As the sun slowly melted behind the clouds and silhouetted mountains of Santa Barbara one recent afternoon, locals and hotel guests alike sipped through a flight of five wines on the Canary Hotel’s breathtaking rooftop terrace. Welcome to The Perch, the new spot to be on Monday nights, when the hotel and its Coast Restaurant present a weekly wine flight and cheese tasting from 5:30 to 8 p.m. A small green ticket, which can be purchased downstairs in the hotel bar just past the dimly lit lobby, provides guests with exclusive admittance to the rooftop and a tasting of five wines accompanied by carefully selected artisan cheeses (Cabernet-soaked white cheddar anyone?) and the guidance of a winery representative.
Happy hour wine tastings aren’t anything new, but there are no venues in Santa Barbara like The Perch, where you can soak in 360-degree views featuring the Pacific Ocean, Santa Ynez Mountains, and the remarkably coherent Spanish-Californian architecture that predominates as far as your eyes can see. Many stumbled upon the sunset-watching gem when it was called El Cielo as part of the Hotel Andalucia, and have been frustrated by its on-again/off-again acceptance of the public.
But with the recent remodeling and remarketing of the hotel as the Canary and restaurant as Coast (formerly 31 West), The Perch’s new wine tasting seems here to stay, explained beverage manager Brandon Haug. He’s been coordinating the event since May with food and beverage director Corwyn Anthony and Coast’s executive chef Brian Parks, who selects cheeses from the Chef’s Warehouse in Los Angeles. “At least one of us is present each Monday,” said Haug, who is happy to report that the event is becoming more popular with each passing week thanks to word of mouth and returning regulars. As the weather gets cooler, The Perch’s space heaters will be fired up and if it rains, the tasting can also move inside.
These days, after riding up the elevator and stopping by the wine and cheese stations, guests scatter around The Perch’s Spanish tile-adorned pool with their glasses and lean on the bougainvillea-covered iron fence to stare out toward the Channel Islands. Others relax in chaise lounges or get comfortable amidst the pillowed chairs and glass-top tables to decide on their favorite pairings.
Recent tasting highlights have been from the wineries of Laetitia, Ravenswood, Villa Mt. Eden, Carr, Bridlewood, Consilience Winery, and Clos du Bois. Ampelos Winery, which runs a biodynamic vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, will be at The Perch on August 11. Orchid Hill Winery, whose vineyard is located in the Templeton Gap area southwest of Paso Robles, is scheduled for August 18, and Richard Sanford’s Alma Rosa Winery is set for August 25. As time goes on, Haug and Anthony hope to continue tapping into the bounty of wineries of Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast, perfect pairings for this perfect afternoon setting.
The Perch is located atop the Canary Hotel, 31 West Carrillo Street. Call 884-0300 or see canarysantabarbara.com. Upcoming tastings include Ampelos on August 11, Orchid Hill Winery on August 18, and Alma Rosa on August 25.