Folded Hills, a Santa Ynez Wine Tasting Experience
Folded Hills Farmstead and Winery - 2323 Old Coast Hwy, Gaviota
Santa Barbara is one of my favorite destinations in the world. With it's California coastal charm, Spanish style architecture, and proximity to wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley, it's become an ideal destination to spend a long weekend. To celebrate Skylar's birthday, I took him on a birthday getaway for an extended weekend to Los Angeles (where he's from) and Santa Barbara. We've both always loved Santa Barbara, but haven't spent much time in recent years - and we hope to change that soon.
Last month we were fortunate to enjoy a VIP wine tasting at Folded Hills, set just five miles from the ocean in the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara, California. In a typical wine tasting, you get a group tour of the winery, a bit of history, and a sampling of the wines. At Folded Hills, you get so much more, and it certainly lives up to the expectation.
History of Folded Hills
While it may have been Polo that brought Kim and Andy Busch to Santa Barbara, it's certainly Folded Hills that's helped them make it home. They purchased the property in 2004, and knew immediately it was going to be a project. The condition was far from the perfection that it is now but they've worked on it year after year, and even purchased adjacent land to expand in 2011. When buying the original property, they learned that it had a hillside winery, and this is how Folded Hills Winery started. But's not just a winery, it's a fully operating ranch from animals including Clydesdales, to organic vegetables and fruits, and even a Polo field in between.
Wine Tasting Experience
The wine tasting experience goes beyond wine, but you will get to taste all of their award winning wines. To start, we met Kim at the entrance to the property at the Farmstead. This is where you can purchase vegetables, fruits, and other goods on weekends. Since our tour was on a Monday, the Farmstead wasn't open for business, but we got to see the inside and some of the goods they stock.
The first part of our tour included feeding the animals - goats, pigs, and more. Kim gave me a basket full of carrots and other vegetables and Skylar and I spent a few minutes taking turns feeding the animals. They had these two Pygmy goats, who were both a bit shy. They were just the sweetest little creatures and it was fun to see them try to get some food in between the bigger animals.
Next we drove up the property to our first stop which included our first two tastings on a dock adorned with Anheuser-Busch memorabilia. Andy is the great-grandson of the founder of Anheuser-Busch, so you'll see hints of AB throughout the property. We sat down and started to get to know Kim, and the history of the property, what brought them to Santa Barbara, and how they got into the wine business. We tried two wines, a 2016 August White Wine, and a 2017 Lilly Rosé. I had been looking forward to trying the Lilly Rosé since I had seen it a bit on social media. Both were delicious, the kind of crisp wines you'd want to enjoy on a summer day. I found myself more fascinated in learning about the history of the property - not a bad thing considering there was such a great story behind it all.
The best part of this tour was that we didn't stay in one place. We saw the property. I recall so many wine tours where you only see a sampling of the property, but since this was a private tour, Kim drove us around and showed us as much as she could.
After seeing the lake and Polo field, we headed over to the area by the main house which contained the chicken coop, Clydesdales, ranchers house, and more. Our first stop was a little meet and greet with two Clydesdales, followed by a walk around the chicken coop pick up some of the freshly laid eggs. As we explored the property we even saw a few peacocks - a white one and a blue one. Next we took a tour of the Ranchers House, easily my favorite spot on the property. The house had been recently renovated (see below for more details), and then we headed in to the main house on the property to try a few more wines, including some that weren't even released yet.
If you happen to be in the area on a Saturday or Sunday, I highly encourage you to stop by the Farmstead, even if you're not scheduled for a tasting experience. You can purchase wine, vegetables, fruit, and other homemade goods.
The farmstead is open from 10 am to 5 pm, April to October. 2323 Old Coast Hwy, Gaviota
Vineyards & Wine Club
On the tour, you learn about the climate and how it led to a selection of Rhône reds including Grenaches and Syrahs, and whites as well. Not only did they listen to the land but they prune, plant, and harvest according to the lunar calendar. I was fascinated to hear how the lunar calendar impacts their timelines. You can learn more about it in detail on the tour, or on their website here.
Their wine club is very feasible if you take an interest in any of their types of wine. They ship twice a year (spring and fall) and the shipment includes six bottles and costs anywhere from $150 to $350 depending on the bottles included. More information on the club can be found here. Unfortunately Utah is one of the few states that you can't ship wine to, so I won't be able to join myself. But if I lived elsewhere I would definitely join. It also comes with invites to exclusive events and access to the rent the Ranchers House.
The Ranchers House was one of my favorite aspects of the property. It's a three-bedroom house with a dreamy kitchen that's available for rent to wine club members only. Another reason to join the club - if you want to stay on the ranch, it's reserved for members only. There was something about the feel of this house that made me want to renovate my own kitchen. It's equal parts rustic and modern, with just the right touch of each.
Both Skylar and I immediately fell in love with the color of the cabinets. It's not a color you see often. We've been contemplating painting the bottom half of our cabinets in our kitchen, and we're pretty sure this is a color we want for our own home!
The Future of Folded Hills
There are two tasting rooms in the works. The Estate tasting room, which will be onsite at the Folded Hills Ranch, is scheduled to open in May of 2019. If you can't wait that long, you'll be able to experience Folded Hills in Montecito! Their Montecito tasting room is scheduled to open this November 2018.
Santa Barbara Farmers Market
Can't make it to Folded Hills? You can also enjoy complimentary tastings of Lilly Rosé at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market taking place on Saturdays from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Experience a VIP Tasting of Your Own
If you would like to experience a tasting similar to ours, then I strongly suggest inquiring about the VIP tasting. For a private VIP wine experience at Folded Hills contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even though I may not live there anymore, I have a soft spot for all things St. Louis. And that includes the people too. So when you take the wonderful people of St. Louis, pair them with wine and a beautiful Santa Barbara setting, it makes for a wine experience unlike any other - and one that I can say is one of my favorites to date. If you are making a trip to Santa Barbara or the Santa Ynez Valley any time soon, plan for an afternoon at Folded Hills for an exclusive wine tasting and I promise it'll be worth your time.
Thank you again to Kim and the Folded Hills team for showing us such an incredible wine experience. We eventually plan to call Santa Barbara home (hopefully) and can't wait to be closer to the ranch! As always, all opinions here are my own.