Friday, February 22, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 51

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Wind down: Costa de Oro is the perfect spot to enjoy a pre-weekend night out

Rebecca Rose

The sun is barely beginning to descend from the sky, leaving us with a blanket of warmth as a cool breeze comes up from the east. The music coming from inside the small two-story building is inviting, bouncy, and familiar as we approach.

One of Costa de Oro’s best wines is the 2017 pinot noir rosé, a very light and approachable rosé with notes of pear, lavender, and peach.

Here at Costa de Oro's tasting room in Santa Maria, Thursday nights are spent pre-winding down for the weekend. The venue, which opened in 2006, features live music from local and not-so-local acts every week, along with a chance to get to know their wines and their unique ambiance a little bit better. On the night we happened to stop in, the crew was jamming to Sweet T's "One Man Caravan" (also known as musician Terry Lawless, who spent more than a decade touring with the band U2). Lawless keeps the mood fun and upbeat wherever he plays, and if I'd actually stayed longer (and had more wine), I'd probably have hit the dance floor myself. 

While Lawless cued up renditions of some of my favorite oldies, we sidled up to the bar to take a look at the wine list. There's a good variety of whites offered, including two different chardonnays, a table wine, a rosé, and a pinot grigio. On the red side it's mostly pinot noirs and a cabernet sauvignon. While I ended up trying a lot of mostly white wines, I think Costa de Oro speaks to pinot lovers best. They win awards for their pinots, and they really seem to understand and embrace the region in their winemaking. 

Costa de Oro, located in Santa Maria off of Highway 101, has a strong range of pinot noirs, including the 2015 Reserve Oro Rojo.

It might be a little boisterous on Thursday nights to be able to ask a lot of questions about the wines while you're sampling, but keep in mind you're there to enjoy the atmosphere, not complete your wine expert certification. For $10, Costa de Oro offers a tasting of five wines from their list, which I think is a pretty good bargain considering a lot of places are now pushing $15 for tastings of four. I started with a 2017 pinot noir rosé. This is a very light and approachable rosé perfect for those who are still not on the rosé bandwagon, grumbling on the side of the road and leering at the rest of us who are. It's described as having notes of pear, lavender, and peach. The lavender is what sets this apart for me; it's so well balanced and perfectly paired with the citrus finish to the wine. It does what florals in food or beverages are supposed to, which is accentuate the other flavors around it rather than dominate the palate.

Thursday nights at Costa de Oro includes live music and complimentary appetizers. Tastings are $10 for five selections from more than a dozen different wines.

I also sampled the 2015 Pinot Noir Reserva Oro Rojo, which has a good essence of strawberry and raspberry and some toasted notes behind it. For the Oro Rojo, Costa de Oro selects pinot noir from various lots throughout their vineyard, picked during different days over a three-week time frame in order to create different components for the wine. Grapes picked early are a bit more acidic and brighter while the ones that come later are bigger and have darker, richer flavors. They then monitor the maturation and make decisions about what will blend well together. The results are impressive, including a win for Best Pinot Noir at the Pasadena Pinotfaire VIP Tasting this year. 

Off the road
Costa de Oro’s tasting room is located at 1331 Nicholson Ave., Santa Maria. More info: (805) 922-1468.

Another wine you want to get to know at Costa de Oro is the 2016 Estate Chardonnay. I am not a chardonnay fan; my tastes lean more toward heavier reds or brighter and crisper whites. But this wine is pretty friendly to any stubborn palate. The grapes are all from the Santa Maria Valley (yay, hometown pride!), and honestly, it just feels like a wine grown in the place we call home. The wine is aged in 25 percent new French oak and exhibits notes of pear and pineapple, as well as a woodiness and a caramel finish. 

Costa de Oro’s 2016 Estate Chardonnay has light aromas of fruit such as apple and lemon and a gentle acidity to cut through the richness of the flavor.

But it was the 2014 Quail Crossing Pinot Grigio that stole my heart. Every sommelier I know winces when I say how much I love my "peeno greesh," but in this case, it's really warranted. It's a nice wine that doesn't have to pair with anything except a cool breeze and some good music. 

Costa de Oro also offers a really great setting to enjoy these wines in. I've heard skeptics side-eye this assertion, owing to the fact that the tasting room sits eerily close to a monster block of big-box shopping venues and fast food joints. But once you're off the clustered highway, the tasting room feels secluded and quiet, sitting behind a large field that stretches off into the hills. m

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is gently aged in French oak. Contact her at 

• Brace yourself, I'm dropping big news about a big change. Tommy's Pho in Santa Maria is now the Saigon Cafe. The owners have a brand new chef who is basically a genius. They are expanding their menu and focusing on a wide range of traditional Vietnamese dishes. Some of the standouts I sampled were the fried squash with salted egg yolk (pictured below left) and tamarind shrimp, which are must-tries. Don't worry, they still have favorites from Tommy's including big bowls of pho and banh mi sandwiches. Check out what's new at 229 Town Center West, suite A17, Santa Maria.



• Attention hungry Lompoc Wine Ghetto fans: Follow Lompoc Wines on Instagram for updates on food truck comings and goings in the Wine Ghetto (pictured below right). The account keeps good tabs on local food truck vendors and also has news about concerts, special events, and much more. Follow them at• Normally I don't promote chain or corporate restaurants, but there's no shame in my love for Red Lobster. I could eat there every day. Also, they have a drink called the Lobsterita and it's basically so huge they have to give you an extra shot of tequila on the side to calm you down. Plus, cheddar bay biscuits, y'all. Get 'em at 1525 S. Bradley Road, Santa Maria.

Bodega Los Alamos is now open, featuring a huge selection of beers and wines. The wine bar and shop also features sweet treats like ice cream over the long weekends and has bocce ball for visitors. Have fun at 273 Bell St., Los Alamos.

Weekly Poll
Did the federal government shutdown impact you or your family?

Yes. We missed paychecks and had to make some tough decisions.
I don't work for the government, and it didn't impact me at all.
I don't have a government job, but I still missed out on important services.
I'm glad it happened. Who needs airport security anyway?

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