When you think of summer vacation, one of the things that may come to mind is getting out and go camping to appreciate all the beautiful surroundings. But why not take the idea of camping in the wilderness and take it up a few notches and go “Glamping” in the middle of a vineyard in Santa Maria, California?
A few weeks ago the hubs and I were invited to do just that. I was beyond excited and so flattered to be asked to come to the Cambria and Byron winery owned Jackson Family Wines to “Glamp” to check out their wines and winery on a tour and enjoy a few wine tastings. Um, you don’t have to ask me twice!
Obviously, I accepted the invitation with grace and dignity, but in reality, I was doing a happy dance around my living room, all while trying to explain to my husband the email I just received. We were invited to check out the wineries in the beautiful rolling hills of Santa Maria, California. Yes, the same place where the movie “Sideways” was filmed. And yes, it really is all about the Pinot.
If you have never heard of glamping, the definition is: Glamorous Camping, and glam couldn’t get any better for a camping trip. Here are just a few things that separate a glamping trip from a plain ‘ol camping trip:
1. There is a bed. Everything else is just gravy after this. A fantastic bed on a bed frame with down pillows and a down comforter. Soft and cushy and everything a girl could ask for after a day of drinking wine and roasting marshmallows.
2. Furniture. Inside the awesomely large canvas tent holds the queen size bed, two chairs, a faux cow skin rug and two night stands.
3. A full functioning bathroom trailer and shower trailer. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a bathroom with stalls and toilets in the trailer that also included hardwood floors and sinks with running water! This goes right up there with the bed. There was a separate trailer to shower and if you have ever been camping, you know these are true luxuries.
4. The food. Oh the food. I could write an entire post on just the glorious food. I should actually have more photos of the food, but honestly, it was just so exciting to see the multiple course meals and getting it into my mouth, the last thing I was thinking of was my camera. The entire weekend was catered from an amazing company called Testa Catering. The food was no joke, truly some of the best I have ever tasted. The last night we had a seminar from a local butcher that taught us all about the cuts of meat and how the tri-tip steak actually originated in Santa Maria Valley, all while passing around all the different cuts of steak fresh off the grill.
5. Staying plugged in. Each tent had their own Wi-Fi connection and electrical outlets. It was fantastic to be able to charge my phone and camera.
6. Entertainment. The last evening we were there we had dessert buffet passed around the campfire as we were bundled up in our blankets, (that is entertainment if you ask me) all while listening to the fantastic guitar player and singer Dan Curcio belt out some great tunes for all of us.
This was my husband’s first camping trip in any form, and he insisted on letting me know that this is the new standard. I think I’m in trouble.
The glamping was amazing. I can’t express how cool it was to be in the middle of Santa Maria wine country camping out in the middle of a vineyard while enjoying the stars and the fog that rolled in and out from the ocean. As awesome as glamping was, some of the other highlights were the people we were able to meet and the experience we had. The information and education we received about the vineyard, winemaking and Jackson Family wines was priceless.
I knew winemaking was not the easiest thing to do, but I had no idea how painstaking it was to grow the perfect grape (or berry, what the industry call the grapes.) There are so many aspects that you wouldn’t think about when it comes to making the perfect glass of wine. The winemakers have to worry about the weather, maybe it is too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. Then there is the animals. There are so many animals that want to eat the berries. We saw a few deer in the vineyards and there were countless birds that use the berries as their usual snack. Then, the winemakers have to worry about mildew on the plants and berries. There is also insects and pests that they have to worry about. And, what if the leaves grow too quickly? They need to be picked off in time for the berries to get enough sun. Not to mention that they need to make sure each vine faces the sun in a certain direction depending on the varietal (type of grape). That is just some of the issues that need to be addressed when growing grapes. I haven’t even gotten into the harvesting, crushing, destemming and starting the fermentation process.
Winemaking and grape growing takes so much work, time, patience, dedication and love of winemaking. It is truly an art form, and we were so honored to meet a few of the winemakers that live in the area. My husband kept saying how this trip was so surreal and that he couldn’t believe that he is sitting next to the winemaker who has his name on the wine bottle that we were drinking from.
We were able to get to know personally two of the winemakers who gave us information, took us on a tour throughout the winery, and answered all of our questions. We met Denise Shurtleff; the winemaker of Cambria Wines and Jonathan Nagy, the winemaker of Byron Wines. We couldn’t help but notice the passion that both of these winemakers had for their craft and they couldn’t have been nicer. It is always a pleasure to meet the people who make it happen and are more than happy to share their story.
On our first day, we checked into camp, enjoyed a wonderful lunch and listened to some speakers who welcome us to our weekend, including the president of Jackson Family Wines. We then had a Chardonnay blind wine tasting and discussed what we liked or didn’t like, and our overall impression of each wine. Later in the day we took a shuttle to a ranch and had dinner, drank wine (of course) and heard so many stories from all the different local winemakers.
The second day we had another delicious catered breakfast and got ready for our jeep tour through the Cambria vineyard and checked out chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. We were then taken through a tour in the winery and Denise let us taste different wines from various years right out of the barrel. We were then treated to another fantastic lunch in the middle of the vineyard. After a quick nap, we had our Pinot Noir wine tasting. We then had our beef seminar with a final dinner and ended the night under the stars all together around the fire.
This weekend was such an amazing experience that I will never forget and it’s all thanks to Heather Reese and Lou Rex who planned this event for with Cambria and Byron Wines for over a year. I also want to thank all of the other people at Jackson Family wines that helped put this together because it was so much work and we so loved getting to know you, your delicious, delicious wine and our new found appreciation for wine and what you do.
If you are ever in Santa Maria, California, you should be sure to check out Cambria Winery and Byron Winery for a wonderful wine tasting and see their beautiful vineyards.