Crouching awkwardly on the windward rail, I began sliding slowly under the wire guard rail and was becoming fairly certain I was either going to blow out a knee or simply fall into the ocean. I had not asked to be rail meat in a yacht race off the coast of Santa Barbara, and my current distress was happening as we were turning around a large buoy at a pivotal point in the race. Perched on top of the buoy were several seals, and they were making quite a racket as we passed.I imagine they were laughing. As I tried to shift my position to get more comfortable, I slipped farther, and my foot plunged into the water.

   Three of us from Binny's, Jeff, Bob, and myself, were sent to California recently to attend Hospice du Rhone, an annual tasting of Rhone style wines from France, Australia, Spain and the U.S. The event takes place in Paso Robles and is a great chance to get caught up with California Syrah, Grenache, and other Rhone blends and varietals. We went out a couple days early in order to try some wines from other Central Coast wineries. Our adventure began in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara is a wonderful place to visit. If you like miles of clean beaches on the ocean, wonderful restaurants, great authentic Mexican food, and an increasingly large number of local wine tasting rooms, Santa Barbara is not to be missed. We arrived early Wednesday afternoon, and headed to Kunin's new tasting room. They make very nice Syrah and Viognier and are a must stop on any wine lovers trip to Santa Barbara.

   After Kunin, we headed to Jaffurs. They have been on a roll making outstanding wines over the last few years. This winery, a favorite of the magazine Wine Spectator, makes great Syrah, Petite Sirah and Grenache. On this particular trip I was impressed with the Grenache, which was bright and lively but not over the top. Jaffurs is probably my number one stop when in Santa Barbara, but there are many other choices such as Santa Barbara Winery, Westerly, and a local favorite called Kalyra. Its a fun town to explore, the people are friendly, and if you ask the locals questions you can get great tips on places to visit.

   After our visit to Jaffurs, Bob said that a winemaker friend of his had invited us on a 'boat ride. Sure, great, that sounds like fun!

   I managed to regain my balance, pull my foot out of the water, and generally untangle myself. As we pulled into shore, it was starting to get dark, nearing the end of a long travel day. The yacht pulling in next to us had a baby seal sitting on the back of their boat, catching the last few rays of sun. Only in Santa Barbara.

   We were invited inside for a beer, but it was time for us to hop in our rent a car (a very clunky Dodge Avenger) and head north to wine country.

Coming soon-Wine trip Part 2- A Night in Buelton.