Tuesday, April 24, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 7

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Wandering Dog Wine Bar's 'Friday Night Wines' educate and titillate


Every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m., Wandering Dog Wine Bar hosts a “blind tasting” that challenges participants to match up wine regions, varietals, price points, and vintages with several featured wines.

A good wine is one you like; a bad wine is one you don’t. It’s that simple,” said Wandering Dog Wine Bar’s CT Williams, who has co-owned and operated the wine shop in Solvang with his parents and wife Jody since 2007.

They sell boutique wines from the Central Coast and around the world, and offer a dozen different wine flights every day.

“We’re not just a wine shop where you’re taking our word for it … we’re going to sell wines by pouring them,” he added. “We let everybody taste the wines and see what they want.”

To that end, Wandering Dog kicked off a series of wine education classes that involves wine tasting, of course.

Their sold-out Feb. 7 class featured five vintages of boutique Barolo from Italy.

The next class will be held March 14 from 5 to 6 p.m. The topic will be Santa Barbara County American Viticultural Areas. Participants will taste wine samples from all five of the county’s areas: Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon, and Ballard Canyon.

Williams will pour wines that showcase the different terroir—special characteristics—of each appellation.

Grape grower and winemaker Michael Larner will lead the April 4 class. The topic will be Vinification Techniques with Syrah.

CT and Jody Williams and family own Wandering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang. Their mission is to engagingly educate their patrons about wine.

“It’s something he’s an expert in,” Williams said.

Larner, who has taught winemaking classes at Allan Hancock College for years, will cover different winemaking techniques and how they affect syrah.

Participants will taste samples of Larner syrah, in addition to other syrahs from Santa Barbara County and other countries.

Climate, terroir, and terrain all have an impact on a grape and, ultimately, the wine in the bottle; a syrah grown in sandy soil tastes different than one grown in loamy soil.

If you discover you like one sandy soil syrah through wine tasting, there’s a good chance you will like others.

“It’s a great way to do a side-by-side comparison. The classes are tasting focused, so we pour usually around six different wines,” Williams said. “It’s learning through tasting.”

The topic for the May 2 class is “All About Pinot Noir.” Mark Horvath of Crawford Family Wines will lead the class with examples of his Sta. Rita Hills pinot noir and other selections from wineries outside of Santa Barbara County.

Classes are $30 per person. Advance payment and reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased at firststreettickets.com/events/wandering-dog-wine-bar-friday-night-wine-classes/.

The Williamses plan to continue the wine classes through the summer.

Wandering Dog Wine Bar carries under-the-radar wine (and beer) labels from the Central Coast and abroad. Customers are encouraged to taste before buying.

The wine bar also hosts a popular “blind tasting” every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.

“It’s a great event. We have a lot of locals who come in specifically for the blind tasting,” Williams said. “It’s a lot of fun.

“We give you four half glasses of wine and a little cheat sheet with the varietal, region, [and] price point, and you try to match up the stuff on the sheet to the individual wines,” he explained. “You can kind of test yourself.”

You might think it’s easy to tell the difference between a pinot noir and a zinfandel—until you try it blind.

“You’d be surprised,” Williams said. “It’s a little bit harder than it looks. People come back every week to get better and better.”

Wandering Dog isn’t just about wine; beer enthusiasts will find something unique here, too.

“We specialize in craft beers from around the world, mostly from Belgium and Germany, more like limited production, kind of super-esoteric-style beers that you don’t normally see or would think about,” Williams said. “You don’t come in here and be like, ‘I want a Bud Light.’ We don’t have anything like that at all.”

Wander in for some wine
Open daily, Wandering Dog Wine Bar is located at 1539 Mission Drive, Suite C, in Solvang. The phone number is 686-9126. The website is wanderingdogwinebar.com.

Wandering Dog Wine Bar has a central location in downtown Solvang at 1539 Mission Drive, Suite C.

“It’s been wonderful. It’s great for foot traffic, people walking by. We’re right on Mission Drive, so we have really good visibility from the road. We see a lot of tourists … but there’s also plenty of parking so it makes it really easy for the locals to come in.”

And in a nod to the shop’s name, its motto is “leave your leash behind.” The Williamses encourage you to try their “palate-picked” wines from producers totally off your radar.

And Wandering Dog also happens to be—you guessed it—dog friendly.

For more information, go to wanderingdogwinebar.com.


Sun wine and food writer Wendy Thies Sell is enthusiastic about wine and beer. Contact her at wthies@santamariasun.com.

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