AWG Correspondent

Margerum Wine Company Photos

Margerum Wine Company Review

Regions: Santa Barbara County, California

Reviewed: June 8, 2013 by
Published: August 31, 2013

If you're a wayward foodie or a wandering wine guru and you've found yourself in Santa Barbara by some strange twist of fortune, your salvation may be The Wine Cask and the adjacent tasting rooms in El Paseo, just off the beaten path of State Street. This is where you'll find the premium combination of pre-dinner wine tasting at Margerum (or the adjoining Au Bon Climat and Grassini tasting rooms) with dinner at the renowned restaurant in the courtyard. I don't know if the meaning of life can be found here in the courtyard nestled inside El Paseo complex, a 1922 addition to the 1826 Spanish adobe Casa de la Guerra (which is in the National Register of Historic Places), but I think I might have felt something close while relaxing in this small corner of paradise.

The eponymous tasting room by restaurateur Doug Margerum (owner of The Wine Cask) is set up specifically to introduce you to wines made to be paired with fine food. I was met by Rani McLean, the tasting room manager, who aside from being personable, is also passionate about fermented grape juice. She walked me through a $10 tasting (right at closing time, while they were setting up for an event - I'd have kicked me out) of five solid wines and one sneak taste of Amaro (you'll want to ask for this). As with most tasting rooms, if you buy $50 worth of wine, you get the tasting fee waived.

She started me with the 2011 Klickitat Pinot Gris from Washington State. The minerals and citrus were self-evident from the nose, with some tickling CO2 that suggests very cold fermentation. Apparently this is one of those classic stories of man goes fishing in Washington, man sees beautiful land for sale, man makes good wine from beautiful land. The next wine was a Grenache Blanc that was a little toasty, had some cucumber notes, and is unfortunately moving out of the portfolio.

The midpoint of the tasting was the flagship 2010 "M5" Rhone blend that mimics Chateauneuf-du-Pape (a personal favorite). This blend is pepper and rhubarb pie with excellent complexity and a full mouthfeel. This is what I'd be having for dinner if I were staying to enjoy the pork (although the scallops are really where The Wine Cask excels).

Next was the 09 Piocho Reserve from Happy Canyon. This blend is 62% mature Cabernet Sauvignon vines, 19% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged in French barrels and harkens directly to the Medoc Bordeaux style. I detected fennel, licorice, and black coffee after some initial black cherry, and I was told there were hints of chocolate, although I didn't catch them (I confess it was late in my tasting day).

The final taste on the list was the 08 Margerum single vineyard Syrah from Black Oak Vineyard. I loved the espresso and dark berries, to go with medium astringency and a full mouthfeel.

This Syrah would have closed the tasting nicely by itself, but Rani surprised me with a small taste of Margerum's Amaro, which is an herbal infused fortified wine. Think Port but with herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary. It's bittersweet and operates as a soothing digestif. When you drop into Margerum, make sure to ask for the Amaro at the end.

This is by far the most classy experience I had while in Santa Barbara. Be prepared to spend $50-80 per person for dinner, drinks, wine, dessert, atmosphere, and service; which in my opinion is a great value for the quality and quantity of all aforementioned.

Address & Contact Information: 813 Anacapa Street Santa Barbara, California 93101. Telephone: 805-845-2034, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 12:00-6:00.

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