General Wine Tour Information

Inside the Unique and Boutique: Knowledge Is Power

We’ve been at this for over 14+ years and over 1,500+ wine tours. We’ve steadily built great wine experiences by forging relationships with the people behind the wine.  We can hook up unique and boutique for any budget. One thing we don’t do is milk runs- stamping out the same wine tour day after day. We listen to what you like, and build a fantastic day for you using our vast knowledge and winery relationships.

There are hundreds of tour possibilities. We can hook up unique and boutique for any budget. Here are the basics to putting together your perfect tour.

Mix and match Diamond, VIP, and Elite experiences to enhance your tour, and discover wine enjoyment like you never imagined!

All tours are tailored to your wine preferences, but feel free to use my encyclopedic knowledge of SLO and SB County wines and wineries gathered over 14+ years and over 1,500+ wine tours.

Diamond, VIP, and Elite are my simple way of expressing tour possibilities from a basic Diamond level stand-at-the-bar tasting experience- to unique VIP or Elite upgrades.

Luxury doesn’t have to cost more – groups two to eight

It’s like a living room on wheels complimented with JZ’s encyclopedic knowledge and unparalleled service.

Wine Tour Rates

Sliding Rates based on group size and the standard vehicle
they fit into by the hour for entire vehicle:

•  Tours are planned around your wine preferences

•  Ask about mid-week rates!

•  If airport pickup and drop-off, or an attraction excursion is part of your travel plan, we can help with that too

2 to 3 persons

$60 per hour*

(Sedan Sized Group)

4 to 6 persons

$70 per hour*

(SUV Sized Group)

7 to 8 persons

$85 per hour*

(Limo Sized Group)

•  *with 20% gratuity added after base rate total

•  Tour cost is calculated at the end, with partial last hour billed in 15 minute increments

•  Happy to breakout the trip total among your group

We carry $1.5 million commercial insurance. We are CA Public Utilities TCP (Transportation Charter Party) compliant, subject to regular drug and alcohol testing. Our TCP number is 35785, and is Active.

Look up any transportation company’s TCP number at this CA Public Utilities Commission link: CA PUC Transportation Lookup

Read about my exploits driving the renowned on the Central Coast: Tales of a Central Coast Limo Driver

Call JZ today! 805-296-7982

Diamond Tour: Sets the standard for wine tasting

Start with diamonds in your glass- the basics included in every tour. Use all my knowledge and great services included in my tours to choose fantastic walk-in regular tastings:

  • Hundreds of high quality wine stops available on-the-fly/day of tour, or planned in advance- I call ahead to make arrangements so your group is always welcomed
  • You’ll be delighted with the special experiences some wineries include with a regular tasting
  • An average regular tasting stop takes about 45 minutes. Tasting fees average between $10 and $25. Many wineries offset tasting fees with bottle purchase, or wine club membership
  • Food planning– if logistics allow I pick up to-go before your tour at no extra charge. I set up your picnic while you taste. There are also stellar sit-down dining possibilities on your tour if you wish
  • Bottled water and clean tablecloths included
  • Pro-photos capture your day
  • Wine cases are kept tasting room temp in my special cool bags. Wine shipping can be arranged.
    These same cool bags are used to keep your to-go food either warm or cool
  • Full concierge and limo style service– wine and packages carried to car, along with all the perks that come with a seasoned limo driver: dinner reservations, logistics coordination, trips to the super market or drug store- you name it and I’m happy to do it
  • Spit cups available- tasting room peeps think you’re pretty cool if you enjoy your wine that way. It’s a great way to avoid a hangover
  • Tasting fees for all experiences you choose are paid directly to the winery. I do not receive kickbacks for hooking up clients with wineries- I’m quite happy with a thank you once in a while, and the strong professional relationship that I’ve built
  • Tasting experiences chosen do not affect the hourly rate of the tour

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VIP and Elite winery visits are about expanding your wine enjoyment opportunities

Consider adding a VIP or Elite experience to the 250 available excellent Diamond experiences (regular tastings) to put a crowning event on your day, usually for just a few more dollars- sometimes none

VIP and Elite experiences are defined by:

  • Fixed appointments with the winemaker, owner or key employee of the winery
  • Private or limited group size tasting
  • Library wines, reserve wines
  • Barrel tastings
  • Winemaker one-on-one’s
  • Vineyard tour and tasting, etc.
  • Without qualifying wine purchase or wine club membership cost can run from $20 to $50 per person, depending on what kind if experience you choose- excellent one-on-one wine education that’s worth every penny
  • If you’re serious about your wine or are an ardent enthusiast, these tastings are for you
  • My rate is by the hour and has nothing to do with tasting experiences chosen

Just a Few of the VIP Wine Experiences Available

Garagiste Tastings

Garagiste Hall

If you’ve attended Garagiste you know what I’m talking about. These are sprouting boutique wineries in our region, where the production is small and the wine cared for like a new born babe every day of its life. Typically these will be private one-on-ones with up and coming winemakers, whose wines I’ve had the pleasure of sampling at the Garagiste Festival. You never know where these tastings might take place- in their garage, kitchen, a custom crush facility, or maybe a secluded outdoor venue. Wherever it is, you’ll be in on the ground floor of something special.

