Show 312, February 23, 2019: Winemakers Gray Hartley and Chef Frank Ostini, Hitching Post Wines, Buellton

Frank Ostini and Gray HartleyIt’s hard to believe but before last year Hitching Post Wines (made famous in the Oscar-winning 2004 feature motion picture, Sideways,) never had a tasting room. That all changed for the better last year when acclaimed winemakers Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini debuted a mid-century farmhouse, destination Tasting Room (with lunch service delivered from Hitching Post 2) adjacent to Chef Ostini’s Hitching Post 2 restaurant in Buellton.

Leading the Hitching Post Wines team are the creators and two long-time friends, Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini, who have been making wines in Santa Barbara County, California since 1979. Long before Hollywood discovered the winemaking landmark and its excellent wines, Gray Hartley, a former Alaskan salmon fisherman and Frank Ostini, chef and owner of the famed Hitching Post 2 Restaurant in Buellton, were brought together by their love of wine and winemaking. Over the years their backyard hobby has turned into a highly acclaimed winemaking enterprise.

A special quality of Hitching Post Wines Tasting Room is the back patio area and the expansive picnic grounds with incredible valley views. The “HP 2 You” Lunch comes over piping hot from the Hitching Post 2 restaurant. Enjoy specialties including Grilled Artichoke with Smoked Tomato Mayo and the Oak Grilled Cheeseburger. Appetizers (HP Steak Bites & more) are served daily after 2:30 p.m. until close.

Most of the Hitching Post Wines are available by the glass in the picnic area alfresco. The various Tasting Flights (Traditional and Reserve Tasting) are available inside the front HPW Tasting Room.

Gray & Frank pop the cork on a bottle of their signature Highliner for us.


Show 312, February 23, 2019: Royce Lewellen, Co-Proprietor, Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards, Solvang

Lucas LewellenLucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards, established in 1996, owns and farms three vineyards in Santa Barbara County. They have been supplying grapes to some of the finest wineries in California for decades. Lucas & Lewellen believes that quality begins in the vineyard, where all the work is done by hand and standards of uncompromising quality are maintained.

“This philosophy was carried on through the opening of the winery in 1999, with the goal of consistently producing estate wines of extraordinary character, reflecting the unique terroir of Santa Barbara County wine country. Megan McGrath Gates, winemaker since 2007, responds to the varying conditions and challenges that each year brings in the vineyard in order to express the natural individuality of each grape varietal grown.”

Lucas & Lewellen’s other label is Toccata with its own Tasting Room on Copenhagen Dr. in Solvang located one block away from the Lucas & Lewellen Tasting Room. Its estate grown traditional Italian varietals.

Co-proprietor Royce Lewellen is our guest.


Show 297, November 10, 2018: Robin & Brian Christenson, Proprietors, Blinking Owl Distillery, Santa Ana

It’s time for an encore visit with the husband-and-wife proprietors of Blinking Owl Distillery in Santa Ana, Orange County’s first craft distillery. Blinking Owl Craft Cocktails are now available at LA Rams home games served at a dedicated bar at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Selections include OC Orange Mule, Tailgate Tonics, The Cocktail Kicker and Tropical Touchdown (Blinking Owl Vodka, Lime Juice, Passion Fruit Liqueur and Soda.)

Brian’s Single Barrel, First Batch Birthday Bourbon has just been released in a 290 bottle batch. We’ll find out about it. It’s been aging in barrel for 2 years!

A straight Rye Whiskey is also currently aging. It could be released anytime between now and the end of 2019. We’ll get a progress report.

Also a kitchen is soon on the menu at Blinking Owl. At long last – food and libations. We’ll get the tempting food report from Robin.

Tasting and Distillery Tours are available. The Tasting Room is open Thursday through Sunday. Tours by appointment.



