Aug 6, 2013 7:35 PM by Jeanette Trompeter
It's not news to anyone there are some great places to wine and dine on the Central Coast. But there are some hidden gems, and boy did photographer Kelly Teel and I stumble upon one in Buellton. It proves you can't always judge a book by it's cover, and that There's No Place Like Home.
In doing a story with a couple of Santa Ynez Valley winemakers, Kelly and I decided to head over to their crush facility. It's no surprise it's in the middle of an industrial park, as crush pads often are. What was surprising is what we found in the middle of the crush facility: a little mecca of the Santa Barbara County Wine World. "We call it wine Nirvanna." says Proprietor Joe Padilla. "We're at the end of an industrial park, and we want to reward people for being adventuresome."
Welcome to Avant Tapas and Wine. It's a full-service restaurant nestled among the flurry of wine-making activity that goes on around it. "So you come down here and we have about 30 wineries that make their wines here. Hitching Post is one of them, and Ken Brown. John Falcone, Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa...so some of the big names in the Valley." says Padilla.
Avant started as simply a crush facility...a place local winemakers could make their wines. Crush pads are expensive, and it's often a lot more efficient to just co-op with a state of the art facility like this. " In doing that, we found that a lot of small wineries didn't have the knowhow or technology to find good label sourcing or good bottle sourcing. or good bottling sources." says Padilla.
So now Avant is one-stop shopping for those in the business. Consequently, they spend a lot of time here. And of course everyone's gotta eat, right? That's how the tapas and wine bar came about. "All of the food we bring in is grown in Santa Barbara County. All the produce. Our beef comes from Lompoc. Our pork comes from Lompoc. We try to be as local-centric as possible." says Padilla.
It's a place for those in the business to take a break, get a bite, and sample what their collegues and competitors are putting out. It's a different kind of wine tasting, but there all kinds of choices. And a card-controlled wine bar makes it easy to work your way through your favorites. You simply buy a card, put it in the automated wine bar, pick the wine you want to try, whether you want a taste, a half-glass or a glass and the automated system takes care of you. No lines, no light or heavy pours. Just take your card when you leave it's as simple as that. "It registers on the little card what you drank and then we just print up a little receipt at the end and you know exactly what you had." explains Padilla.
It's a hang out for wine producers, but it is open to the public. In fact, you can combine a meal with a tour of the facility, and may be lucky enough to time it when a winemaker is doing a little sampling of their own right from the barrel. It's an out of the ordinary wining and dining experience, in an out of the ordinary location, and it is right in our own backyard. "We love peoples faces when they walk in the building and go WOW! This is in an industrial park?" says Padilla. "They always come back." he grins.
It's all more proof, There's No Place Like Home.
Avant does offer public and private tours and it does take reservations. For more information or to check out the scheduled public tour times, click here.
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