Ask any dog, and they will tell you the best road trips involve long strips of coastline and sticking your head out the window for wafts of salty sea air. It is even better when that road trip lands you in a world-class wine region. Santa Barbara County boasts unique microclimates capable of producing different varieties and styles of wine. The region has become a playground for winemakers, from which a more recent wave of natural wines has emerged. The wines are often not what you would expect—chillable reds, white wines with tannin. Frequently described as “crunchy” with a tart and fresh profile, they can sometimes ruffle the feathers of classic wine devotees. While these styles may be up for debate, my experience ruffling feathers has always resulted in a great time and the same is true for what these producers have achieved in the following wines.

Though they are a great excuse to travel up the coast for a weekend, you don’t have to…I sniffed these out locally at the dog-friendly Vino Carta.

Gordon chilling alongside his favorite natural wines.

2020 Lo-Fi Rosé

Smells like springtime walks by jasmine flowers, peach skins, and lime. The palate presents flavors of watermelon rind and the under-ripe strawberries I allegedly dug out of the garden. This rosé of mostly Cabernet Franc is bone-dry, which sadly has nothing to do with bones but still has me slobbering as if it did. It would make an excellent pairing with charcuterie and has proven to be the best rinse for sandy jowls at the beach.

G with Lo-Fi Rosé.
Lo-Fi Sauvignon Blanc / Chardonnay with G playing in the background.
G with Lo-Fi Rosé.
Lo-Fi Sauvignon Blanc / Chardonnay with G playing in the background.

2020 Lo-Fi Sauvignon Blanc / Chardonnay

Choosing between sauvignon blanc and chardonnay is like choosing between fetch and the humans at Lo-Fi have created the wine equivalent to a rubber ball on a rope. It offers the bright fruit and herbaceous aromatics of sauvignon blanc, with the textural weight of chardonnay—an absolute winner. Intense aromas of apricot, peach, and thyme pave the way to a thrilling and juicy palate. The grapes are fermented on their skins which puts this in the ‘orange’ wine category, though I can’t confirm the color myself. It does coincidentally taste like a sun-baked orange that fell off a tree onto the sidewalk and has begun fermenting in its peel. Enjoy with duck or caramelized veggies.

2019 ‘Crunchy Roastie’ Stolpman Syrah

Some may see a syrah label and assume what’s in the bottle is a bold, heavy red. Some might also look at me and assume I am more ferocious than a Chihuahua. The truth, however, is that I need to sit in a human’s lap as much as this wine needs to sit in an ice bucket. It is part of the Stolpman ‘So Fresh’ label, a new project from the acclaimed winery making low-intervention wines using native yeasts and whole cluster fermentation. The result in this bottle is a lively profile bursting with flavors of bright blueberry, fruit punch, and tamarind.

2020 Âmevive ‘Périphérie’ Blend

Aromas of bing cherry, red plum, and Mom’s hands after picking wild blackberries. Restrained tannins provide a gentle mouthfeel like chewing a favorite old toy that is soft and comforting. A fresh, beautiful field blend of Syrah, Marsanne, and Mourvèdre from old vines and a young winemaker. Alice Anderson showcases fruit from the Ibarra-Young Vineyard, which she farms using organic and regenerative practices that encourage biodiversity in the vineyard. Judging by the wildlife depicted on the Âmevive labels, it is obvious Anderson is an animal lover. After trying this wine, this animal loves her right back!

Gordon begging Mom to open the Âmevive.
Gordon’s perfect day: the beach and natural wine.
G notes "crunchy" can be good.

More Santa Barbara Producers To Look For

Scotty-Boy! Wines

Solminer Wine Co.

Amplify Wines

Shop online, order through Postmates, or visit Vino Carta at 2161 India Street, San Diego. Open noon to midnight Thursday–Saturday and noon to 10pm Sunday–Wednesday.  

*Disclaimer: While the tasting notes and descriptions are accurately depicted, no dogs were actually served wine for the purposes of this article. Wine is considered toxic to dogs and should never be offered but we hope you’ve enjoyed a laugh or two with us.

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About the Contributor
Felicia Balli
Felicia Balli is a sommelier currently studying for her WSET Level 3 award in wines. She is the co-owner of Solera Culinary Services, offering gourmet dinners and wine tastings for small groups throughout San Diego. Her dog Gordon can often be found with her on wine tasting adventures. Gordon (his friends call him G) is a 1-year-old Cane Corso who enjoys long walks on the beach and great wine. His mom is a sommelier and his dad is a chef—which means you can often find him developing his palate on the kitchen floor. He is dedicated to making wine more approachable for dogs and their humans. Find more of his reviews on Instagram @dogmomsomm.