Show 289, September 8, 2018: Rob Rubens, Proprietor & Head Distiller, R6 Distillery & Smoky Hollow Tasting & Taproom, El Segundo

Rob RubensEl Segundo’s R6 Distillery & Smoky Hollow Tasting & Taproom was established in 2014 by Head Distiller Rob Rubens. Rob fell in love with the mystery and art of distillation after his first (and unplanned) trip to Old New Orleans Rum Distillery. He realized it was time for a change.

After scraping together savings, visiting plenty of distilleries and breweries, it was time to perhaps start another great wave. Coupling his experience with the desire to bring quality spirits to greater Los Angeles, Rob decided to open this speakeasy inspired distillery for everyone to enjoy.

Product highlights include R6 Vodka, R6 Blue Corn Bourbon, R6 Bourbon, R6 Rye, R6 Single Malt Whiskey, R6 Wheat Whiskey and R6 Rum.

There is a real Mixologist creating the signature cocktails in the Tasting Room. Think Smoked Old Fashioned with R6 Smoked Bourbon, sugar, and Ango Orange.


Show 288, September 1, 2018: Chef Frank Ostini, Hitching Post 2 and Hitching Post Wines, Buellton

Frank OstiniChef Frank Ostini’s Hitching Post 2 restaurant in Buellton is a beloved local institution known for incredible Santa Maria – style BBQ. Chef Frank and Gray Hartley are the creators and winemakers of Hitching Post Wines (Highliner Pinot Noir) made famous around the world in the Academy Award-winning feature motion picture, Sideways, released in 2004.

Surprisingly there has never been a Hitching Post Wines Tasting Room until just recently. Chef Frank Ostini takes us on a tour of the Hitching Post Wines Tasting Room conveniently located next door to the Restaurant on E. Highway 246 in Buellton.

Lunch (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily) for the Tasting Room (and wine pairings) will initially come (via a custom delivery tricycle) from the kitchen at the adjacent Hitching Post 2 restaurant known for Santa Maria-style BBQ. Look for HP Burgers, Triple-Fried French Fries, Santa Maria BBQ Artichokes and Grilled Corn Quesadillas. In the next phase a restored and converted Airstream kitchen trailer along with HP Santa Maria grills will be onsite and offering a broader menu.

There is quite a fascinating history to the picturesque, expanded property.


Show 281, July 14, 2018: Jack Lien, SakeOne, Forest Grove, Oregon

Jack LienNear the foodie mecca that is Portland, OR is SakeOne, located in Forest Grove, “America’s Premium Sake Company.” Why a Sake brewery in Tualatin Valley, OR? Foremost it’s the pristine, naturally soft water quality.

SakeOne brews three lines of premium Sake in Oregon including Momokawa, Moonstone and G Sake. At their Forest Grove brewery you can enjoy Premium Sake Flights in their Tasting Room and also partake of their educational Brewery Tour (at no charge.)

Sake is an ancient beverage dating back nearly 3,000 years, but began its refinement about 1,000 years ago. Today’s premium styles of sake (Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo, and others) are only about forty-five years old and still not a significant percentage of all sake produced. But, in the US, premium sake is more than half the market and growing.

“At SakéOne we tap into the idyllic waters of Oregon’s Willamette Valley to brew pure, premium saké in a variety of styles. Check out our bold and crisp G Saké, fruit-infused Moonstone and versatile Momokawa brands.”

We’ll hear about the Sake brewing process, and a lot more, from SakeOne’s resident expert, Jack Lien.



Show 277, June 16, 2018: Charles T. Williams, Master Shrubber, Broken Clock Vinegar Works, Solvang, CA

Charles CT WilliamsShrub cocktails (both with alcohol and virgin) are now on the menu at better bars everywhere. Enter Solvang’s CT and Jody Williams who have long been in the beverage industry, both working in the wine industry for the last 15 years and owning their own wine bar for the last eleven of those. In that time, a love of organic gardening has quite literally taken over their backyard and with that a fascination for all things that can be produced from the plethora of fruits, veggies and roots coming out of their soil.

