Sunstone Winery Santa Ynez

Tracy and I set out on a road trip to Santa Barbara to do a little site seeing and have some lunch.  Having left late, we were met by huge crowds and no parking.  Wanting to enjoy some time away from home, we decided to continue up the coast and go to Solvang.  As we approached Solvang, we saw the sign for Sunstone Winery. Having seen pictures and hearing about their cave, it didn't take much to convince us to stop and see what they had to offer.  Driving up and walking through a vine covered archway, you are greeted by a French style Courtyard and picnic ground where people are sitting around enjoying the outdoors with a glass of wine.  To the right of the vine covered archway is a beautiful tasting room also reflecting the French motif.  Across the courtyard are two large wooden doors on a stone masonry structure that is built into the side of the hill.  This is the location of their barrel aging cave and is frequently used for special events by club members. Walking into the tasting room we were warmly greeted by the staff of Sunstone.  

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As we approached the bar, Jonathan Flores introduced himself and asked if we would like to taste their wines.  Who could refuse.  Sunstone has two different tasting flights from which to select.  They have the "Classic List" and the "Reserve List" to choose from.  Sunstone's primary emphasis is on Rhone and Bordeaux red varietals being their primary focus but they do have a very nice selection of white wines.  Johnathan began to talk about the history and how Sunstone Winery came into to existence.  Fred and Linda Rice purchased 52 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley in 1989.  Linda said, “Our goal was to create a place where wine and food could be enjoyed in a picturesque atmosphere." They have definitely captured this. The Sunstone Winery was opened in 1990 and thet were immediately challenged receiving a delivery of what was suppose to be Merlot grape vines only to discover that they were actually Viognier vines.  To this day they still bottle Viognier.  Fred and Linda's steadfast philosophy is using only organic farming practices and to the highest level.  They are true environmentalist and work hard to maintain these principles at Sunstone.  

As you drive to the tasting room you will see signs that provide directions to the tasting room and The Villa.  The Villa is private and located above Sunstone Winery with a view of the vineyards and Santa Ynez Valley.  Built in 1999 this 8500 square foot Villa consists of materials from various regions of France. These materials consist of architectural remains of buildings from reclamation yards, giving the Villa a very rustic appearance with many items containing a lot of history.  After listening to some of the historical background on Sunstone, Johnathan provided us with a selection of wines that showcased their winery.  

  • NV Brut - 100% Pinot Noir that has a unique brilliance due to it's nice acid level.  The acid balances the mild sweetness along with beautiful flavors of green apples and lemon.

  • 2013 Pinot Noir - The grapes used in this beautiful Pinot are from Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards of Santa Ynez.  Medium bodied with flavors of black raspberries and bing cherries.

  • 2014 Rhapsodie - Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (GSM).  On the palate you will taste dark fruits such as plums, blackberries and raspberries with a beautiful acid balance.  One of many of our favorites at Sunstone.

  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine provided a beautiful fruit profile on the palate consisting of Blackberries and raspberries in a somewhat fruit forward profile along with beautiful mocha flavors.  

Jonathan provided us with a very unique surprise and poured two Cabernet Francs for us to try.  Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite wines and there was a unique difference between them.

  • 2013 Cabernet Franc - Very subtle and well integrated fruits and acids and perfectly balanced.  This wine reminded me a lot of an "Old World" wine. On the palate you get black cherry and raspberries along with peppery spices.

  • 2014 Cabernet Franc - This wine was more "New World" with bright red fruits such as cherries and again the distinctive peppery spices can be noted on the palate.

It was interesting that not one outshone the other from the people tasting this vertical. It was more defined by the style that each person enjoyed.  Tracy chose the 2014 and I the 2013 as favorites.  It is amazing how environmental conditions between these two years could develop such a unique and different wines.  Both were spectacular.

The star of the day was Sunstone's 2014 EROS, which is a Meritage following a French "Right Bank" Bordeaux" blend.  "Right Bank" Bordeaux wines use a large percentage of Merlot compared to the "Left Bank" which use Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is only released on Valentines Day every year.  The label on the EROS bottles is created for Sunstone by a resident artist, James Paul Brown.  The wine, OMG!  This is a beautiful example of a California Meritage that has some definite weight using a blend of 49% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Gorgeous red fruit flavors of blackberries and cherries that are beautifully integrated with acid.  On the palate, you get a smooth silkiness that lasts for a fairly long time.  This wine is to die for.

Though I did not see the Estate (private)or the Cave due to maintenance being performed, it was a fantastic adventure talking with Jonathan.  Add Sunstone to your bucket list next time you are in the Santa Ynez Valley or going to Solvang.  Guaranteed you will not be disappointed.  The care and hospitality given to patrons is outstanding.  Not to mention the spectacular wines, architecture and view.


Rusty Sly