On my recent trip to the Santa Ynez Valley, I got a message from my good friend Matt Mauldin.  Matt is a Regional Manager for Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards.  Matt offered to take me on a tour of some vineyards, followed by some wine tasting.  When you get an offer like this, you take it!

When it comes to Santa Barbara wine, it’s hard to find another label that can match the legacy of Zaca Mesa.  The property has been around since the early 70’s, and has specialized in Rhone varietals since the late 70’s.  A good portion of the legendary winemakers of the area have started here.  Before venturing on a special experience like this, I always ask some of my friends if they want to join me.  My friends Kris and Wil jumped on board and we met Matt in the tasting room at 10am.  Matt piled us into the old winery truck and away we went.


The previous two days, there was some substantial rainfall.  As Matt piloted the truck, we wandered up muddy roads to the Chapel block.  As I got out of the truck, I couldn’t help but look at the massive sky that was filled with cumulus clouds and sunshine.

The chapel block kicks out some amazing syrah.  Matt took us around the dormant rows filled with beautiful green cover crop.  The views were stunning.  Matt pointed out the Black Bear block in the distance.  This is one of their best blocks and has it’s own vineyard designate bottling.

zaca mesa vineyard tour

After finishing our walk, Matt said it was time to taste some wine.  So we jumped back in the truck and moseyed back down the muddy hill.

While we were just about to turn on Foxen Canyon Road, something caught our eye. These crazy stone endposts.  Matt stated the vineyard wasn’t Zaca Mesa’s, but still pretty cool, nonetheless!

stone posts zaca mesa vineyard

Matt walked us past the tasting room and right into the barrel room.  The smell of barrels and wine always intoxicate and excite me.  Matt introduced us to Kristin Bryden, Associate Winemaker.  We tasted some unbelievable red rhones from all the different blocks from barrel.  I was blown away by the quality.  Kristin also showed us the experimental clay amphora and concrete eggs they are using to age some syrah and grenache.  These will be extremely interesting wines to try in the future.

Matt and Kristin took us to the tasting room where we wrapped up our visit.  We went through the regular tasting flight, as well as some reserve syrahs.  I’ve been drinking Zaca Mesa for a while.  You can find their larger produced wines at most grocery and wine shops.  I’ve always loved their performance for the price a these venues.  When getting into their less distributed offerings, I completely understood why these vineyards, fruit, and label is so special.  Their Z Three, Black Bear Block, and Mesa Reserve syrah were unbelievable.

All in all, what an absolutely beautiful visit.  Big thanks to Matt and Kristin for their time.  If interested in a similar experience, vineyard tours are given by appointment only.  The tasting room is open daily between 10am and 4pm.

Kristin Bryden Zaca Mesa