At the end of Industrial Way in Buellton lies a restaurant that is, well, not the least bit industrial. Connected—quite literally—to Terravant Wine Company, Avant Tapas and Wine is more aptly described as a gastronomical work of art that pays homage to all the homegrown food and drink the Santa Ynez Valley has to offer.
According to Joe Padilla, who oversees operations at Avant, the restaurant was created to showcase the wines that are produced in Terravant.
“The winemakers were asking about tasting options,” Padilla explained. “The nature of a custom-crush facility like ours is that it’s all small wineries that are making wines here. A lot of them don’t—and won’t—have space for tasting rooms of their own.”
From that seed of an idea, Avant grew into what it is today. Upstairs, it is a restaurant attached to a winery; downstairs, it is a wine shop.
“In our wines by the glass in the restaurant, I support any of our customers, whether they’re a custom-crush client, do their bottling here, or use our labs or warehouse with us,” Padilla said. “They just have to have some relationship to Terravant in order to make it on the wine wall.”
In the wine shop, Padilla supports any local winery. Terravant is a member of the Santa Rita Hills Winegrowing Alliance and every other month invites other wineries from the alliance to do wine tastings at Avant.
“When we do one of those events, I buy a case of whatever wine is being poured upstairs, and it’s available for sale. And that’s how the wine shop gets developed, and why there’s a huge Santa Rita representation,” he noted.
Avant Tapas & Wine opened in the fall of 2009, and while it hasn’t changed much aesthetically—the windows on one side still look out onto Terravant’s facility and on the other offer sweeping views of the Santa Ynez Mountains—the menu is nothing akin to what it was then.
Originally, all the food was catered; now however, with the arrival of chef Brooke Stockwell—who, along with Padilla came on board in January—the menu features dishes prepared fresh in Avant’s kitchen with ingredients that travel only within Santa Barbara County.
“Ninety-five percent, if not more, of our produce is grown locally,” Padilla said. “All our beef, lamb, and pork come from within 20 miles of us. We get spot prawns and fresh fish out of Santa Barbara. Our chickens are local, and we now have a source where we’ll be getting local duck.”
In determining the menu, choosing wines, and even bringing in artists to paint murals on the chalkboard wall, Padilla seeks to showcase everything the Central Coast has to offer. “Everything we do is with the goal of being local-centric,” he said. “That’s the mantra we follow.”
Localization also plays into Avant’s special events and even the nonprofit organizations the restaurant chooses to support. Padilla works with People Helping People and PCPA Theater, among others. He also supports the local farmers’ market by having a different farmer come in on the first and third Thursday of every month and working that evening’s menu around the produce they bring. “And we have a wine paired with the food,” he said. “We try to do something different, so it’s more about an entire food experience coming here than it is just drinking wine.”
Avant is different from traditional California tasting rooms, and that’s no accident, according to Padilla. At Avant, visitors taste and drink wines in virtually the same place they are made. “It’s interesting to be able to take people outside and show them exactly where the wine was made. And they’re sitting in the mountains where the grapes are grown. And that doesn’t happen in many places.”
“We provide a unique experience,” Padilla noted. “There’s nothing like us on the Central Coast, from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.
INFO: Avant Tapas and Wine is located at 35 Industrial Way, Buellton, and is open Thurs-Sun 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Live music Fri-Sat nights 6-9 p.m. For information, call 805-686-4742 or log on to avantwines.com