There’s no shortage of good restaurants in Solvang and the several small towns around it, nor great tasting rooms. Judging by the growth of Los Olivos alone, over two dozen wine tasting rooms there offer excellent Santa Barbara County grown wines.
A number of wine tasting rooms have opened in Solvang over the years, but many came and went. Now, with the opening of Crawford Family Wines and Cailloux Cheese Shop, which share one building, you’ve got the best of both worlds in one very convenient spot.
The funny thing is, I had no idea these two culinary experts were sharing the place. I was impressed upon entering to discover there is a lovely, comfortable dining room between the wine tasting room and the cheese shop where you can taste wines, try some cheese samples, or dine-in and enjoy service from both businesses. This is a place I can easily predict will become a major destination for wine lovers vacationing in the area.
Crawford Family Wines, owned and operated by Mark Crawford Horvath and his wife and partner Wendy Horvath, opened the new tasting room just in time for the holiday season. It’s located on a prime section of Mission St., directly across the street from the Hans Christian Andersen Park. Although the Crawford tasting room is small, there’s plenty of extra space in the dining section between them and Cailloux. The cheese shop provides a broad selection of cheese, charcuterie and accoutrements such as cured meats, olives, pickles, and nuts. Learn much more at caillouxcheeseshop .com.
I saw people tasting wines while enjoying a selection of various gourmet cheese and salami products. Believe me you won’t find such high quality foods at a grocery store. But you could easily have their staff, whom they call cheesemongers, prepare a lovely charcuterie platter for you that would provide an awesome lunch, or mid-afternoon snack. Their beautifully crafted charcuterie boards can be ordered ahead, and at the time you visit if you don’t order when they’re closing.
Ideally, if you’re a wine lover like me, you have the choice of Crawford’s fine wines, whether you want to buy it by the glass, bottle, or tasting flight. Now that flight would be fun, especially for helping you find which wines taste best with each unique cheese. I was quite pleased at discovering this rare element in a wine tasting room. Being a diehard foodie, I love wine and food situations like this. It’s good to see our great wineries adding restaurants and other food elements to their wine tasting offerings.
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But I was there foremost for the wine, after learning more about this artisan family run winery that specializes in very limited lots of wine from great vineyards. Both Mark and Wendy Horvath have spent many years in the wine industry before venturing out on their own, creating what they describe as a “garagiste” style of wines. This is comparable to the small vineyards throughout France, where the vintners have limited space, and devote most of it to grapevines. So they turn their garage into a winery to produce they own outstanding wines from the grapes they grow. However, a garagiste doesn’t always own their own vineyards, so they buy from their neighbors who do. That is more often true here in the U.S. wine regions.
With the Horvath’s vast experience of working in Sonoma County, as well as all of the appellations in Santa Barbara County, seeking out the best growers was easy. They focus on the Sta. Rita Hills (SRH), but also buy grapes from Los Alamos and the newest appellation here, Ballard Canyon.
They are focused on producing cool climate varieties such as albarino, rose, pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah, and Rhone blends. I found the prices quite reasonable considering the quality of the wines, ranging from $25 to $55. Join the club and you’ll get discounts. Check out crawfordfamilywines .com for more details.
Crawford has all of their currently available bottles of wines on the wine list, but feature five wines for tasting when they are open. You can also purchase a glass of your favorite wine by the glass to enjoy with your favored cheese. During my visit I sampled the albarino from Brick Barn Vineyard, one of my favorite Spanish varieties, which was lovely with its subtle white peach notes, and balanced acidity.
The rose from Santa Ynez Valley was delightful in its red fruit flavors despite being perfectly dry. The chardonnay from Tin Shack in SRH was my favorite style, far more about crisp acidity and fruit, not over-bearing from heavy oak.
I also loved the reds, all excellent choices. The Second Street Cuvee, a blend of 50 percent syrah, 40 percent grenache, and 10 percent mourvèdre, is a delicious example of the best Rhone style blends. But my favorite, as a variety and at this tasting room, was the Radian Vineyard pinot noir from SRH. I know many SBC winemakers who buy these outstanding Radian grapes, and the Crawford impressed me as well.
We bought each wine and an extra one of the Radian. The next time you’re headed to Solvang, make time to visit Crawford Family Wines. You’ll find it quite a treat, just as I did.
Reach Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org