Calcareous Vineyard: Premier Tour with Wine & Artisan Cheese Pairing

Calcareous Vineyards

Calcareous’ knowledgeable staff walks you into the vineyard and lays out farming practices, varietal and clone selections, and discusses terroir. Then it’s off to the production facility to outline winemaking philosophy and techniques, cooperage, and aging. Enjoy a seated tasting of Calcareous’ current releases and a library wine paired with Artisan cheeses. Reservation required, starts 10:30, 90 minutes duration, and subject to availability and weather. $55 PP non-club members/$40 PP club.

Justin Winery & Cave Tour

Vineyard to glass winemaking the Justin way: Justin Baldwin’s vision, estate history and terroir, farming practices, proprietary handcrafted production techniques, and barrel aging are explained in detail by a knowledgeable guide as you stroll through the vineyard, production area and cave complex, while tasting through the full lineup. Tours daily at 10:30 and 2:30, $30 PP. Max number of guests on a tour is 10, so reserve early.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Collector’s Vertical Tasting

Notable for its unique French/California partnership, French-influenced winemaking style, and shared bond to all things Rhone, Tablas Creek offers the opportunity to taste six different vintages of their flagship Espirit de Tablas, and select vintages in a private setting adjacent the barrel room. Groups up to six reserved at 11:30 and 3:00 Sunday through Friday- Saturdays at 10:00. $40 PP/$25 club.

Their seated flight style tasting, in its own dedicated room, is a great value at $25 PP non-club/$10 PP club, and available anytime also by reservation. Choose red or white or mixed flight. Both experiences offer bottle purchase offset.

Adelaida Hilltop Signature Tasting

Adelaida Hilltop Wine Tasting

The Hilltop Tasting happens at 2,320 feet elevation on Paso’s tallest hill not far from the winery, looking over the valley and towards the Santa Lucia Range to the west. This experience mirrors the Signature Tasting both in wine and paired artisanal food, only with the amazing view as centerpiece. Ninety minutes duration, $60 non-club / $50 club, 48 hours advanced booking, subject to weather and staff availability.

Adelaida Signature Tasting

Enjoy a generous representation of Adelaida’s premier wines in a private, seated setting with close up view of activity in the production cellar, complemented with artisan charcuterie/cheese board enhanced with fresh baguette, estate walnuts, olives and olive oil. Don’t be surprised when Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub stops by to provide an update of the growing season and answer your questions about all things wine. $50 PP non-club/$40 club at 10:30, 12:30, 2:30- times can also be tailored to our itinerary.

White Wine Lovers Heaven: Monochrome Wines

Monochrome Wine Tasting

This is a seated tasting of all white wines: some of the most interesting whites, so much so that many red drinkers have become swayed by the unfurling layers of flavor that come to the fore with these very unique and savory straight whites and blends. From the onset, Monochrome has garnered lots and lots of 90+ scores from an array of prestigious wine reviewers and notable publications. Make no mistake about it- these whites are truly world class. Tastings are private with the winemaker, by appointment.

Ecluse Seated Cellar Tasting

Long one of my favorite wine tour stops for quality of wine, overall experience, bang for the buck, and great people, Ecluse has added a Seated Cellar Tasting, led by Winemaker Anthony LaDuca, to broaden guests’ enjoyment of their Reserve Wines, small production-limited quantity wines, and Library Wines. Ecluse was listed in the top 25 Domestic Wine Experiences by Travel and Leisure Magazine in 2017. As a perennial participant, Owner/Winemaker Steve Lock brings lots of gold medals back to Paso from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition every year. The barrel room creates an intimate back drop for flight style tasting- small groups up to 10 people by appointment, $35 PP.

Willow Creek Wine Collective

Willow Creek Wine Collective

Brian and Natalie Brown are both great winemakers in their own right- Brian being the founding winemaker at ONX, with stints at well-established Napa wineries on his resume, and wife Natalie, who’s been a consulting winemaker locally plus producing her own label using regional sourced fruit for some time- Rococo. Now their combined energies also go into their Soña Estate Wines, which are primarily Rhones. Brian also produces a Napa Cab: Emerson Brown. Along with great wines poured by the winemakers themselves, they also feature fruit from their orchards and whatever farmcraft the estate soil is willing to yield, for you to enjoy with your seated tasting in their red barn. By appointment Friday through Sunday.

