Liz Downey on Building our Winelist

How fortunate we are to be in California with such a wonderful outpouring of fabulous wines.  Building a wine list to work with John’s cuisine is an ongoing, ever-changing, wonderfully engaging activity.  Here we are right in the center of one of the finest wine regions in the California.  A daily changing menu, a classically trained and gifted chef, and a palate for wine…. What a team we have become together! There are great opportunities to show the perfect Rhone blend with John’s squab, a big leesy chardonnay to compliment a lobster sauce, pinot for duck, great cabernets for lamb, syrah for venison, etc.


In the early 1990’s, pinots were making their debut locally.  Everybody wanted pinot noir, and there were plenty to choose from.  Now, almost twenty years later, pinots are still getting better and more refined.  There are recognizable differences in pinot noir from Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and Santa Rita Hills that speak clearly of terroir.  And there are even more recognizable variations of style from Sonoma, Napa and the northern viticulture areas.  All different, all delicious…..


I love some of the big juicy reds that are coming out of Paso Robles.  Recently during a tasting, a winemaker said, “You will never guess what this wine variety is.”  I went through my normal tasting process and he was right!  It was a Tannat coming from Paso Robles.  I love it!  I am learning the stylistic differences between the east and west side of Paso Robles. I am beginning to taste the difference between coastal Sonoma wines and those from farther inland.  Napa Cabernets are my favorite and I think the classic smell of Rutherford is indelibly stamped in my brain.


Terroir, micro climates, changes in rainfall from year to year, new wineries literally sprouting up, gifted local winemakers finding the right spot for Rieslings…. It’s a lot to keep track of and remember.  Choosing wine is not meant to be complicated.  I often remember one of my early tasting experiences in the local wine country.  I was with a friend who tasted a pinot noir from Au Bon Climat.  He said, “Smells good, tastes great!”   Is that all there is?  Absolutely not, but it certainly is a great way to start.

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Diner’s Choice 2015

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014 Winner

Santa Barbara Independent Foodie Awards 2011

Taste of Santa Barbara Menu

Liz and John Downey invite you to join them at Downey’s for the Seasonal Tasting Menu here.


Downey's Restaurant

1305 State Street

Santa Barbara, CA 93101