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Donna Polizzi

Here & There

Donna Polizzi: Foxen Canyon Wine Trail Ready to Spread Christmas Cheer

Festive and fun, 3rd annual Christmas on the Trail passport program scheduled for Dec. 9-10


Did you know that in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Wine Country, 13 fantastic wineries line a 30-mile stretch of road between Los Olivos and Santa Maria? Affectionately known as the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, this area is perfect for a day trip or weekend escape to enjoy exceptional wine and beautiful views.

Since Rancho Sisquoc Winery first opened its doors in the early 1970s at 6600 Foxen Canyon Road near the historic San Ramon Chapel, the area has become a popular destination for travelers and locals. In addition to the wine, they find peacefully meandering roads with horses trotting in the hills, cattle grazing in fields of wildflowers, old barns and live oak trees loaded with sphagnum moss and mistletoe.

Each winery on the route has its own personality and character, making each one a unique adventure to experience.

The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail isn’t just about pretty landscapes, though. From these historic barns and palatial estates, winemakers are crafting wines that consistently rate 90+ scores from respected wine journals. Foxen Winery recently received two 96-, one 95- and two 94-point ratings from Wine Enthusiast.

Many wineries are open daily, so anytime is a great time to hit the trail and sample these world-class, award-winning wines.

On the northernmost edge of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in Santa Maria is Cottonwood Canyon Winery at 3940 Dominion Road. This inviting tasting room overlooks 76 acres of rolling hills and vineyards. They are known for distinctively different, age-worthy wines, and offer tours of their wine caves.

Riverbench Vineyard Tasting Room, 6020 Foxen Canyon Road, is one of my favorites, because of the setting and its excellent sparkling wines.

If you like stainless steel Chardonnay that’s layered and lively, head to Cambria Winery, 5475 Chardonnay Lane, for the Fog Tide Chardonnay. It’s also one of my favorites. Cambria’s 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir is an excellent dry, easy sipping wine.

Along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, 5230 Tepusquet Road, also offers some unique varietals, like Blaufränkisch and Malvasia Bianca.

All wineries encourage bringing a picnic or snacks to enjoy with your wine, and Martian Ranch & Vineyard, 9110 Alisos Canyon Road; Zaca Mesa Winery, 6905 Foxen Canyon Road; and Fess Parker Winery, 6200 Foxen Canyon Road, all have beautiful picnicking spots.

If you’d like to meet some emus while sampling Grenache, head over to Koehler Winery, 5360 Foxen Canyon Road.

If you’re looking for an excuse to visit this area, then mark Dec. 9-10 on your calendars for the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail’s Third Annual Christmas on the Trail passport event. It’s festive and fun, and the wineries exude Christmas cheer, including exclusive wine deals to passport holders. They also deck their halls with boughs of holly.

Once you buy your $45 passport, you get 20, 1-ounce pours you can redeem at any of the participating wineries on the trail. Try the Petit Verdot from Firestone Vineyards, 5017 Zaca Station Road; Andrew Murray’s Syrah at Andrew Murray Vineyards, 5249 Foxen Canyon Road; and Koehler Winery’s Sangiovese before heading to Tres Hermanas, 9660 Foxen Canyon Road, for its Grenache Blanc and Viognier.

Twenty ounces is roughly four glasses, so you can share your passport with a friend and attend both days of the event. Also included with your passport is a logo wine glass and a special stocking stuffer for you.

On Dec. 9, each winery will offer small treats like cheese and charcuterie, local chocolates, Christmas cookies and other delectable bites to enjoy with your wine. On Dec. 10, the wineries will host experiences like live music, olive oil tastings, wine cave viewings, barrel tastings and more.

If you start on the north end of the trail, consider staying at the Chumash Casino Resort & Spa, 3400 E. Highway 246 in Santa Ynez — especially if a massage or Sunday brunch sounds good.

If you begin your adventure on the south end of the trail and end up in Santa Maria, I recommend staying at the Radisson Hotel, at 3455 Skyway Drive, or the Santa Maria Inn, 801 S. Broadway, which was recently remodeled to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Head out to wine country and have some fun! Jingle all the way along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. Christmas on the Trail Passports are good for both Dec. 9 and 10. Click here to purchase tickets online, or email [email protected] for more information.

— Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys 2 the Coast, a free Central Coast travel resource providing honest recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She also is a board member of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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