NCGA Golf

Winter 2018

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disappointed. With one more day to soak in all that Santa Barbara has to offer, we still had some highly recommended golf courses to consider. In the scenic Santa Ynez Valley, the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is a get- away that offers the challenge of two 18- hole golf courses. The eighth hole of the River Course is where they filmed the golf scene in "Sideways." We wanted to check it out, but both courses were hosting a tour- nament during our visit. La Purisima in Lompoc, about 20 miles to the west, has a closing four-hole stretch dubbed "Amen Corner West." That isn't the only nickname it has garnered. When it was built, it was labeled "La Prisona," because this course can be tougher than serving time. Designed by Robert Muir Graves and opened in September 1983, La Purisima quickly made its way into various lists of the top 10 public courses in the state. Instead of another round, my wife and I decided that to visit Santa Barbara with- out a tour of some of its famed wineries would be akin to going to St. Andrews in Scotland and not playing golf. So we headed to wine country and drove into the Santa Ynez Mountains on our way. The temperature that day climbed into the high 90s, but on another occasion we could imagine snow-capped peaks on one side, the Pacific on the other. On the way, we passed Rancho San Marcos Golf Course, off California 154, halfway between Santa Barbara and Solvang. The Robert Trent Jones Jr. course was built on the grounds of a working ranch established in 1804, and its back nine climbs precipitously up into the hills overlooking Lake Cachuma. But we pressed on and soon we were in the valley where cows and grapes replaced mansions and malls. With more than 60 wineries, the region is bursting with tasty options. The largest concentration of Santa Barbara wineries is located in the Santa Ynez Valley. First, we toured Rusack Vineyard at the recommen- dation of our waitress at Tydes. Marty, the hostess who led us around, showed us bar- rels of grapes fermenting and explained how wine is made. When Spanish mission- aries first brought grapes to Santa Barbara in the late 18th century, they called the flow- ers growing on the hillsides and valleys "Flor de Campo." Today these flowers grow in between rows of some of the best cool climate vineyards in the world. Santa Barbara County's unique east-west valley draws cool fog and ocean breezes inland, creating ideal growing conditions for sev- eral varietals to do well, from Pinot Noir in the west to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the east. Then Marty took us to a stand-up bar for a wine tasting. We tried a sauvignon blanc, a chardonnay, two pinots and a syrah. Each had distinctive flavors. I tasted luscious red fruits like raspberry and cherry in my preferred pinot. Next, we picked up provisions at Panino, a sandwich shop in Los Olivos, and picnicked at Demetria Vineyard, where outside food is welcome. Imagine sitting on a terrace in Italy sipping a glass of red because that's what the place feels like. Make sure to experience the Danish village of Solvang, where the themed streets and authentic bakeries also will have you thinking you're wine tasting in Europe. Time was short so we only drove by the popular Sanford Winery in Lompoc, where Miles's character in the movie sips a glass of wine and describes it as having, "the faintest soupcon of asparagus, and just a flutter of nutty Edam cheese." My nose isn't as sophisticated, or shall I say as pre- tentious. The best I can do is offer an eval- uation of the golf courses in the region using similarly esoteric wine descriptions. There is great variety, some such as La Purisima are big and bold in their design and others such as Ojai are elegant, refined with good balance and structure and greens that are complex. A sleeve of golf balls show promise to last longer at Alisal's River course. And Rancho San Marcos must be played to be believed! Golf in Santa Barbara doesn't disappoint. Both the courses and the wine feature a smooth finish and more than a hint of we'll be back for another round soon. NCGA.ORG | WINTER 2018 43 SOLVANG USA GABRIELAHERMAN/VISIT SANTA BARBARA Stroll through the Danish village of Solvang (top) and admire its old-world European architecture, and enjoy the charming boutique shops and famous bakeries. Does the wine make the meal or does the meal make the wine? Either way, you can't lose when pairing wines from Santa Barbara in concert with the flavors of its local cuisine (below).

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