This week’s “My Favorite BBQ Joints” comes from Wes Hagen, the Vineyard Manager/Winemaker at Clos Pepe Vineyards which is nestled in the heart of the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County, California. Since the day I met Wes about 4 years ago at his vineyard for a semi-private tour I knew I was speaking to a man who not only had a deep knowledge and passion for wine, grape growing, and wine-making, but also a like passion for food and the way food pairs with wine. Because Clos Pepe is hands down my favorite producer of Pinot Noir (and if you tried one of their’s you’d be hooked instantly) I am especially honored that Wes accepted my invitation to participate.
Since Wes lives in an area of California that deems BBQ to be what many across the rest of the country would call ‘grilling’, he has stuck to his roots and provided places that serve up the best of ‘California BBQ’. Here are his favorite BBQ (grilling) joints in his words:
Hitching Post 2 – Buellton CA Even though I am a sauce, smoke and slow-cooking BBQ guy, I have to grow comfortable that the ‘BBQ’ on the Central Coast of California is *really* grilling. Now that we have that out of the way, I will say that hot-fire grilling over coastal red oak produces some of the best grilled meats in the world. I took a break from the HP2 after Sideways when the madness was still at a fevered pitch. But I have been returning at least once a month (I used to dine 2x a week) to the Hitching Post 2, and I do believe that Jesus (one of the main grill chefs) is the best griller in Santa Barbara County. He can do medium rare on a prime pork chop within a 1% level of perfection each time. Hard to get the center of that thick chop just barely opaque. Other faves include dry rubbed spare ribs, the grilled duck, the mushroom appetizer, and of course the filet mignon and the New York. For the trencherman, try the Rib-Eye medium rare. The chefs cook on the rare side, which is good, because the meat is so good you could eat it raw. Make sure to do a full lineup/tasting of the Hitching Post Pinot Noirs–a staple of SBC wine!
Photo of the Hitching Post II courtesy of Serious Eats
Jocko’s – Nipomo, CA Another grilling joint that we call BBQ, one of the oldest in the County. The menu describes a time, in the 40′s/50′s when a monkey used to serve drinks in the bar. It’s another place, like the HP2, where the décor is not nearly as important as the quality and thickness of the steaks. The portions are mammoth size–most of the meals could feed a small family. The grill chefs get it just right, and the prices are a little lower than the HP2. Jocko’s, though, is a Central Coast tradition worth a visit. My only issue is with their 3 oz Libby wine glasses. I’m a low-maintenance wine snob, but I do bring my own stems to Jocko’s. Great cocktails and the baseball cut Top Sirloin is a great choice.
Photo of Jocko’s courtesy of BBQ Guam
Here’s some more info on Clos Pepe:
Clos Pepe is a family-owned vineyard and winery set in the heart of the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County, California. Of the 29 acres planted in vines, 25 acres are planted in Pinot Noir, and 4 acres in Chardonnay. Pinot Noir is our passion. They make about 800 cases of Estate Pinot Noir each year, 100 cases of Chablis-style Chardonnay that is aged without the use of any new oak, and a few hundred cases of ‘Barrel Fermented’ Chardonnay using only older, ‘neutra;’ French oak barrels. ‘Clos’ (pronounced with a long ‘o’ and with no ‘s’, like ‘Klo’) is a French word that literally means ‘wall’. It describes the ancient stone walls that surround small, meticulously farmed (usually) Burgundian vineyards,rarely you will see a ‘Clos’ in other regions of France, such as Alsace, the Rhone, or Bordeaux. The term ‘Clos’ also denotes a winery in the same way as the words ‘Domaine’ or ‘Chateau’. So the name ‘Clos Pepe’ means Pepe’s Winery, or, more specifically ‘The Burgundian-style vineyard of a guy named Pepe’. Steve Pepe (pronounced ‘peppy’ like someone with a lot of energy) is our Vigneron – he oversees operations and tastes barrels and aging bottles to assure they live up to his strict quality standards.
Our current list of prodcuers, as of Harvest 2011, include Clos Pepe Estate, Arcadian, Ken Brown, Siduri, Loring Wine Company, AP Vin, Hall Wines and Roessler . All of these wineries vineyard designate their Clos Pepe wines.
You can purchase their wines as well as some merchandise HERE