“Winemakers are like artists, and who is the most famous artist ever?” asks record producer-turned-wine merchant Doug Trantow. “Van Gogh, the brilliant painter who died penniless. Nobody had ever heard of him.”
Attracting attention for artisan vintners while they’re still alive is just one reason that the Santa Barbara local returned to his hometown this summer after 30 years in Los Angeles to open Good Land Wine Shop. Located on State Street near the Highway 154 intersection, close to where Santa Barbara’s cityscape slips into the suburbs of Goleta, Trantow’s shop focuses on smaller wineries from across the Central Coast, with a special emphasis on the Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles. He sees that as a change of pace from the other premium wine shops in town, where the regional selections can be overwhelmed by international imports.
“In this day and age, we can’t be piling up thousands of cases of wine on a boat from Australia and bringing it here,” said Trantow. “That’s going to have to come to an end, and we have great wine right here! The fact that there was no local wine shop here in town where you could go and taste the thousands of wines that are made right over the hill just didn’t make sense to me. That’s why I opened the shop.”
Trantow’s blonde, wooden shelves feature nearly 200 bottlings, including established Paso brands like Tobin James and Denner from Paso and Santa Barbara stars like Stolpman and Beckmen as well as passion bottlings like the Gogi Wines made by actor Kurt Russell. Good Land carries his chardonnay, which is nicknamed “Goldie” and sold out most everywhere else. “It’s great,” said Trantow, “but what has become really exciting for me is promoting great wines from people no one’s ever heard of.”
That means smaller brands that are hard to find outside of tasting rooms. There are the natty-leaning wines of Mike Roth’s Lo-Fi, single-vineyard showcases of Zotovich Vineyard, the Rose & Son brand from the organic Coquelicot Vineyard, lavender-tinged merlots and cab francs of Lavender Oak, and the pinot noir and chardonnay from Land of Saints, whose co-owners’ Kiwi/Cornish/Mexican roots fuel their hand-farmed, small-batch techniques.
After graduating from Dos Pueblos High, Trantow attended SBCC for two years and then followed his music interest south, getting his music production degree from Cal State-Dominguez Hills in 1991. He went on to work with a wide range of successful artists, Sublime, Tracy Chapman, Hootie & the Blowfish, Joe Cocker, Nine Inch Nails, and Hanson, among many others. It’s no wonder he still gets a kick out of discovering new talent.
Trantow’s figurative vines in hospitality go pretty deep. In the 1980s, prior to heading to Hollywood, he worked at Jasper’s Saloon, one of Goleta’s most famous watering holes, where he learned that he had a knack for bar service. Once off to college, he worked at an Asian fusion restaurant called Symphonie in Westwood, where he was promoted to wine director and created the wine list. Those efforts paid off, earning the restaurant a three-star rating from the California Wine Buyers Association.
The Good Land Wine Shop isn’t just for buying wine to take home. Guests can take a seat at the bar — which Trantow crafted himself — listen to tunes on classic vinyl, and taste wines by the glass. Trantow hopes to inspire people to try something new during each visit and create memories that, like an amazing wine, you remember for years to come. He also sells Draughtsmen beer on tap as well as a selection of regionally crafted mead, cider, and kombucha.
Trantow’s only request? Don’t ask him what his favorite wine is. “I’m allergic to the word ‘favorite,’” he said. “I love all wines. The concept of the shop is focused on locally made wines, but of course I enjoy wine from around the world.”
That said, there is quite a selection of syrah and grenache in the Good Land, a bit more than the usual pinots and cabs that dominate most wine store shelves. “I tend to like Rhône-style wines,” he admitted.
“Music had always been my thing, so when I graduated, I pushed wine to the side and made music my career,” he said. “You can’t do music in Santa Barbara, so I settled in L.A. Thirty years later, I decided to come back to Santa Barbara and rekindle my passion for wine through the shop.”
Open Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. 4177 State St.; (805) 695-3003; goodlandwineshop.com
Doug Trantow’s Wine & Music Pairings
ONX’s Black Orchid with Sublime: “Both sunny and yet dark and sneaky.”
Zotovich’s Grenache with Santana: “Raw but silky”
Liquid Farm’s White Hill Chardonnay with Barenaked Ladies: “Fun but intellectual.”
Camins 2 Dreams’ Zotovich Vineyard Syrah with Tracy Chapman: “Dark, sexy, twisted.”
Roark Wine Co.’s Not Orange Wine with Digital Monk: “Funky, austere, and intriguing.”
Paul Lato’s Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir with Joe Cocker: “Powerful but precise.”
Stolpman’s Love You Bunches Sangiovese with Hootie & the Blowfish: “Fun and blameless.”