Hike And Wine On A Dime

Wine tasting on a dime and as an adventure is possible as long as you do your research – that means watching the film Sideways. Not kid-friendly but then again wine tasting is also best sans tots. Sideways actually is just for fun and references might mark you as a newbie but that’s ok as bluffing your way through wine tasting is about as possible as passing yourself off as Tiger Woods at your first golf lesson.

At the winery
Girls day out

The true wine connoisseurs are onto the charlatans in the time it takes to uncork a Beaujolais or hear you mispronounce it. Going with a wine savvy friend, as I did, can buy a wee bit of legitimacy by proxy but it’s pretty short lived. On our first stop at the lovely Old Creek Winery outside of Ojai, my girlfriend delicately inhaled aromas and engaged in intellectual wine chat while I nodded sagely and followed her lead. Unfortunately, with only a slight bit of wine in me, I found it irresistible to share my rendition of tasting as an eye exam. While my friend silently meditated on obscure flavors, I made inverted finger eyeglasses and chirped “Is it this one or that one, is this better or that, now was the first one clearer or the second?”

The girlfriend, in an attempt to distract me, offered the sheet of wine descriptives but ended up regretting that when I bypassed the lovely flavors of cherry cordial, vanilla bean, and Herbs de Provence and asked to be served cigar box and light tar so that I might be able to correctly identify and compare those flavors in the 2011 Primitivio and 2010 Barbera (dead serious, look it up). And then there was the 2010 Sangiovese – taste number six – with its burnt sugar and red currant not nearly as interesting as the organoleptic stuffing that would allow it to age gracefully. By taste seven I could no longer pronounce organoleptic (ok fine, I could not pronounce it to begin with). I soon absconded with the steward’s tip jar and began a stand-up routine reciting flavors such as hints of wet stone (go ahead, check 2012 Albarino de Moto), organic wood shingle, and fair trade fireplace ash – my own inventions.


Finally, my girlfriend sweetly pointed out that only she and the wine steward were in the room and they would tip $10 if I would stop. I told her she should thank her lucky stars she was not with my guy and me a month earlier when, at another tasting, I remarked that a certain wine reminded me of one we’d had the night before only to have my guy innocently respond “the one from 7-11?” Talk about silencing a wine tasting. She might’ve been really embarrassed.

So how exactly can you enjoy tasting if your budget leans more toward grape juice than wine? We’ll be straightforward and cut to the chase. Share the tasting. Yes, you each get glasses, they just pour a teensy bit less. The staff we encountered enthusiastically promoted the shared taste – the Sideways jokes – not so much.

Wine Tasting
Amazing staff make the tasting great

The staff at a winery make the entire experience a pleasure and it is worth noting here that a previous tasting on the harbor in Morro Bay at The Morro Bay Wine Seller by my guy and myself was fantastic and made so by owners Ley and Rachelle Vaughn . They pretended not to hear the 7-11 remark and even took my guy on a tour of their incredible renovation that will enlarge the wine tasting area to fully take advantage of the view of lofty sailboats and frolicking seals in the bay. At every tasting, we have found the cliché wine snobbery to be nonexistent and instead been welcomed by genuine, laid-back staff, happy to share their love of wine.

Wine view
The Morro Bay Wine Seller

The financial outlay for tasting comes in around the same price as a movie with snacks. At the Old Creek Winery we spent $20 total ($10 each) for our tasting and that included 7 different wines. If you opt to not share, it is $15 per person. I limited myself to the 1/2 tasting, as I was the chauffeur while my friend moved on to vintner Michael Meagher’s private label, VINO V. Michael gave an overview that was both informative and entertaining and his wine was stellar as my friend’s purchase attests. Old Creek’s entire operation, from experts on hand to country setting, exudes casual energy. We were even invited to bring our own picnic and make use of the ample tables outdoors amongst abundant orange poppies, cherry blossoms, and beautiful blue skies. The amenable staff is more than willing to sell a bottle of wine to go with your picnic with the least expensive bottle on our tasting at $20 for non-wine club members.


