Refugio Ranch Vineyards repurposes historic railroad site into new tasting space

Courtesy photo by Becca Nuss
WINE AND DINE: A recent expansion project at Refugio Ranch Vineyards in Los Olivos resulted in a new courtyard space and food pop-up series, during which guests can grab one of chef Peter Cham’s “Chamburgers” to enjoy with their wine.

Previously a tank car station on the historic Pacific Coast Railway, the Refugio Ranch Vineyards’ tasting room in Los Olivos is now one of two repurposed railroad facilities on the winery’s property.

In August, Gleason Family Vineyards—the parent brand behind Refugio Ranch—finished a multilayered expansion project at the site, which included renovations at the ranch’s original tasting room, new outdoor entertainment areas, a new farmstand marketplace, and a sibling tasting room, converted from a cabin its owners believe was originally a train station ticketing booth.

The winery is currently offering a newly curated railroad-themed tasting flight in honor of the new tasting room, which neighbors the original space, separated by a large outdoor seating patio between the two.

click to enlarge Refugio Ranch Vineyards repurposes historic railroad site into new tasting space
Courtesy photo by Becca Nuss
FIRST CLASS: A former ticketing office that served the Pacific Coast Railway during the early 1900s was recently converted into a new tasting room at Refugio Ranch Vineyards.

“We created a special ‘Ticket Booth’ tasting flight to acknowledge the history of the space,” said Max Gleason, Gleason Family Vineyards’ creative director who spearheaded the recent expansion efforts at Refugio Ranch.

Guests of the former ticketing office will find the flight offering outlined on a train ticket-shaped menu. It even lists locations of departure and destination. 

“Departure: Los Olivos. Destination: State of Utter Bliss.”

A handful of tastings or “stops” are listed on the ticket, which costs $25 total. Sangiovese, syrah, and pinot noir are among the featured wines.

Gleason added that the outdoor dining expansions, including a new 900-square-foot open-air patio, at Refugio Ranch have also allowed the winery ample space to host a new series of outdoor food pop-ups, which launched in early September. The series is titled 29 Ninety, a reference to the site’s 2990 Grand Ave. address.

“We love that we have been able to incorporate the cabin and new courtyard into the Refugio Ranch tasting room experience,” said Gleason, who described the 29 Ninety series held in the courtyard as the fulcrum between the two tasting spaces. “It truly creates an encompassing corner at the north end of Los Olivos.

click to enlarge Refugio Ranch Vineyards repurposes historic railroad site into new tasting space
Courtesy photo by Becca Nuss
COZY COURTYARD: A newly built courtyard space offers ample outdoor seating to guests of Refugio Ranch Vineyards in Los Olivos.

“Those who have visited this end of Los Olivos before, as well as the locals, are amazed by the transformation of the space,” Gleason added. “The new courtyard, especially, has this relaxing, idyllic vibe that guests love to soak up.”

Food selections in the courtyard during the 29 Ninety pop-up series are provided by Gleason Family Vineyards chefs Peter Cham and Lee Gottheimer. One of the duo’s new offerings as part of the series is a “swankier” version of chips and onion dip, Cham explained.

“I grew up with parents, like I’m sure many others have, that would make [onion dip] for every weekend barbecue with family and friends, albeit being store-bought sour cream with Lipton onion dip mix packets,” Cham said. “I wanted to do a fun and slightly fancier version utilizing techniques that showcase different uses of alliums, black charred onion powder, bright red pickled shallots, and vibrant green chive oil.”

Cham described the September debut of the new pop-series—which currently runs every Saturday and Sunday—a success, and said one of the launch party’s star attractions was his signature burger, the Chamburger.

click to enlarge Refugio Ranch Vineyards repurposes historic railroad site into new tasting space
Courtesy photo by Becca Nuss
LOCALLY SOURCED: The recent expansion project at Refugio Ranch Vineyards included the addition of a new farmstand marketplace. Tomatoes and other items from the farmstand can be found in a new selection of food items at the site as well, during the 29 Ninety weekly food pop-up series.

It’s a double Wagyu beef smash burger with caramelized onions, shredded lettuce, “secret sauce,” dill pickles, and American cheese—all stacked within a potato bun.

Other dishes attendees of the 29 Ninety series can look forward to finding include barbecue spice-braised pulled pork tacos, and a Little Gem wedge salad, with some ingredients that can be found at the new Refugio Ranch farmstand marketplace, sourced from Roblar Farm in Santa Ynez, another local brand under the umbrella of Gleason Family Vineyards.

“We source scallions and herbs to make our buttermilk ranch dressing,” Cham said, “as well as small cherry and sungold tomatoes from [Roblar Farm].”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood wants to know your favorite kind of dressing at [email protected].

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