Budget Buster

Review: Area 5.1 White Light

I trotted through the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara after a friend suggested the route when I told her my boyfriend and I were celebrating our anniversary on the American Riviera. While on the trail–which has the feel of a bar hop swapping cocktails for wine–the lovely people at Oreana Winery suggested we check out Area 5.1 across the street.

It’s a small tasting room, tucked into what seems like a business plaza, much different than other wineries on the trail that actually make wine on the premises. Rather than looking like a traditional tasting room, the winery felt like a classy sports bar. Football was playing on TV–which I usually dislike in wine tasting rooms, but it went with the vibe– and a large scoreboard-like marquee noted who made what wine and who was on duty.

Area 5.1 is owned by two Australian guys who decided to play off their resident alien statuses. All their wines are blends and cheeky takes on secret government investigations of the other worldly.

I bought two bottles of wine from them, a white blend called White Light and a red blend called Majestic 12, although they were over my typical price limit. I was on vacation! It was my anniversary! I was getting tipsy!

This review is about the White Light. I’ll tell you about the Majestic 12 another time.


White Light was crisp and refreshing, fruity–think tropical tastes– without being sticky on the tongue. I uncorked it at a dinner party we had with some friends. We made shrimp strifry, cookies made from the spent grain left over after we home brewed pumpkin beer, and toasted with glasses of White Light.

I would definitely drink it again!

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Area 5.1
  • Type: Blend of Savignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Semillon
  • Origin: Santa Ynez
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $22
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: At a bachelorette party dinner, before the shots.


Slurpees and wine?

A sure sign the culture of wine is shifting: 7-Eleven plans to sell “ultra-premium” wines, some running as high as $54.99.

Now you can get your slurpees, Red Bulls, cash back with that pack of gum and wine all in one trip!

7-Eleven marketing folks told USA Today the change is partially about attracting upscale millennials. But I thought millenials didn’t care about the price of wine? The marketing folks must have done some focus groups that told them otherwise.

About 700 stores in 16 states now have “Fine Wine” displays with under $19.99 bottles, but the prices are eventually going to also range from $19.99 to $54.99. Wineries represented include Stag’s Leap, La Crema, Louis Martini and Wild Horse.

Would you buy your wine at 7-Eleven? I can see this a plus for urban dwellers who don’t have grocery or liquor stores nearby.

Price fake out

When people think wine is expensive, they think it tastes better, at least according to a 2008 scientific study.

The scientists gave 20 participants Cabernet Sauvignon and a non-wine liquid reminiscent of saliva (gross) to drink as they scanned their brains, focusing on pleasure centers. Wines were administered multiple times, both at their retail price and at a 900% markup or markdown. The participants drank what they thought were $5, $10, $35, $45 and $90 wines.

And guess what, the guinea pigs had a better time drinking the wine they thought was more expensive!


From the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America:

Our results show that increasing the price of a wine increases subjective reports of flavor pleasantness as well as blood-oxygen-level-dependent activity in medial orbitofrontal cortex, an area that is widely thought to encode for experienced pleasantness during experiential tasks. 

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by the findings. Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands have been marking up prices for years to exude, well, an essence of luxury.

Most of the time that I buy wine it’s under $15, sometimes I splurge for a $20 bottle. If I’m at a winery, it’s 99.9% of the time more than that, but I still buy there because many prices reflect the small batches or boutique wines. Buying bottles at a restaurant also tend to cost more (more on that in an upcoming blog post). However, I usually get a bottle while dining out when there’s several people at the table who will be splitting the check, making the bottle more economical than individual glasses of wine. If you can BYOW, like some restaurants in Los Angeles, you’re a winner in my book.

What’s your maximum price when it comes to buying a bottle of wine?