Unique Ways to Wine

Wine is a staple of the Santa Barbara lifestyle—locally made vintages are accessible at every turn, whether you’re by the beach or in the countryside. With more than 275 local wine producers to choose from, dozens of tour companies specializing in guided day trips, and countless restaurants hosting winemaker dinners on the regular, our wine-infused adventures run the gamut from immersive and offbeat to adrenaline-fueled and ultra-luxe. If you’re looking to elevate your sniff, swirl and sip experience to a new standard of memorable in Santa Barbara Wine Country, which was named Wine Enthusiast’s “2021 Wine Region of the Year,” here are anything-but-ordinary ways to wine when you’re on The American Riviera®. 

Sip & Sail

Sip and sail. Is there a better way to experience The American Riviera®? Photo Credit: Instagram @sbcoastalconcierge

Take to the seas for a customized Sip & Sail tour with Coastal Concierge. The five-hour experience starts with two wine tastings along the Urban Wine Trail in downtown Santa Barbara. Then you set sail on a private Catalina yacht where you can enjoy a seaside lunch, served with a bottle of wine to sip on. You’ll even have the option to play deckhand if you want to learn how to sail—otherwise, you can kick back and enjoy the views of The American Riviera® while your captain charts the course.  

May through October, Santa Barbara Sailing Center invites you aboard a 50-foot sailing Catamaran for Sipping on the Sea, a monthly celebration of local wine and maritime merriment. During the third Thursday of each month, the Double Dolphin will play host to a different local winery, where a representative will be on board to guide you through a full tasting. The views won’t be the only thing you’ll want to savor!

Book Your Stay

Sip in style

Exploring wine country by Tesla with Sustainable Vine. Photo Credit: Instagram @sustainablevine

Ride in sustainable style and get down to earth with Sustainable Wine Tours who offer a deluxe experience in its all-electric Tesla Model X SUV that can accommodate up to five guests. The private tours via Tesla grant exclusive access to by-appointment-only, private wineries and biodynamically farmed vineyards. You’ll feel really good about your investment because every aspect of the experience takes the health of the planet and community into consideration. Not to mention, you can learn the ins and outs of what goes into eco-conscious wines. Sidecar Tours takes wine—and motorcycle—enthusiasts through the rolling hills of the Santa Ynez Valley. This two-and-a-half hour long wine tour takes guests through the hills of the Santa Ynez Valley in its unique tandem motorcycle sidecar and stops at (and through!) three stunning vineyards. 

Giddy Up

Ride through the vines with Vino Vaqueros. Photo Credit: Instagram @vinovaqueros

Horses and wine? Yee-haw, we do. In fact, several Santa Barbara outfitters offer horseback riding and wine tasting tour combinations, each with its own unique twist. Captain Jack’s Horseback Riding and Wine Tasting Tour keeps the two activities separate with a trail ride on a privately owned ranch followed by lunch and a wine tour in the Sta. Rita Hills. Vino Vaqueros leads private horseback rides through Estelle Vineyards followed by a tasting in its barn.

Get Your Om On

Yoga and wine are another unexpected match made in wine pairing heaven. Vineyard Yoga Santa Ynez Valley hosts a monthly class in different vineyards throughout the valley. The morning yoga classes are followed by a well-earned tasting flight of wines made by the host winery.

Multi-Task-ular Tasting

culinary classes and tours santa barbara

What if you could (a) go wine tasting while (b) sampling a handful of restaurants, (c) getting your daily steps in and (d) upping your food photography game—all at the same time?! Eat This, Shoot That! does just that. Guests on these small group walking tours get digital photography tips while visiting eight food and wine tasting locations and exploring local culture in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Speaking of the Funk Zone, you’d be hard-pressed not to find a sip and swirl-worthy tasting room on every street and around every corner. With the ease in tasting room proximity, Totally Cali Tours has created an authentic Funk Zone wine walking tour designed to hit all the top spots. We’re talking tastings at two local wineries that capture the neighborhood’s eclectic spirit, a gourmet ice cream tasting and all the historical and artsy insights you could ask for. 

The Wine Tasting & Ghost Stories Walk Paranormal Pairing Tour, offered by Santa Barbara Ghost Tours, takes thrill-seekers (of the afterlife variety) to a world-class winery—a different location each time!—in the heart of Santa Barbara for ghostly storytelling while you sip. Then, the group embarks on a walking tour through the Presidio neighborhood for supernatural tales of Santa Barbara’s past.

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By Appointment Only

A beautiful Pinot Noir paired with an even better view at Pence Ranch & Winery. Photo Credit: Instagram @fahara

Pull your VIP card and make a booking at wineries that offer tastings exclusively by appointment—places that aren’t open to the general public on a daily basis. In some cases, you’ll be the only clients and will get to have the undivided attention of the winemaker or owner. Sanguis Wine in downtown Santa Barbara offers tastings by appointment in their Funk Zone production facility. Over the hill in wine country, make an appointment and spend the afternoon with winemaker Deborah Hall who shares her exquisite Gypsy Canyon wines produced with grapes grown on her historic 1887 vineyard in Lompoc’s Sta. Rita Hills. In the same area, Pence Vineyards & Winery is open for private tastings and tours of the working 200-acre ranch. In Los Olivos, Demetria Estate is open daily—just call or book online to make your reservation. The stunningly beautiful winery has one of the most picturesque settings in the entire Santa Ynez Valley so you’ll want to bring a picnic or snacks to settle in for a while. Plan at least two weeks in advance to reserve a private tour and tasting at Happy Canyon Vineyards, located on the easternmost edge of the Santa Ynez Valley. The polo-themed winery on Piocho Ranch represents Santa Barbara Wine Country’s warmest growing region where Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc thrive. Gather your friends for an evening with a sommelier and a customized selection of local wines with Santa Barbara Together; learn about the varietals you’re drinking and have all your wine-related questions answered by the experts.

Wine-Centric Festivals

If you love Santa Barbara County wines or want a crash course to get to know them for the first time, there’s no better way than to attend one of the region’s marquee wine festivals. Head into the valley for the day and attend Santa Barbara Vintners Festival on Oct. 8, 2022 or purchase a Vintners Visa to experience the full five-day event from Oct. 6 to 10, 2022 at Old Mission Santa Inés in Solvang. The Santa Barbara Vintners Festival features over 50 regional wines and cuisine from local restaurants and chefs. Taste of the Santa Ynez Valley, Nov. 3 to 6, 2022, will feature a delicious weekend line-up of winemaker dinners, open houses, seminars, vineyard hikes and more.  World of Pinot Noir, held annually at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, will take place on March 2 to 4, 2023, where pinot noir varieties from around the world are celebrated in one place with winemakers, chefs, sommeliers and wine scholars alike.

The California Wine Festival brings the tasting extravaganza to coastal Chase Palm Park, June 14 and 15, 2023, with two ticketed events. The Sunset Rare & Reserve Tasting (June 14) opens the festival with an exclusive tasting opportunity, while the Beachside Wine Festival (June 15) welcomes ticket holders to taste local wines, craft beers and gourmet bites along the waterfront. On June 24, 2023 the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s annual Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival showcases more than 100 local wineries and restaurants under a dreamy canopy of oak trees. All proceeds from the popular community fundraiser benefit the museum’s science and education programs.