Exclusive Elite Wine Experiences

These unique happenings are not advertised to the general public. This is just a handful of the under-the-radar experiences I am able to offer.

Chateau Margene: Elevated Tour & Tasting Experience

This private winemaker one-on-one experience with Owner/Winemaker Michael Mooney or Assistant Winemaker Jon Mooney takes you into the vineyard where a variety of farming and viticultural topics are discussed, followed by the crush pad and their special fruit sorting and handling techniques, then into the barrel room to cover approach to winemaking style and methods, cooperage, aging, and so on. The experience finishes with a sit down tasting of current offerings in varietal-specific Riedel glasses and charcuterie board with artisan cheeses, cured meats, almonds and dried fruit. $60 PP non-club/$30 PP club, subject to availability- approximately 90 minutes in duration. Reservations required.

Mystic Hills Vineyard

Mystic Hills Vineyard is about as boutique-y as it gets, with their eight acres of grapes out in the wilds of Ranchita Canyon, just outside San Miguel. Joel Cox dreamed of having a few blocks of Bordeaux varietals when he was working on location as a film editor in France. A couple decades, and a couple dozen Clint Eastwood movies later, Joel had the wherewithal to follow his heart into winegrowing, thanks to his 40 year ongoing relationship with Mr. Eastwood. Recognition of his work reached its height when he was awarded the Oscar for editing Unforgiven, which also happens to be the name of his flagship Bordeaux blend. Joel has received numerous awards during his career, but let’s get to the wine.

Joel had the serendipitous good fortune to be introduced to Keith Roberts in a tractor booth at the Mid-State Fair a few years back. Keith’s day job is managing over 3,000 acres of grapes for Wente Vineyards statewide. He knows a thing or two about farming, and as it turns out, winemaking. Since the first vintage their wines have produced lots of medals, and MHV has also been named Monterey County Winery of the Year for 2015, 2016, and 2017 (don’t freak out- they’re just a couple miles down the road from Ranchita Canyon Winery and Villa San Juliette, less than a mile inside Monterey County). Despite the very high quality, Joel is adamant about keeping his prices under $40 per bottle, because his main interest at this point is building a legacy for his family. Speaking of family, you’ll never meet a more grounded, genuine and friendly bunch in your whole life. This is one of the experiences my clients talk about every time we get to together for another wine adventure…and yes, that’s Joel’s Oscar my client is holding- rewarded by a photo op holding the Oscar with Joel for joining their wine club. 72 hours advanced booking required.

Guyomar Wine Cellars

Ishka Stanislaus has been dry-farming his hilly 35 acre vineyard for over 20 years, originally under the direction of local grape growing legend Richard Sauret. Naturally such high quality fruit begged a request from widely acclaimed winemaker and neighbor Steve Glosner, to buy Ishka’s fruit for his own wines, Ports, and spirits. Steve made his name at Justin in the mid ‘90’s with the wines he created that became part of the iconic Isosceles Reserve, which was awarded 98 points by Wine Spectator, plus quite a number of startups that have become well-known names on the Central Coast wine scene.

Ishka specializes in Rhone varietals and Zin, and delicious, interesting blends made thereof, plus straight Zin- all made by the master Steve Glosner. Tasting includes charcuterie and cheese plate with artisan sourdough bread. 72 hours advanced booking required.

D’Alphonso Curran Wines

Kris Curran and Bruno D’Alphonso are one of the most celebrated partnerships in the Central Coast wine region- partners in winemaking, and partners in life. Kris was the founding winemaker at Koehler and became Santa Barbara County’s first rock star winemaker by the acclaim she received from the movie Sideways as the brains behind Sea Smoke’s Pinot Noir. Bruno was Richard Sanford’s winemaker for over 20 years, eventually owning part of the business. Both have bachelors degrees in winemaking. Not only will the amount of winemaking information imparted by these two blow your mind, but you will be totally entertained by their larger than life personalities and colorful repartee’. When Bruno takes you on a vertical tasting barrel romp with his wine thief, be prepared to be amazed and hold on to your glass!

Jonata

Jonata flies quietly low, and leaves a subtle yet lasting impression on wine world radar in its contrail, but these wines loom big: big flavors and big scores. The entire operation is top shelf from its polyface sustainable farming practices to elegantly appointed estate hospitality center. Matt Dees has been the principle architect of all things Jonata since 2004, making careful choices about varietals planted on their 84 acre vineyard, to crafting the wines’ unique and amazing tannin structure and flavor profile. It takes the talents of both Matt and vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano to coax great fruit possibilities out of the obstinate Careaga Sandstone that layers this 586 acre chunk of 1845 Spanish land grant in Ballard Canyon, once known as Rancho San Carlos de Jonata. Truly this is one of the most memorable and exciting pinnacles of wine enjoyment and eno-education on the Central Coast.

