Thursday, May 26 , 2016, 6:17 pm | Fair 68º

El Paseo in Downtown Santa Barbara Emerging as Mecca for Wine-Tasting Opportunities

Jamie Slone Wines aims to open in August, Happy Canyons Vineyards to move in nearby bring number of outlets to 6

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

Two new wine-tasting rooms will soon open in downtown Santa Barbara’s El Paseo complex, adding to an existing collection that could be the next popular wine destination.

Jamie Slone Wines is slated to open a wine-tasting room that highlights local labels at 23 E. De la Guerra St., as soon as early August.

Happy Canyon Vineyards plans to follow, having signed a lease last week to occupy 30 El Paseo in the same complex near the grassy courtyard.

The complex in the historic downtown Presidio district already offers wine tasting at the Wine Cask, Grassini Family Vineyards, Au Bon Climat Winery and MWC32 — a recently opened reserve room showcasing lesser known work of winemaker Doug Margerum.

The common denominator in all this is Margerum, a longtime local who has been making wine in the Santa Ynez Valley since founding Margerum Wine Co. in 2001.

Margerum has a tasting room adjacent to the Wine Cask, a restaurant he helped start in 1981, sold in 2007 and then reopened with business partner Mitchell Sjerven of Intermezzo Bar + Café in 2009.

He’s also been winemaker for Santa Ynez-based Happy Canyon Vineyards since its first bottling in 2003 and will produce Jamie Slone Wines as well.

El Paseo isn’t angling to become the next Funk Zone, but owners involved in the new ventures are hopeful the area could become a part of the wine discussion.

“Certainly, the wine-tasting experience in our area is way different,” Margerum told Noozhawk. “It’s kind of a different demographic. Our hope is, of course, that we’re getting more people interested in wine and the educational aspects of wine.”

Jamie Slone, a former professional racer and wine enthusiast, said he’s happy to join five other premium producers in a historic district of a city he loves, with a home nearby and another in Arizona.

His wife, Kym, will run the couple’s first wine-tasting room that’s two years in the making, featuring three different varietals — the first bottled last month.

The space is currently being renovated and will also include a reserve room.

“We’re excited to be able to get a collection of a number of different tasting rooms in one premium location,” Slone said. “Jamie Slone Wines is about featuring the vineyards of Santa Barbara County. We’re all about an American Rivera experience. There’s so much more that goes into having a good time in the American Riviera.”

Happy Canyon general manager and winemaker Sean Pitts echoed Slone’s enthusiasm, glad to open the winery’s first stand-alone tasting room next door to MW3 in the up-and-coming area.

The family-owned and operated winery plans to energize the courtyard, using the grassy area to teach guests about polo — a game near and dear to Happy Canyon, which has two regulation polo fields on its valley property at Piocho Ranch.

“It’s an avenue to share your wine and share your story about the wine directly with the consumer,” Pitts said of the coming tasting space. “We like that crowd and like their wine, and the space became available.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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