Modest Luxury

Budget-friendly (and local) wines add holiday cheer to lean times 

By Lisa Snider

modestI have loved wine ever since I was a college freshman, from my very first fancy sip of Sutter Home White Zinfandel with an ice cube clinking against the glass. Since then, my taste buds and temperature preferences have, thankfully, evolved, but I am always looking for a good deal. And good deals can be hard to come by in Ventura County, where few grapes are grown, wine production is relatively small and costs are high. Here is a list of local wines that will impress your friends and family while leaving you with a few extra dollars to spare.

The 2005 Ojai Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are made and grown in Ojai. The winemaker produced an extraordinary amount of wine in 2005, which, considering the quality of fruit for the dollar, makes for beautiful local reds at an attractive price point.
$15.00 per bottle
Buy it and taste it at:
OJAI BEVERAGE COMPANY (formerly Regal’s)
655 E. Ojai Avenue, Ojai, 646-1700

The 2006 Old Creek Ranch Chardonnay with its beautiful nose and flavors of green apples, light citrus and vanilla has a crisp acidity and long finish. Their cozy tasting room is surrounded by a working cattle ranch.
$18.50 per bottle
Buy it and taste it at:
10024 Old Creek Road, Ventura, 649-4132

The Baron Herzog 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel is a full-bodied wine that’s deep red in color with aromas of ripe berry balanced with flavors of vanilla and spice. The grapes are harvested from sustainable vines after reaching full maturity and are then aged for six months in French oak.
$13.00 per bottle
Buy it and taste it at:
Herzog Wine Cellars
3201 Camino del Sol, Oxnard, 983-1560

The Bella Victorian 2006 Syrah Rosé is a dry, medium-bodied wine with berry and spicy flavors. Handcrafted by father and son and aged in stainless steel for eight months, this wine is perfect with turkey and all the trimmings.
$18.00 per bottle
Buy it and taste it at:
Bella Victorian Vineyard Winery & Boutique
2135 E. Ventura Blvd., Camarillo, 383-8800

The Cantara Cellars 2007 Sauvignon Blanc has a fruity nose and a light crisp green apple hue that pairs well mild goat cheese. The grapes are sourced from Lodi then fermented in stainless steel at their winery in Camarillo.
$19.00 (30% off by the case)
Buy it and taste it at:
Cantara Cellars
126 Wood Road, Suite 104,
Camarillo, 484-9600

When Edward Giessinger isn’t teaching enology at UC Santa Barbara, he is making wine in Fillmore. The Giessinger 1999 Syrah Reserve boasts flavors of ripe plum, green olive (lending to what he calls a “martini finish”) and spice.
Buy it and taste it at:
Giessinger Winery
365 Santa Clara Street, Fillmore, 524-5000 (look for their Thousand Oaks location to open later this year)

Note: some of the wineries listed are small, independent and family-owned, so please call ahead.    



Top 10 Under $20

Cool finds for less than a Jackson

By Michael Sullivan

Desert Imagesdes
11140 N. Ventura Ave.
Ojai, CA 93023

What is green and prickly all over? Your unique but interesting gift to your coworker, spouse or child in college — a cactus. With dozens of species of the drought resistant plant to choose from, Desert Images in Ojai will have just the right gift you are looking for. Can be purchased in a ceramic or clay pot, or get more for your money and buy several smaller plants for the same price. ($4.50 – $19.50)

American Flags & Cutlery
305 E. Main St.
Ventura, CA 93001

While owner Brad Parker’s knives may be out of your price range, he can make old knives like new. And with everyone being careful with their pocketbooks this season, necessity is the mother of invention. Why spend more when you can make the old feel brand new? Parker will make you a deal if you mention you read this article: 6 knives for $20, typically 5 for $20.

cakesA Touch of Glass
Architectural Glass Studio
434 E. Main St.
Ventura, CA 93001

If one of the memorable parts of a celebration is the cake, forever celebrate an anniversary, a birthday, a birth or just a fun way to say thank you with these ceramic gift boxes ($13). They may look delicious enough to eat, but be sure not to take a bite — for looks only. A Touch of Glass also has a number of gifts under $20, including olive oil bottles and custom measuring spoons.

The Spoiled Pup
2423 E. Ventura Blvd.
Camarillo, CA 93010

For dog owners who love their pups like they were children, The Spoiled Pup has a doggy toiletry kit called Spa on the Go. The kit ($18.50) includes travel size bottle of soap, shampoo, doggy cologne and bath spray. You can also buy doggy fashion and special treats that look like cookies for under $20. If you can splurge, very cute and cuddly purebreds are looking for a place to call home.

218 E. Ojai Ave.
Ojai, CA 93023

With just the right combination of wind and sunlight, these eye-catching metal Eycatchers can be the perfect gift. The small version, which is 4 to 5 inches in diameter, costs $16.50 and comes in a variety of shapes, including a star, the sun, the moon, a hummingbird, fairies, flowers, butterflies or a dolphin.

212-A E. Ojai Ave.
Ojai, CA 93023

Looking for a gift for a woman whose pocketbook is too clunky? Check out the cute Curved Mini wallets ($17). They fit perfectly in purses or works well on its own for a night out on the town. If you know a woman who is looking to replace her old wallet, pick her up one — she’ll love it. Kava also has a variety of decorations, ornaments and votives for under $20.