After enjoying some shrub cocktails at a local restaurant they started thinking how fun it would be to start making their own for home consumption. Naturally, that led to the idea to be able to share these fun flavors with other farm-minded people who love the science of infusing and fermentation.

From there Broken Clock Vinegar Works was born, as these drinking vinegars can be enjoyed anytime of day, either with a dash of your favorite spirit or with a glass of sparkling water. The Williams’ daughter, Audrey, enjoys sipping Shrub sodas when she’s feeling fancy! She’s also very helpful at the winery doing punch downs and taste testing new flavors.

The Broken Clock Vinegar works will soon debut their Tasting Room on June 23rd. It’s the only certified Winery in Solvang. Tastings can be scheduled there by appointment.

We’re fans of the Prickly Pear & Kaffir Lime Shrub.

Founder CT Williams (and Master Shrubber) has all the quaffable 411 for us.


Show 237, August 19, 2017: Robin & Brian Christenson, Founders, Blinking Owl Distillery, Santa Ana

Brian and Robin ChristensonSanta Ana’s The Blinking Owl Distillery is the very first craft distillery in Orange County. The Blinking Owl is one of the first distilleries in the state of California to hold the Type 74 Craft Distillers License allowing them to operate their own tasting room and sell a few bottles there. The Distillery makes Vodka, Gin, several types of Whiskey, and the Scandinavian spirit, Aquavit.

“We are locavores, grain nerds, and control freaks so we decided to actually make our booze the long way: from grain rather than pre-made spirit. We mill it, mash it, ferment it, distill it, and, in the case of whiskey, barrel age it (which means we will not have a 9-year old Bourbon to sell until 9 years from now).”

“The Founder, Brian Christenson, had a bootlegging great-grandfather, Fred P. Armbrust. Fred had a still on his dairy farm hidden in the basement behind secret passageways. He would covertly provide his local farmers with his “good spirits”. Brian’s dream is to carry on Fred’s passion by providing “good spirits” to our very own neighborhood, legally, of course!”

Brian and Robin Christenson, longtime Santa Ana residents, had heard stories of the midcentury “Blinking Owl Bar” on the corner of Birch and Third Streets, known for an iconic owl sign that would “blink”. Inspired by the craft cocktail movement, the farm-to-table food movement, and current thriving craft distilleries, the husband and wife team saw an opportunity to bring a local distillery to the neighborhood, paying homage to the history of Santa Ana.”

Brian & Robin step out from behind the long bar in their Tasting Room to join us.


Show 217, April 1, 2017: Kim Murray, Proprietress, Beach House Winery, Oceanside

Kimberly MurrayOceanside’s Beach House Winery is an award-winning winery with all wines produced onsite. Two and one-half acres of the four-acre site are planted in vineyards.

The Winery offers unrivaled ocean and panoramic views of San Diego County, and is the first vineyard “Vigna al Mare” (Vineyard at the Sea) and winery established in this beautiful seaside community. The comfortable Tasting Room is open on Weekends and by appointment.

Beach House Winery’s pursuits are providing fine wines with time-honored processes to be enjoyed with family and friends.

Proprietress Kimberly Murray is our guide through the vineyard.


Show 191, October 1, 2016: Anita Lau, Mad Hungry Woman blogger

Anita Lau of Mad Hungry WomanThe Mad Hungry Woman blogger, Anita Lau, joins us with a gem of a San Diego County dining discovery in Del Mar. This is Tasting Room Del Mar with both outdoor and indoor seating.

Earlier in his career the chef there, Steven Lona, was part of the opening team at both Marche Moderne in South Coast Plaza as well as Charlie Palmer’s at Bloomingdales in South Coast Plaza. No wonder the food is first-rate.

The standout dish for Anita was the Pork Belly “because it is absolutely fantastic.” The full review is available on her blog.

Anita also shares her first impressions (especially the libations) of the long-in-the-works El Mercado Modern Cuisine in Santa Ana. This is a new concept from the chef/proprietor (Daniel Godinez) of the highly regarded Anepalco.