Our next stop was in the quaint community of Ojai, at a gorgeous tasting room located in the main section of town.

Casa Barranca

Casa Barranca’s (all organic wines) tasting room, with its cozy couch, long bar, and generous group seating area in the back, is not only beautiful but also practical. They can hold a large number of people comfortably and the on a dime crowd can opt for single tastes at $3 each. This is peachy or should we say grape-y on the wallet and comes in handy when dealing with someone lightweight enough that they’ll say “grape-y”. My girlfriend appreciated the single taste choice when – on my second –  I referenced an event taking place “a week from tah-now” The patient and polite friend did not even bat an eye – as if she heard people say “tah-now” daily –  so I owned up and whispered “I know tah-now is not a word but then again organoleptic is suspect also”

Post tasting, be sure to stop in somewhere for coffee. We headed for the highly rated and individually owned Ojai Roasting Company in the center of Ojai. Been there several times and it is both a lovely atmosphere as well as delicious coffee.


And what about hiking? Fellow adventurers, we were only able to explore carefully on this little foray as the daredevil girlfriend was recuperating after viewing the highest peak in the Swiss Alps, leg hyper extended and flat on her back while yelling “this place is gorgeous, take photos!” My kind of gal! Luckily, I had hiked Ojai before and those photos are included in this article. Here at On A Dime we encourage you to incorporate hiking and tasting as a joint getaway and we implore you to take it on in that order. Hike up a storm, sweat it out, and then kick back with a tasting.

Stellar scenery
Stellar scenery

Not willing to totally forego a trek, my friend included on our list a magical place that yet another friend had turned her onto. The Ojai Foundation. This non-profit is not on the radar at all as it is about 6 miles outside of town and into the hills. A dirt road and a small, humble sign are the only clue to the entrance of what, you quickly come to realize, is an opportunity to decompress and leave behind technology, as in cell service and WIFI. This foundation fosters community connection, meditation, permaculture, and a whole host of other seminars for those seeking enlightenment. One cost-sensitive program (work exchange) is listed as “bring your own tent and the fee is $250 for 12 days, in other words about $20 per day and includes daily meditation, yoga, and movement practices. This particular retreat is unique and a reminder that so much exists off the beaten path and often not heavily promoted. When striking out for the day on an adventure, look online at what is in the area and then seek out locals within the community for favorite insider tips. We have discovered everything from choice spots to view sunset to free camping under the redwoods by simply asking employees and residents in small towns.


Don’t wait another second, hike a beautiful area and then if a winery is nearby, complete the day with a beautiful unwind. If no winery exists, bring your own favorite beverage and picnic and relax into the close of the day. Who knows, the flavor of cigar box and tar just might be the thing you’ve always been missing.

*On a final note of advice, please taste responsibly. Have a designated driver as well as someone in charge of cutting you off before one too many Sideways jokes – in other words – after one. Non-alcoholic beverages are fantastic after hiking as well and the times that we’ve thought ahead and had the cooler loaded for our return have been the best. Consider the following – all iced down – water w/ any of these infusions from a local Farmers Market, cucumber, strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, mint and juices, sparkling juices, teas and yep, iced coffee!

*Friends, please leave your favorite tasting location in the comments section below and a link to their site as well.

2 thoughts on “Hike And Wine On A Dime”

  1. I haven’t yet made the trek to the Caymus or Layer Cake vineyards in Napa, or Clos du Bois in Sonoma, but they (among others) are on my to do list. Cheers!

  2. I think a stop to Paso Robles is right up your alley! It’s a cute little cowboy town that started growing grapes a little over a decade ago. The town is chalk full of winery tasting rooms and diners. You can take vineyard tours and taste in lovely tasting rooms at a far more affordable price then Napa. Some of my favorites are: Clayhouse, Hearst Family wines, Justin, Derby Wine Estates (best sparkling wines), and Chronic Cellars (Sofa King Buena is a must try wine, plus the wine labels are made by one of the brothers and then the wine is created to match the label). Needless to say, with over 200 wineries in Paso, there is something for every palate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *