Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards
Zaca Mesa is a place that offers many options for wine connoisseurs. Try one of the winery’s Syrahs made from the oldest plantings in the Santa Barbara County, or any one of their amazing wines, such as the Z Cuvee or the Grenache. In addition, attend one of the winery’s educational events to learn about the winemaking process from Zaca Mesa experts. With something for everyone, Zaca Mesa makes a trip to Foxen Canyon memorable.
What Makes Zaca Mesa Special
Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyard has a long history in the Central Coast. The property was purchased in 1972 by John Cushman and five of his friends, and the first vines were planted a year later. Winemakers started by planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and other varieties. As one of the first vineyards in the area, it took some experimentation to see which grape varieties would produce the best wines. In 1978, Zaca Mesa planted the first Syrah vineyard in Santa Barbara County and by the early 1990s Syrah became the focus of the vineyard and winery.
Over the years, Zaca Mesa became famous for its Syrahs. The 1993 Zaca Mesa Syrah was the first Central Coast wine to make it into Wine Spectator’s Top Ten list. It came in sixth and was made by winemaker Daniel Gehrs. This wine was honored in another way as well. It was served at the White House during an official state dinner for French President Jacques Chirac in 1996. The original Syrah planting became known as the Black Bear Block, while one of Zaca Mesa’s newest releases, the Estrella Syrah, is a single clone release from the original Black Bear Block planting, which includes subsequent plantings of those old vines throughout the vineyard.
Zaca Mesa University
There is a section of the winery’s website that is called Zaca Mesa University. There is a good reason for this. From the beginning, Zaca Mesa has been a place for learning and innovation. John Cushman and the early winemakers learned the wine trade together. While most have moved on to other endeavors, the knowledge gained from experimentation has helped train the next generation of winemakers in Santa Barbara County. Zaca University alumni include Ken Brown, from Byron in Santa Maria, Adam Tolmach, from Ojai Vineyard, Jim Clendenen, from Au Bon Climat, and Bob Lindquist, from Qupé as well as many others.
While professional winemakers come to Zaca Mesa to explore their craft, the winery’s educational opportunities aren’t only for professionals. The winery holds a series of annual events to provide an in-depth educational experience for anyone wanting to learn about winemaking and vineyard techniques. For those who can’t attend on-site events, Zaca Mesa has educational resources and notes on its website available.
The winery is located at 6905 Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos. The tasting room is open during the summer from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 805-688-9339 ext. 308, or visit their website at www.zacamesa.com. You can also find Zaca Mesa on Facebook at www.facebook.com/zacamesawinery.
A Tasting Room Experience
One of the best ways to experience Zaca Mesa wines is by visiting the winery’s tasting room, nestled up against the San Rafael Mountains on Foxen Canyon Road. You can learn about the varieties grown on the 150-acre vineyard, and taste one of Zaca Mesa’s many estate vineyard Rhône varietals or off property wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. If you are up for a challenge, you can try your hand at a game of chess on a life-sized chessboard or just enjoy the picnic tables overlooking the estate. You can also make use of a new event space near the Grenache Blanc vines that is designed to be used for weddings and special events – by appointment only.
There are a variety of options for those visiting the winery’s tasting room. You can choose the mixed flight for $15, the reserve red flight for $25, or the winery tour and tasting for $30 (reservations are required).