span as far as the eye can see, we sipped and let the peaceful atmosphere wash over us. They offer cave tours and were even grilling up BBQ grub for free too. Tracee signed up instantly to be a member, something I regret not doing.

  • McKinney (Santa Ynez) - A winery ran by a good-looking, cocky guy who knows his stuff. My friends call this "hot guy wine". We found this beautiful winery on a bachelorette trip. Expensive wine, so you have to be ok spending a lot. We were members, but just canceled due to the price point. I must admit, every varietal is incredible though.

  • Vino Robles (Paso Robles) - Talk about really good, affordable wines! They have a large selection of wines to choose from, some of which are even available at your local Vons. Home to an amphitheater, it's a great place to listen to live music, which pairs exceptionally well with wine.

  • Wiens (Temecula) - Sooooo many wines to choose from here. Not the best wines I've ever had, but all great porch pounders and affordable too. Definitely a winery worth checking out. (We used to love their neighboring winery Ponte too, until they sadly changed winemakers.)

  • Whalebone (Paso Robles) - Amazing views and home-grown bold, smooth wines. This family-run winery is known for their cult favorite "Bob" blend. They attribute their success to the soil their grapes grow in. Actual whalebones were unearthed when planting their vines – thus their name.

Now you might notice that no Napa wines made this list. We certainly enjoy wines from that region, but are more drawn to Central and SoCal wines. Napa is also a bit pricey for us. I will share more great finds as time goes on since 2023 will no doubt include multiple wine-tasting trips!


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