Harbor Wind & Kite Co.kite
1575 Spinnaker Dr. #107
Ventura Harbor, CA 93001

If you haven’t ever visited this longstanding fixture in the community, you ought to. And no better time to do it than to purchase a kite for your niece, little brother or daughter for Christmas! Harbor Wind & Kite offers more than 25 different kites for less than $20, including this dragon kite. They also have dozens of knick and knacks and toys for just a few dollars.

Bella Cosas Beautiful Things
2270 E. Ventura Blvd.
Camarillo, CA 93010

Having trouble finding a gift for the men in your life? Check out Bella Cosas toiletry items, created specifically for men. These natural botanical type products range between $9 and $17.99 for glycerin soap to shave balm. While you are in there, you are bound to find the perfect ornament for your tree.

Squashed Grapes
2475 Ventura Blvd.
Camarillo, CA 93010

There is nothing better than making your own wine, unless you are making your own beer. Squashed Grapes offers a unique brewing product where you can brew your own beer just by popping the lid of a liter bottle and pouring in the brewers wort and yeast. Poof! Within two weeks, you can take a swig of your freshly brewed beer. The Big & Easy Bottle Brew is equivalent to a six-pack for $8.99 and comes in a pilsner, red lager or cerveza.

Sir Anthony’s Fine Gourmet Goods
4369 Camino de Las Estrellas
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320

Who doesn’t love to eat chocolaty morsels — holiday or not? For those chocolate lovers out there, Sir Anthony offers a couple of interesting treats, which are great for grown up or kids. First, try dried cherries dipped into rich milk chocolate for $12 for 1 pound. Watch out, Goobers! This is the next best thing. Sir Anthony also makes a fun chocolate item: a large dinosaur egg filled with six miniature dinosaurs for $12.75.    


Art Made Affordable

Locally made art that costs less than a Picasso 

By Michel Cicero

glassOriginal art has long been considered something of a luxury, but its reputation as cost-prohibitive — while valid to a degree — is somewhat undeserved. Ventura County is rich with artists, and many of our cities’ identities are centered around visual art. This holiday season, local artists are working with galleries to create affordable ways for shoppers to purchase one-of-a-kind art pieces. To receive a gift that no one else in the whole world has is a rare treat, and to give such a gift is a gesture that won’t soon be forgotten. We know affordability is a relative term, but for the purposes of this article we decided items under $100 is a reasonable threshold.

Special Art Sales
In response to the economic crunch, Ventura artists are busy crafting inspired affordable pieces for the “First Friday” event on Dec. 5, from 5-8 p.m. Various Downtown Ventura businesses and galleries will be offering holiday shopping at discounted prices.

Stoneworks Studio will be open to the public for affordable holiday shopping during their artists mixer with campfire toasted marshmallows and acoustic music. 300 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura, 643-5431.

The Ventura County Potters Guild will have items ranging from vases to animal faces and other decorative pieces at ridiculously modest prices. Bell Arts Factory Community Room. 432 N Ventura Ave Ventura. 643-1960.

Bell Arts Factory Artists present woven art, paintings, photography, wearable art, stained glass and more at their Holiday Boutique. Bell Arts Factory, Tool Room. 432 N Ventura Ave Ventura. 643-1960.

Red Brick Gallery will offer a variety of contemporary hung and decorative art as well as Jim Martin’s full-color photography book Inspirations, which features gorgeous photos of Ventura. Prices range from $20-$100. 328 E. Main St, Ventura. 643-6400. Regular hours are Sun. – Thurs 12-6 p.m. and Friday – Sat. 12-8 p.m.

Buenaventura Gallery is featuring “Small Images,” framed original art by various local artists ranging in price from $25-100. They also offer whimsical metal sculpture and wearable art for well under $100. 700 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. 648-1235. Regular hours: Tues.-Fri. 12-5 p.m. and Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Ongoing Holiday Art Shoppingafrican
Pulse Drumming in Midtown Ventura offers an unparalleled selection of original, handmade African and Asian art pieces as well as beautiful and decorative hand-carved percussion instruments from around the world, many of which can be purchased for less than $100. Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 2434 E. Main St., Ventura. 648-3786.

Harbor Village Gallery is featuring “Outside the Box” Christmas ornaments designed and crafted by local artists with proceeds going to Food Share in addition to framed small images, wearable art, pottery and art glass. 1591 Spinnaker Dr., 644-2750. Regular hours: Wed.-Mon.12-5 p.m.

Studio Gallery in Channel Islands Harbor is offering hand-thrown pottery bowls, vases and pitchers from $12-$65; hand painted gourds from $17-45; small matted and framed prints for $30-90 and wearable art from $15-90. 2741 Victoria Ave # N, Oxnard. 985-1546. Open every day from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Camarillo Art Center, a non-profit volunteer organization and gallery, has a variety of framed paintings for less than $100. 3150 Ponderosa Dr., Camarillo. 445-7061. Hours: Sat.-Sun. 1-4 p.m.
Ojai Art Garden Gallery has a wide selection of decorative home and garden art. Ceramics, mosaics, oils, watercolors and other unusual items. 410 W. Ojai Ave., Ojai. 646-2555. Call for hours.