Former Racecar Driver’s El Paseo Tasting Room Reflects Regional Architecture and History
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
by MATT KETTMANN (CONTACT)
When Jamie and Kym Slone would travel as tourists to Santa Barbara, they found it hard to find winery experiences that celebrated the city’s rich history and Spanish architecture. “Where was the wine tasting room with red-tiled roofs?” Jamie recalled thinking. “I couldn’t find it.”
So the 52-year-old — whose financial success from his family radio empire in Tucson, Arizona, and the vacation-home real estate market previously fueled a five-year stint driving racecars — decided to deliver that combination of wine and Santa Barbara style himself. Today, Jamie Slone Wines (23 E. De la Guerra St.; 560-6555; jamieslonewines.com) sits just five feet from Casa de la Guerra, across the road from City Hall, and right along El Paseo’s “Street in Spain,” the perfect location for Slone’s dream of being “classic Santa Barbara.” Being quite literally at the epicenter of modern Santa Barbara, the tasting room is a critical component of the Wine Collection of El Paseo, just a half-block from the hordes of State Street.
The Slones hired a designer from Seville, Spain, to create the winery’s quatrefoil logo — “We gave you our architecture,” the Spanish woman quipped at one point — which also includes drafting lines. Housed in whitewashed walls with exposed beams decorated in gold leaf, the tasting room itself feels like an old Californio living room, fireplace and all. They also are bringing the vineyard inside, with uprooted vines and their shriveled grapes from Happy Canyon (where they sourced their Bordeaux wine grapes) leaning against the walls, alongside chalky rocks from La Encantada Vineyard (where some of their Burgundian offerings are grown).
Slone’s love for wine blossomed while he was racing at Sears Point in Sonoma County; when friends took off for beers, he’d go to tasting rooms, getting fully immersed in the customer side of the business. “What I didn’t know how to do was actually make the wine — I wasn’t the cook,” explained Slone, who eventually hired Doug Margerum as winemaker. “But I’m helping to shape the experience from a consumer’s point of view.” That means offering a solid range of wines, from the aforementioned Bordeaux and Burgundies to Rhônes and a forthcoming Super Tuscan, and stressing knowledgeable, engaging service.
“I wanted to be in a happy business,” said Slone of this career move. “I may not make the wine, but I’m as passionate as anyone else in saying, ‘Let’s live it.’”