Full Belly Files | What’s Up at Goleta Beach?

A higher floor will hopefully thwart future flooding at the Goleta Beach restaurant property. | Credit: Courtesy

This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on May 5, 2023. To receive Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter in your inbox each Friday, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.

It’s been frustrating for all of us to get excited about the new future of the former Beachside Café at Goleta Beach — which was approved to much applause back in October 2021 — only to watch the development get hampered by all manner of delays, from unexpected restoration needs to more recent storm damage, not to mention a lawsuit that’s still working its way through the courts.  

The redeveloped space in front of the restaurant at Goleta Beach | Credit: Courtesy

“We are still very excited to share the space with the community as we know how much the venue means to everyone, and these delays for repair have been a drag,” said Omar Khashen, the proprietor who now hopes to open The Ellwood by late summer. The storm damage repair took longer than expected, and he’s still waiting on FEMA for disaster relief funds, which he hopes will be finalized soon.

“In the meantime, our incredible contractor has been making progress to the building where we can,” he said, explaining that the oceanside of the building has been strengthened against future flooding. “We’ve also filled in the sunken floor in the dining room area so it can’t turn into a swimming pool of flood water again.” County Parks is proceeding on upgrades to the park, restrooms, and parking lots as well.

He could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit, but did say that he also filed a related one in Orange County. “We are hoping to find a resolution to both cases that make sense soon,” he said.

“The delays have been challenging, but we’re still really excited about the project,” said Khashen. “I’m sure the hurdles will make the opening even more sweet.”  

The Gatehouse at Bien Nacido Estate

The view at Bien Nacido VIneyard | Credit: Matt Kettmann

I spent a whole day last week wearing my Wine Enthusiast hat — though I didn’t wear an actual hat, and I got my bald head sunburned — to work on a series of films about the opening of The Gatehouse at Bien Nacido Estate. In development for quite some time, this will be the new tasting room for the luxury-level wines that the Miller Family Wine Company makes from their own vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley: the historic Bien Nacido — which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year — and Solomon Hills, which is located alongside 101 near Clark Avenue in Orcutt.

The public will soon be invited to Bien Nacido Vineyard (right), where these wines (left) and more will be for sale at The Gatehouse. | Credit: Matt Kettmann

Although more than 100 wineries — and possibly many, many more; that’s just a safe guess — have made wines from Bien Nacido fruit since brother Bob and Steve Miller planted it in 1973, the family only started making their own wine from the property in 2005, and really only in a commercial way for about 15 years. The Gatehouse, whose private grand opening soiree is May 11 followed by the public unveiling on Memorial Day weekend, marks the first time that the public will be invited onto the hallowed grape grounds of Bien Nacido.

The wisteria in bloom outside of the Ontiveros Adobe on Bien Nacido Vineyard. | Credit: Matt Kettmann

The new building took direct design cues from the Ontiveros Adobe, whose thick, two-story walls still stand in the middle of the ranch just like they did when first erected in the 1850s. Once fully operational, guests will be able to taste from a range of flights and tour the property, seeing that very adobe as well as the small winery and sprawling vineyards that are responsible for the estate wines.

A dormer window atop the Ontiveros Adobe on Bien Nacido Vineyard | Credit: Matt Kettmann

I’m sure it will generate a great deal of buzz for the first few months, but the key for anything in today’s competitive wine market, and particularly for properties in the remote reaches of the Santa Maria Valley, will be to keep the crowds coming. Cambria Winery just unveiled a redesigned tasting room just past Bien Nacido, so that will help, and the nearby tasting rooms/wineries/vineyards of RiverbenchPresqu’ileRancho Sisquoc, and Foxen continue to draw well-deserved attention as well. Maybe Bien Nacido will be the puzzle piece that keeps a trip to the Santa Maria Valley on the minds of wine lovers for the years to come.

The Gatehouse’s opening also means that the former Bien Nacido Estate tasting room in Los Olivos has made way for another tenant, this one also owned by Miller Family Wine Company. Until the end of August, it will be pouring Optik Wines, the brand that combines Joey Tensley’s bold winemaking style with the Miller vineyards, including Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills, and French Camp up in Paso Robles, where he sources petite sirah and valdiguié.

The Optik experience is available Friday to Sunday, noon-6 p.m., at 2963 Grand Ave.,
Los Olivos.

From Our Table

The inaugural Natural Coast Wine Festival | Credit: George Yatchisin

Here are some stories you may have missed on Independent.com:


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.