If you are looking for an exceptional Buellton Wine tasting experience, visit Vega Vineyards and Farms. From the history of Rancho de Vega and its beautiful vineyards, one cannot help but enjoy a day spent sipping wine paired with delicious food offerings in the gardens. If that is not enough, take a stroll and visit and feed the farm animals that are part of the package during a visit to the winery.
I have visited Vega Vineyards and Farm twice. However, each visit differed because of the dynamics of a weekday tasting versus enjoying a Sunday afternoon at the winery, watching children romp around the garden with live music in the background.
History of Vega Vineyard
Spanish immigrant Dr. Roman de la Cuesta married Micaela Cota, whose family owned Rancho Santa Rosa. Micaela’s family gifted him Rancho de Vega as her dowry around 1853. They built the adobe home that still resides on the property. Their son and daughter-in-law lived in the adobe home and grew grapes.
In 1976 Bill Mosby purchased 206 acres of the Rancho de Vega. They planted 18 acres of grapes with many Italian varieties. By 1980 they changed the name from Vega Vineyards to Mosby Winery.
In 2022, Jimmy & Karen Loizides purchased the property. They came to the Santa Ynez Valley in 2011 because it reminded Jimmy of his childhood memories of his family working the land and the village he grew up in, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Before purchasing Vega Vineyards, the Loizides had a catering business in the Santa Ynez Valley. They also ran Sear Steakhouse until the new owner purchased the property.
Vega Vineyard Today
Vega Vineyards represents a farm-to-table experience like no other winery in the area. Produce is grown on the estate and used daily in the menu created by Chef Erik Thurman to pair with the portfolio of wine available at the time. The outdoor setting adds to the ambiance. Even on a cold day with the heaters going, you can sit outside and enjoy the vineyard vistas. Talk a stroll to the animal paddock and follow the antics of Llamas, pigs, sheep, goats, and more as you feed them some local greens.
Besides the excellent cuisine, it is the wines that are a standout. Winemaker Steve Clifton brings his expertise to creating wine with an emphasis on Italian varieties.
As one of several Buellton wine tasting experiences, Vega Vineyards is pet-friendly. I brought my Saluki, Bree, who honed in on the wonderful aromas of the cuisine that passed her way.
In The Vineyard And Beyond
The estate consists of 21 acres of planted vines. They have introduced cover crops into the vineyard. The varieties grown are Traminer, Dolcetto, Montepulciano, Gracino, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Cannonau, Merlot, and Chardonnay.
In addition to the grapes grown on the vineyard, Vega sources grapes from several leased vineyards in Santa Barbara County. They include Rancho San Ysidro in Ballard Canyon AVA for Nebbiolo and Syrah, Walker Vineyard in Los Olivos District for Barbera, Dolcetto and Vermentino, Laird Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley for Albariõ and Viognier, and Kessler Haak for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Chef Erik Thurman
Chef Erik is no newcomer to the culinary business. His roots go back to his grandmother’s restaurant in Los Angeles. Erik worked his way up from dishwasher to sous chef at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. He has spent much time honing his skills at restaurants in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and others along the Central Coast. He has worked with the likes of Bradley Ogden, Michael Mina, and Peter McNee. Before joining the Vega team, his last gig was at the Alisal Ranch Resort. I can tell you first hand Erik likes sourcing produce from the garden. I first met him with a hand full of just pulled-from-the-ground carrots. Carrot Cake lovers, I recommend trying it.
Cuisine At Vega Vineyard and Farms
A must-try at Vega Vineyard and Farms is the Lamb Meatballs with chickpea tomato sauce and feta mint tzatziki.
Another savory dish to try is Grilled Shrimp Kabobs with Vega farm cabbage and chimichurri sauce. The Carrot Ginger Soup is also a winner.
On my second visit, Chef Erik made a seared tuna with apple fennel slaw that was yummy.
Winemaker Steve Clifton
My first encounter with Steve Clifton was in the early 2000s when Steve opened Palmina in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. His love of Italian varieties came through in the Palmina wines. At the time, he was also partnering with Greg Brewer making Sta Rita Hills Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the label Brewer Clifton.
Steve’s passion for making something of himself in the wine industry drove him to leave his career as a musician and create a different kind of music in the wine industry. His first job was in the tasting room at Rancho Sisquoc Winery. Being self-taught, he moved up the ladder to assistant winemaker. As time passed, Steve’s career path took him to Beckmen, Brander, and Domaine Santa Barbara, where he worked as winemaker. Learning another angle of the wine business, he managed the Wine Cask.
When Steve became winemaker at Vega Vineyards, he merged his Palmina wines into the new label. Many of our Palmina favorites now represent the Vega brand.
Producing healthy vines that do not struggle means Steve can create wines that make you feel good. With Vermentino, Steve tries not to emulate what is created in Italy but instead attempts to translate what he knows about the grape.
One of Steve’s favorite grapes to grow is Dolcetto. Dolcetto is often called the sweet little one because of the small grapes and hard to grow in Italy. In California, the grapes are larger with thicker skin making them easier to grow.
Steve describes his three favorite Italian reds as Dolcetto, the everyday wine in Piedmont, Nebbiolo, a wine for date night and Barbera, the wine for an anniversary.
White and Rosato Wines
Although I tasted the Albariño, Chardonnay, Vermentino, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, and Bianco White Wine Blend, I am listing my favorites separately
Albariño: The grapes for this wine come from Laird Vineyard Santa Maria Valley. I found a softer than most Albariños yet a balanced wine with richness.
Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara County: This wine presented as crisp and easygoing. As the server poured the wine, I immediately knew it was Pinot Grigio.
Bianco White Wine Blend: This wine combines Albariño Marsanne and Vermentino. It ages in 100% neutral oak. I found a fragrant wine with flavors of apple and pear.
Rosata: This wine consists of an exciting blend of Dolcetto, Barbera, and Vermentino. The grapes are all picked when the Vermentino is ripe.
I sampled the Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo Barbera, and Syrah in the reds. Listed below are my favorites.
Dolcetto: The grapes come from the Los Olivos District and age in neutral oak for seven months. The bright wine can be served either cold or at room temperature, making it a great summer wine. I found the wine restrained when it was chilled but opened up nicely at room temperature.
Pinot Noir: The grapes come from both the Lady of Guadalupe and Kessler Haak vineyards. The grapes are destemmed and aged in neutral oak for one year. I discovered a soft and feminine wine that is fruit driven with dark and red fruits.
Barbera Santa Ynez Valley: I found a bright, lively wine with flavors of plum and spice on the finish.
The Vega Buellton Wine Tasting Experience
The wine tasting experience does not end with the social elements of food and wine; one can also stay in the Casitas and thoroughly enjoy the lay of the land.
If you do choose to come just to wine and dine with family and friends, the tasting room is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm.
The future holds some new exciting wines. Steve wants to create a red blend of maybe Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot. He also hopes to make a Sagrantino. In the whites, it is Malvasia Blanca.
Come share a glass of wine and experience “a window to a place” known as Vega Vineyard and Farm.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted Buellton wine tasting and lunch experience. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.