Saturday, October 24, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 34

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Kalyra Winery reopens a year after a freak winter storm took out its Santa Ynez tasting room


Half deck, half tasting room, Kalyra Winery’s thin, long building overlooks the Santa Ynez Valley. The walls smell faintly of fresh paint, but the venue is hopping on Feb. 1.

Reopened for your tasting pleasure
Kalyra Winery reopened its tasting room in Santa Ynez over the first weekend of February. For hours of operation and to learn more about upcoming events, check out The winery is located at 343 N. Refugio Road, No. 9302, in Santa Ynez.

On a clear 80-degree day in Santa Ynez, Kalyra Winery reopened its tasting room in Santa Ynez, almost a year to the day from when a freak storm ripped the roof off the building and poured rain into the exposed space.

The walls smell faintly of fresh paint, but the venue is hopping on Feb. 1. 

Every table is full, and there isn’t space at the bar either. Tasters and Kalyra wine club members snack on empanadas from A Taste of Argentina and grab freshly made tortillas off the grill around the side, filling them with meat and a squeeze of lime. 

Tasting flights start with the 2019 sparkling, a lovely bubbly surprise made with grapes from Sonoma in the traditional méthode champenoise. It can be accompanied by chocolate truffle, bundt cake, or the cheese of your choosing. 

Today is Kalyra’s grand reopening, a celebration of new beginnings after a year of recovery. Mike and Kathy Brown rebuilt their winery after a winter storm destroyed it in February 2019. 

Kalyra’s recently rebuilt tasting room off Refugio Road still smelled faintly of freshly painted walls during its grand opening celebration on Feb. 1.

“It was like a tornado, 87 mile per hour wind. It literally tore the roof off the tasting room,” Kathy said. “That night it rained torrential amounts of rain, so we had 2 inches of standing water in the tasting room. ... There was water pouring in through the electrical sockets. ... It was crazy.” 

Their tasting room of 19 years on Refugio Road was decimated. The couple temporarily moved their tasting room to a little warehouse in Buellton, but, Kathy said, they didn’t get a lot of foot traffic. 

Loyal Kalyra wine club members stuck with them, she said. However, with any wine club, there’s natural attrition, and it was hard to make up for the ones who left. 

“There’s a huge financial impact for sure on your customer base,” Kathy said. “In that respect, yeah, it did impact us. But honestly, we have some really loyal customers, and I’m grateful for the ones that stuck with us.” 

Bundt cakes were served alongside plates of chocolate truffles, trays of Charcuterie and cheese plates, tacos, and empanadas for attendees of Kalyra’s grand reopening the first weekend of February.

At the end of the day, Kathy said, it’s a family business, with her husband, Mike, making the wine while she runs the business side of things. They’ve been together for 23 years, have two kids, and are trying to make things work as best they can. 

“It’s our livelihood,” she said.

Although Kalyra did upgrade some of its facilities, Kathy said it has the same laid-back vibe it’s always had. Same great view of the Santa Ynez Valley and surrounding mountains. Same great wine. Same Australian surf vibe.  

“It’s just relaxing. We’re not really high pressure,” she said. “It’s a little more updated ... but it’s still us.” 

Mike started the label in the 1980s, and the couple has been in Kalyra’s spot off Refugio Road since 2002. Originally from Australia, Kathy describes her husband’s winemaking as irreverent. He likes to create the kinds of wines that he likes to make—not necessarily what’s popular at the moment, but extremely accessible.

“He makes wine the way that he wants to make wine, and he doesn’t care what the trend is,” she said. “Our thing is that we want to make wine affordable for people.” 

Even with a new tasting room, Kalyra is sporting the same laid-back vibes it always has, complete with a couple of surf boards hanging on the walls.

The average bottle is between $25 and $35, she said, and Kalyra has a pretty big line-up of dessert wines. If you’re not a huge fan of dessert wines, you can always pour them over ice cream, she said with a laugh. 

Kalyra sources grapes from right out in front of their tasting room, as well as from other vineyards in the valley. The majority of that wine is sold through the wine club and tasting room, Kathy said. You can grab a wine by the glass, sit out on the patio, and take in the view. 

The view is grand, especially on the unusually warm winter day that Kalyra celebrated its grand reopening. Ironic when compared to the storm that set them back a year ago.

“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” Kathy said. “What more could you ask for on the anniversary of our disaster.” 

Editor Camillia Lanham is kicking back on the patio. Send food and drink tips to

Nibbles & Bites

• It’s not too early to plan ahead for Valentine’s Day. The Historic Santa Maria Inn will be doing a special dinner for Valentine’s Day in the Garden Room Restaurant. The Valentine’s menu will be offered on Feb. 10 and 11 in addition to its regular menu, and the restaurant will be serving only the special menu on Valentine’s Day. Reservations are recommended; visit for details. On the holiday itself, Riverbench Winery invites all valentines to sample the most quintessential of all romantic pairings: sparkling wine and chocolates. The tasting room will feature Jessica Foster Confections’ truffles paired with the winery’s sparkling wine flight. The truffles cost $10, the tasting fee is $20, and the special pairing runs from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The winery is located at 6020 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria. For more info, visit 

Associate Editor Andrea Rooks can’t wait for sparkling wine. Send flutes and foodie tips to

Weekly Poll
How do you feel about the propositions on this year's ballot?

It takes a lot of research to understand them.
There are too many proposed efforts in each.
I don't vote on them; it's a waste of time.
I only vote on the props I care about.

| Poll Results

My 805 Tix - Tickets to upcoming events