AWG Correspondent

Municipal Winemakers Photos

Municipal Winemakers Review

Regions: Santa Barbara County, California

Reviewed: February 23, 2013 by
Published: March 3, 2013

Welcome to Santa Barbara, just under two hours north from Los Angeles. The seat of the eponymous wine valley, university, and beach, Santa Barbara's seaside surfer culture and Mediterranean climate will woo you into forgetting the stop-and-go traffic of the 405 or the trauma of incessant smog. "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys spills out of open doors onto the sidewalks, inviting you to say hello to neighbors, grab a latte, and just enjoy the day from behind your shades. It would sound too good to be true - and I'm sure it is; but it's easy to experience a lot of goodness in this town. Especially if you stick to Anacapa street, where you'll find tasting rooms like Municipal Wines.

The Municipal tasting room is within view and earshot of the lightly crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. Walking up to the large, open, garage-like tasting room, I instantly begin to relax. This is not a place for wine snobs, it is a place for youngish artists who like to drink wine and contemplate modern existence. The wines and glasses are stored in old filing cabinets stacked so high on the wall that the attendants must have a tall ladder hidden somewhere behind the bar. I visited on a Monday morning in February, but I could easily sense that this place holds some fun, eclectic parties on weekends.

Asking around, I learn that this part of Santa Barbara is lovingly called the "Funk Zone" in reference to the artistically reclaimed urban decay that starts at the waterfront and apparently extends to somewhere near Metropolous Cafe (which is a great between-tasting snack break). It's walkable, it's artsy, and it's right by the beach. What more could you want for a good party? Oh yeah, good wine.

Cue Municipal Wines.

The menu shows mostly Rhone blends and varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan, etc.), with few details about the exact conditions of the vines or processes. I'm told the mind behind Municipal, Dave Potter - who is an associate winemaker at Fess Parker - runs a little rebellious to the usual food chain of the wine industry. He wants to "meet" the people who drink his wine, to be the local winemaker. Which means you won't find Municipal's wines in many (if any) stores or restaurants. The exclusivity and scarcity does add a sense of excitement to the environment, I must admit.

I tasted one white, three reds, and one sparkling Shiraz. I was prepared to get judgmental to somehow counteract the coolness of my surroundings as I sat listening to The Talking Heads somehow weave effortlessly into the same soundtrack with The Beach Boys; but I was happy to find that the wines were all better than average, and at times quite adventurous.

As the fresh salty air and bright sun rebounds around the wide-open industrial setting, I am handed a taste of the 2012 Sweetness. This Riesling from Kick-on Ranch is refreshing, light, and off-dry with nice crisp acids and a round softness. It's a nice start. Next comes the 2011 Bright Red, which is a comfortable blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Counoise, and Syrah that softly displays cherry notes and bright tannins. These two tastes are nice introductions that go with the ambience.

Then the best of Municipal came out: the 2011 MCS. This Mourvedre, Carignan, Syrah blend from Camp Four Vineyard shows red pepper on the nose, and chocolate covered cherry on the palate. The medium body and buzzy tannins gives it a steady mouthfeel with some nice lingering leather. This was my favorite from Municipal. It could stand a little more time to gather the tannins and deliver more sophistication; but I'm not sure that's the point. This wine was made to help you remember that life is best lived now, in the moment.

I also tasted the 2010 Fox Family Vineyard from Fess Parker's head winemaker Blair Fox. The most complex and interesting of the wines on display at Municipal, this 100% Grenache paired bitter cacao and espresso with raisins and red berries. If you plan to sit for a while and sip a glass, this one will evolve with spice and herbs as it lingers and opens.

And to end with a flourish, I was poured a taste of the 2010 Fizz. This sparkling Shiraz is dry, tannic, and tongue-tying. Sparkling reds are interesting beasts – usually tough to get exactly right. The Fizz gave little if any residual sweetness, and a raisin palate with bubbles that felt a little out of place at times. If you like artistic wine adventures, it might be perfect for you. I wanted to go back to the Grenache and just sit outside on the porch penning the great American novel, personally.

This is a great place to start or end your wine tasting experience in Santa Barbara. You have five or six great options for wine within walking distance if it's too crowded or not exactly your style, and it's the closest to the beach in case you need to feel the sand between your toes. If you are looking for the busy bar, come in on Saturday, when you can meet Dave and get a full room of local and visiting artists. If you are looking to sit and enjoy, Sundays are the best time to relax and visit. The wines on tap rotate frequently because the winemakers are artists themselves and because the supportive weekend following will make sure to empty at least one of the barrels by Monday.

Hannah led our tasting and was charming and bright. In all, it's nice to know I have this relaxing, fun, wine environment within 2 hours drive of Los Angeles. Now I have to get back to writing my novel...

Address & Contact Information: 22 Anacapa St Santa Barbara, California 93101. Telephone: 805-931-8684, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Mon-Wed & Sun 11:00-6:00, Thurs-Sat 11:00-11:00.

Overall Rating:  

Red Wine White Wine Service View/Ambiance

More information about Municipal Winemakers

Explore California wineries

Explore Santa Barbara County wineries