Meet Len Gelfand: Gelfand Vineyards

Len Gelfand needed a hobby when he and wife Jan retired to Paso Robles from his position as president of a large insurance company in 2,000. He figured 20 acres of densely planted vines would keep him busy enough. At around a thousand cases produced each year, busy enough it is- since he has no employees. Fortunately for us, his excellent Cab, Zin, Syrah, and Petite Sirah, plus notable blends thereof, and dessert wines, blossomed into something almost resembling a full time job. His son Jon frequently lends a hand as assistant winemaker and all around right hand man, especially during harvest and wine club events. Like many boutique wineries, it’s truly a family affair with granddaughters now becoming old enough to pitch in. Len really tries hard to act like a retired guy- travels to wine regions throughout the world with wife Jan when those strategic intervals in winegrowing and winemaking present themselves, and also insists I bring my people before noon so he can enjoy the rest of the day being left to his own devices. I’ve been a member of his wine club for a few years now, so he has a harder time saying no. By appointment 72 hours in advance.

More Cool Stuff to Dial in Your Day!

So Many Stellar Food Options

I’ve got numerous food options I’ve used dozens to hundreds of times with great success on my wine tours. After one or two stops it’s a good idea to enjoy some solid food as a foundation to temper the flow of one ounce pours happening throughout the day. Light nibbles just don’t cut it. A sit-down break to enjoy good substantial food is the perfect buffer to balance your tour. I set your meal up on clean tablecloths with complementary bottled water. The goal is to finish the tour with a happy, carefree glow, and be able to sail on, enjoying your evening.

Here’s what you need to know:

Food Logistics:

Calling your orders in the day before is great! Prepay and I’ll pick it up on my way to your location if logistics allow. Any place that allows outside food can be a picnic possibility.

Food the Day of Your Tour:

When we begin your tour the time range for lunch is determined. Before I drop you off at the first or second winery, or as cell service permits, food is ordered to go. I can also reserve a table for you at a dining establishment. I go pick up the food, return to the winery, pick you up, and head to the next wine tasting stop. Wherever you decide to eat, you cruise into the winery to begin your wine tasting. Many wineries are happy to do your wine tasting at your picnic table. While you’re beginning your wine tasting, I’m setting up your picnic.

Events and Seasonal Eats:

I stay on top of dates when wineries are putting on a happening food feat, or food and wine pairing, or unique event. Some wineries offer cheese or hors d’oeuvre style pairings as part of the tasting. Ongoing weekday after hours happenings with wine by the glass and entertainment are very popular with locals on summer season evenings. The smell of pizza ovens comes to mind at Opolo, Hope Family Wines, and Calcareous. The indigenous beef burger feed on selected Saturdays at Oso Libre in the summer is awesome. I love the smell of red oak searing meat Santa Maria BBQ style!

For the Beer Crowd:

There are many excellent wineries close to cool micro-breweries. Several wineries are distilling these days, as well- spirits and wine are served just steps away from each other. Drinking beer openly at a winery can be a very touchy situation, as it is a violation of their bond (federal), and also a violation of their liquor license (local)…as is opening product from another winery on the hosting winery’s premises. I’ve seen both wrath and embarrassment simultaneously a couple times.

I have many ways to handle beer at wineries, which can be pressed into play at the appropriate time. Just let me know what you’re thinking on this, and I’ll provide a solution so everyone’s happy. Other options include dining-in at a deli or restaurant with an extensive beer selection (Firestone Tap Rooms in Paso and Buellton are awesome!), or going to a scenic, secluded picnic spot in the wine country.

Animals:

If you want to bring your pet along, that’s cool with me. Just let me know in advance so we can plan accordingly.

Bring Your Dog
Bring Your Dog

JZ’s Tasting Picks are Free

vineYou can have the benefits of my 1,500+ wine tours’ experience with the click of a button for free. After doing hundreds and hundreds of wine tours in the San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County wine regions, wineries made the list by extremely broad and un-scientific consensus. They have produced positive approval most of the time. It’s primarily about the wine, but setting, architecture or personnel may also fall into the mix. Along with the best wines, I know where the wine values and best wine deals are too.

I’ve made Tasting Guides for each wine region in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, including Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail and environs. All wineries are laid out in a geographically logical format that makes navigation around the wine country easy, simple and precise. They’re the perfect traveling companion along with each area’s winery guide and map available at any winery.

The wineries listed consistently please. You have my sincere promise that I will not bombard you with junk emails. Serious Wine enthusiasts are encouraged to make appointments one week in advance. Wine tasting is very subjective. Enjoy!

Get JZ’s Tasting Picks Today!

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